Content search on Windows 7

Windows 7 search interface is different from previous versions of windows and it can be frustrating for new users. The Start > search field is used for all search i.e. programs, files, file contents, and even outlook emails search. By default, search is limited to file names and properties like date and file type. The search does not look inside the files so if you are searching for a file whose name you forgot but remember some lines of text, you will not be able to find it with the default settings. The following steps show how to enable file content searching so that you can search by the contents of a file.

  1. Open My Computer or any folder
  2. Hold Alt button and the file menu will appear
  3. Click on Tools > Folder Options
  4. Then click on the "Search" tab
  5. Click on "Always search file names and contents" and click on OK

Now you will be able to search by file properties and contents. Click on Start and type your keyword. Be aware that the search will be very slow. To speed up search, you need to index the contents of your files. Basically, an index creates database of words and terms. When you search, Windows first looks in the index database which is a fast lookup. However, if the contents are not indexed, Windows will have to look in every file which can take a very long time. To index your file contents, do the following:

  1. Click on Start and type "search" in the search field
  2. You will see "Change how windows searches" in the search results. Click on it.
  3. Make sure you are on "Index Settings" tab and click on "Advanced"
  4. Click on "File Types" tab
  5. Click on "Index Properties and File Contents" at the bottom and then click on "Add"
  6. You will see the "Indexing Options" window. Click on "Modify"
  7. You will see "Indexed Locations" window. Make sure all locations are checked. Then click on "OK".

Indexing can take a few hours but all subsequent searches will be very fast.