How to Search Through File Contents on Windows 10

Search through file contents in Windows 10

There’s a hidden feature in Windows 10 that lets you easily search through file contents, instead of just searching for filenames.

Windows comes with a robust search engine that allows you to find apps, search the Windows Store and the web, and find files on your PC. The search engine in Windows 7 used to find content, not just in file names but also in the contents of files. You could even search the contents of .zip files in Windows 7.

Most people are unaware that this functionality still exists in Windows 10. It’s just not obvious how to enable it. Today we’ll show you how to enable searching through file contents in Windows 10.

How to Search in File Contents in Windows 10

  1. Click the Search button or box on the Taskbar and type indexing options. Then, click on Indexing Options under Best match.Open Indexing Options
  2. On the Indexing Options dialog box, click Advanced.Click Advanced in Indexing Options
  3. Click the File Types tab on the Advanced Options dialog box. By default, all the extensions are selected, and that’s what we want. This will allow Windows to search through all the types of files on your hard drive. Select the Index Properties and File Contents option in the How should this file be indexed section. Then, click OK.Index Properties and File Contents
  4. A Rebuild Index dialog box displays, warning you that rebuilding the index might take a long time. That means that all the contents of your hard drive might not be searched until the indexing process is finished. Click OK.Rebuild Index
  5. Click Close on the Indexing Options dialog box.Close Indexing Options dialog box

Search Through File Contents in File Explorer

Now, when you search for text in File Explorer, Windows will search the contents of files for the text and search the file names.

Remember, if you don’t get results for your search right away, you may have to wait for the folders and files to be indexed.

Search through contents of files

What methods do you use to search the contents of files in Windows? Do you use any third-party apps to search the contents of files? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments. Or for additional discussion, hop in our free user forums.



  1. Katt

    September 19, 2017 at 6:02 pm

    Well THANK YOU Lori Kaufman!! Not being able to search contents has been a pain.

    • Dr. P-J

      September 20, 2019 at 10:06 am

      I agree – this page was very helpful!

    • x

      January 6, 2021 at 7:04 am

      I just need to search a project folder without having to enable indexing on all system. Is Microsoft incapable to just add something simple as a grep command ? The Find in files option in previous versions of Windows was good enough for the job. But as usual when something is good for the users MS kills it. No brain- No Pain – Big Gain for MS.

      • TD

        April 29, 2021 at 11:51 am


      • Dev

        December 14, 2021 at 5:29 am

        Hi if you want we have devoloped SmartFinder, a new Desktop Search tool.

        If you are interested you can find SmartFinder on MicrosoftStore.
        This is the link

        SmartFinder allows you to use an innovative way to search for your files on the Desktop with an experience similar to Google’s search!

        With SmartFinder you have everything just a click away and in a single view!
        From the ability to open the first relevant files already while typing the words to be searched, to links with meta-data to directly filter the results, to viewing an extract of the document with the searched words highlighted!
        If you want you can search also on shared folders e.g. OneDrive, DropBox, ICloud and you can use wildcards!

        Obviously you can configure and filter only the directories of your interest!

        Look all functionality on microsoft store and contact us if you need further information.

        • Dr. Evil

          May 22, 2022 at 5:44 am

          Guys, you need a Free/Test Version! I don’t pay 20 Euros just to have a look if I like (and then would buy) your app!
          Also, the 30000 and 30GB Limit is painful :/

          • Dev

            May 22, 2022 at 7:56 am

            Hi Dr. Evil, first of all thank you for your advice, we will provide a test version as soon as possible.
            In any case on the Microsoft Store if you buy something and then you don’t like it you have the right of withdrawal and your money will be returned.

            SmartFinder costs 20 euros and entitles you to lifetime updates (NOT a subscription, you DO NOT have to pay every year). It’s yours for life and you can install it on ANY PC with your account. All for 20 euros ONCE IN A LIFETIME.

            We have put a limit only on the number of files and GB that can be indexed with this type of license.
            Consider that we and other customers can easily search for all documents, both business and private, and we are well below the limit. And we work in R&D and we have thousands of documents.
            In any case we will try to understand if our customers with the BASIC license need to search for more than 30 GB / 30,000 files.

            If you want to suggest a feature that could be useful, if we will consider it important too, we will implement it and distribute it as always for free to all our SmartFinder’s customers with the new releases.


  2. beergas

    September 19, 2017 at 8:51 pm

    Thanks. Turn this way down to just a few boxes back when was having h/w issues in Windows 8 & then into 10. Now with more powerful & stable gear it’s time to click these back on. Will help with the video files as well as within .docx & photo, art files.

  3. Ian

    September 20, 2017 at 4:37 am

    Microsoft never really promoted the search function well enough, it is fundamental to the way the O/S’s since Windows 7 are geared towards using the search function rather than go trawling through the file explorer tree, I am fairly confident they are visionary in this approach as in the future computers will not rely so heavily on computing, but will have all possible answers pre-loaded in the quantum field and the user would simply feed in the quest and the computer would then search for the single correct answer.

