The Windows search feature seems pretty simple, but it can be even more effective with the right tweaks. Here are some ways to control your searches in Windows 10 and Windows 11.
Finding a specific app, file, or setting buried in the depths of Windows 10 or 11 can be challenging. If you’re having trouble tracking down specific items across the Start menu, File Explorer, and Windows Settings menu, Windows offers a powerful and flexible search tool that can help you find exactly what you want, no matter where it is.
With the Windows search tool, you can conduct narrow searches to find specific items such as apps from the Start menu, music from File Explorer, and preferences from the Settings menu. You can run web searches directly from the search box without first having to open your browser. The tool even gives you easy access to the apps and files you use most frequently.
Windows Search is also integrated into the search function in File Explorer. That means you can type or select a keyword in the search field, and File Explorer suggests files based on your search term. Now, let’s check out how to use the search tool in both Windows 10 and 11.
In Windows 10, click the search box at the bottom left of your screen. In Windows 11, click the Search icon. By default, the search window shows the top apps you use, as well as files and apps included in recent searches and quick searches. Click an app or search to open or run it.
Conduct a search right off the bat by typing the item you need into the search box. In Windows 10, type the name of the item directly in the search box. In Windows 11, the cursor automatically jumps into the search box when you click the search icon, so you can immediately start typing.
By default, Windows searches across several categories to deliver results. You can open an item from here or narrow the search results further.
The search menu consists of several categories, including Apps, Documents, Email, and Web. Click the More drop-down menu to access even more categories, including Folders, Music, People, Photos, Settings, and Video. Click a category to filter the results.
You can then check out the other categories. If you’re searching for a specific software program, click Apps to narrow the search field. Looking for a document related to your search term? Select the heading for Documents. If you’re seeking an email connected with your search term, select the heading for Email.
You can even search for a website or specific web page under the Web tab. The search window shows you direct results in the right pane and related searches in the left pane. Click one of the searches and you’re directed to a Bing page.
You can expedite your search by typing the category directly into the search box, and Windows will show you results from the correct category. To do this, type the category followed by a colon and then your search term, such as apps: Spotify or documents: iPhone.
Maybe you think the Windows 10 search box takes up a lot of room on the taskbar, space you could devote to other apps and icons. Shrink it down to an icon by right-clicking any empty space on the taskbar and selecting Search > Show search icon.
Now, let’s check out the search functionality in File Explorer. Open File Explorer and navigate to the folder you want to search within. Click in the search field. You should see a list of items from previous searches. Type a character or two, and items from previous searches that match your criteria will appear. Press Enter to see all the search results in the window. Click the correct search result to open the corresponding document or other file.
Control your searches to make sure they deliver the results you need. Open the search box in Windows 10 or 11 and click the ellipsis icon in the top-right corner. Select Search settings from the drop-down menu. Alternatively, go to Settings > Search. The Search settings screen is the same in both Windows 10 and 11.
You can start by customizing the search results to include or exclude adult content, choosing from strict, moderate, or no filtering. Under Cloud content search, control the ability to find content from any cloud-based services you use, including Outlook and OneDrive. If you use both a Microsoft account and a work or school account, you can enable or disable either account in your search results by turning the switch on or off.
Microsoft collects certain information related to your searches to deliver the most accurate results, but you can prevent Windows from collecting and saving your search history. By tweaking the settings here, you’re able to protect your privacy but still allow Windows to gather the necessary data to run searches.
Turn off the switch for Search history on this device if you don’t want your searches to be stored on the computer. Click the button for Clear device search history to remove any history of your searches already saved on this PC.
To view a history of searches saved in the cloud, click the link for Privacy dashboard. Sign into the dashboard and then click the setting for Search history. Click the Show more link to see additional searches. Click the trash can icon for any searches you wish to delete. Click the link for Clear all search history to delete all searches. Click the button for Download your data to review a file of your search history.
You can view and control which folders are included in a search. In Windows 10, go to Settings > Search. In Windows 11, go to Settings > Privacy & security > Searching Windows.
Under the Find My Files section, you can opt for a classic search, which looks for items only in your libraries and desktop. Choose the Enhanced option to widen the search to your entire computer. This search mode may find more items but will take longer to index. In the Excluded Folders section, add or remove folders you don’t want included in your searches.
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Surviving a long and varied career in publishing, advertising, and IT, Lance Whitney now wears a few different technology hats. By day, he’s a journalist, software trainer, and sometime Web developer. By night, he’s asleep. These days, he writes news stories, columns, and reviews for CNET and other technology sites and publications. He’s written two books for Wiley & Sons: Windows 8 Five Minutes at a Time in 2012, and Teach Yourself VISUALLY LinkedIn in 2014. Contact Lance via Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.
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