    • William

      April 24, 2020 at 3:54 pm

      Quite the opposite in fact. Simply having answers pre-loaded does not mean anything for computing speed. The very action of searching, or to be more precise sorting the information in more feasible manner, still requires both computing and time. This has not changed, even with the advent of Quantum Computing. Google operates in the same manner and is a clear example of what is at the forefront, they have machines already performing the search beforehand. Yet what the user inputs is really the search engine sorting out the information in a way that seems the most relevant to the user.

      Working in this field of search/sort algorithms, I do not think that we will see any new innovations on this subject in decades to come, sadly enough.

  4. George

    September 20, 2017 at 9:19 am

    This is honestly the first time that I see this feature on Windows. Good job.

  5. Laura

    September 21, 2017 at 7:04 pm

    Thank you! Is there a way to print the contents of a folder (a list of all the files in a file)? I used to do this on my Atari computer and it was quite handy at times.

  6. Bill

    September 25, 2017 at 3:21 am


    I have got File – Home – Share – View but not Search on the toolbar.

    What am I doing wrong.

    • Dolly Acherman

      September 26, 2017 at 2:11 am

      Me also. I don’t have the Search tab. Only File – Home – Share – View

  7. Katt

    September 26, 2017 at 10:49 am

    Hi Bill and Dolly,

    Not to worry! As soon as you enter anything in the search boxes located below the toolbar, the Search tab magically appears!

    For an example, look at the last picture above and you will see the search boxes labeled 1 and 2. Type anything in the #2 box on your computer and you will see the search tab show up.

    Hope that helps.

  8. Weboli

    January 25, 2018 at 6:34 am

    How do I force Windows File Explorer to display OpenOffice files on searching a term? I can search “.odt” and get results, but when I search a directory that contains such OpenOffice files, I get no results, other than old doc, docx, adobe and so on.

    • Katt

      January 25, 2018 at 12:20 pm

      Hi Weboli,

      I tried to search the way you describe above and got .odt results no matter how I searched. I used phrases from .odt documents and I tried searching just .odt and had no problem.

      So, I am wondering if you followed the steps laid out in this post to open search to titles and contents of documents? If not, then I would do that first.

      If you have already done that, I would suggest going to the page shown above named Advanced Options and on the File Types tab, scroll down the list and make sure the odt file type is checked. If not, check the box, wait for indexing (takes a while) is complete, then try your search again.

      Hope this helps you!

      • Weboli

        July 27, 2019 at 3:02 pm

        Thanks, I had discovered that. Now I am annoyed that details | content shows a tiny thumbnail, not the nice full preview I get with pdf files.

  9. S SenGupta

    April 18, 2018 at 3:02 am

    The indexing does not seem to work at all for file content even in indexed locations.
    The disk I am searching has around 55GB data. Where Google desktop would have given a result as I typed, Win10 search either does not find at all or takes several hours.
    Win 10 search takes as input only a word or phrase, not several key words.

    But, I do not know of any tool that will do so either. Any help will be appreciated

  10. Peter

    February 13, 2019 at 3:02 pm

    Use Windows Commander rather than W’10’s search engine. It is convenience and fast with great configuration.

  11. sunwukong

    July 26, 2019 at 12:08 pm

    I used to use the free word perfect editor. It worked just like word perfect but worked at a text file level. I could quickly search thru Windows MSWord files for context content. Mainly speaches so I could do a quick analysis of a proposed speech for the main concepts of the proposed speech and advise on what the official line had been on key words.

    It was called WEd.exe
    see it at
    I would run it in a command window. F3 gives you the menu, you set the folder you want to search and specify the content key words you want to find and it would list all the files then you would just do f2 to search thru for the key words. I could do this faster than any two people in my office. Now I would just use findstr in a batch file.

  12. Garry

    October 7, 2019 at 10:13 am

    So, if your IT department has any brains at all, you don’t have Administrator Rights on your own PC (preventing you from installing unapproved software – software that might be free for home use but licensing requirements if used for business, software that might have a virus, software that might interfere with the software provided by the company, etc.). You need Admin rights to click on “Advanced” in “Indexing Options”. Is there any other way to search through file contents, i.e. something you don’t need Admin rights for?

  13. Babasaheb Kale

    November 13, 2019 at 4:28 am

    Third party software like ultra search

  14. Jan

    November 25, 2019 at 8:05 am

    I had been so disappointed all these years with Windows 10 that I couldn’t do a phrase search. I finally decided to look it up…I’m SOoo glad I found you to clear this up!

  15. Steve A

    January 18, 2020 at 2:17 pm

    I have file with dashes and numbers in the name. No searches appear after a begin typing the dash and first 2 digits:

    ie. Samplefile-1234.345-33455.txt

  16. Don LeMont

    February 16, 2020 at 10:22 am

    During the last 3-4 months there has been a drastic (and unwelcome) change to the search feature. I often searched for content inside many types of files with no problems. Now I have nothing but problems. I found the procedure you outline above on my own and hoped things would change, but no joy. I experience many false positives and false negatives. (I.e., files reported by search do NOW contain the search term, and failure to find files I KNOW are there. Additionally, the search is returned in some kind of virtual screen that has no apparent connection to the rest of File Explorer, i.e., I cannot get back to the folder I was searching. Back buttons don’t work, ESC doesn’t work, deleting the search term (my former default) doesn’t work. I can only conclude that someone at MS has royally screwed up this feature. I will have to find a utility to search inside files like I used to use years ago.

  17. Scorpion

    March 12, 2020 at 2:23 am

    Search Note is an impressive way to search content inside your shared documents.
    Why don’t you give it a try? Search note is available on github.

  18. Doug

    August 3, 2020 at 12:04 pm

    03 Aug 2020: Followed all steps successfully…EXCEPT A WORKING SEARCH OF CONTENTS. Added the php extension, allowed it to complete indexing, did a cold boot, used the indexing troubleshooter (which said Windows Search wasn’t working, then said it fixed the problem). Still finds two (pdf) files which do not have the string and none that do, same as before.

  19. Oseremen

    August 14, 2020 at 12:55 am

    This information is quite helpful to me. I was finding hard time searching and locating file names. The only results I was getting ended with folder names. Thank you.

  20. Dave Greis

    August 24, 2020 at 8:26 am

    24 August 2020. I followed these steps long ago, and have never been able to search file content in W-10. Tried it again today. A search that should have turned up about 200 or so documents in a particular client’s folder showed 83.

    No, it’s not an ordinary word.

    I also noted that three Word documents which were done this morning (and obviously have not yet been indexed), which had the word in the body, showed up on the list. The other 80 had the word in the file name. But I know for a fact those 200+ documents exist. And if the search had functioned properly I would have been able to figure out which of those 200 was the one I need to find.

    All of which says to me that once my system has indexed something, despite the “index file name/contents” being clicked, a search of the content isn’t possible.

    Thoughts, anyone?



  21. almostlow

    November 19, 2020 at 11:32 am

    Make sure that windows search service enabled.

  22. alexd

    November 25, 2020 at 11:43 am

    This is a very good hint. I usually resort to Bash tools on command line but this is much more convenient. Thanks.

  23. riche

    December 19, 2020 at 2:26 pm

    I just compared the (right-click on filename)Properties for SEARCH.TXT and SEARCH_SUB.TXT. I clicked on “Advanced” in the Properties window under the General tab, There is a box that says “Allow this file to have contents indexed in addition to other file properties”. SEARCH.TXT had it checked, while it was unchecked for SEARCH_SUB.TXT. This kind of garbage is why MS can drive users crazy. Was it an oversight or did some exec realize that if a User had a big tree of large files under Documents, that searching would bog down. Now the question: how do I batch set this attribute for my many 1000”s of TXT, DOC, PDF, XLS, etc files? And dare I do it? Maybe it will make File Explorer searches into monsters.

  24. riche

    December 20, 2020 at 9:01 pm

    Important actions preceded my previous post, so read this first. I created a new TXT file I called SEARCH.TXT in my Documents folder and added the text “bbbb”. After typing bbbb in File Explorer’s search window, Explorer found the SEARCH.TXT file. I tried the same procedure creating a SEARCH_SUB.TXT file in a subfolder I’ll call Documents\Subfold. But now the a search for bbbb failed and only came up with SEARCH.TXT, but not SEARCH_SUB.TXT (both files were identical except for where they resided). I moved SEARCH.TXT into Documents\Sobfold. The search for bbbb still found SEARCH.TXT in Documents\Subfold. I created an identical SEARCH.TXT in the special, MS pre-loaded folders in my User file like Music, Downloads, Pictures and Videos. The search for bbbb worked in these subfolders! I moved SEARCH_SUB.TXT from its subfolder into the Documents folder and opened and resaved it. Still not discoverable.

    Turns out there’s a “Contents Searchability” Attribute that is set when files are created in these special pre-loaded folders (Documents, Music,…), but is not set when created in a subfolder (at least not on my Windows 10 version).

  25. AlexD

    January 4, 2021 at 1:15 pm

    One nice free tool I forgot to mention is called “Agent Ransack”; yeah, it’s legit, free for the free version. There is a pro version that honestly, I never felt the need for.
    I installed and on the desktop shortcut, I added a hot-key combo “ctrl-alt-shift-f” and off it goes.
    But I must say that when I’m already looking stuff in Explorer, I rather use the built-in and search from there.

  26. Sara

    January 31, 2021 at 6:10 am

    Thank you, I was used to using this in Win7 and this saved me.

  27. Mukesh

    June 21, 2021 at 4:09 am

    Really helpful …. thanks a lot…. thank you very much

  28. Bob Harrison

    November 26, 2021 at 3:01 pm

    I am trying to search contents of files in one folder. That option is there for the folder m, but it does not work. Very frustrating.

  29. Magreve

    January 3, 2023 at 10:38 am

    If you don’t have admin rights, you cannot change your indexing options. I hate Microsoft. I wish I didn’t have to use it.

  30. John Doe

    February 17, 2023 at 1:25 am

    Now I can see the files containing any keyword I type in the search box. Very useful tip. Thank you ❤

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