Windows comes with a built in Desktop search function which can search any file, folder, drive or the whole computer. Windows also includes an indexing utility which will index all the files stored in the computer so that it can return faster results when searches are conducted. The bad thing is, Windows search is pretty slow at times, sometimes even causing the whole operating system to pause for a while. So what are your alternatives?
1. Search Everything
Search Everything is a portable tool that comes with a minimal interface. When you start it for the first time, you will see a bare white window with only a search field. Search Everything will build an index of all the files and folders in your computer but it does this very quickly. I bet you will not even know it when it is building its database. Your first search will be somewhat slower (due to the indexing), but after that, Search Everything will give instant results. Search Everything does not include any advanced search functionality but you can use advanced search operators right within the search field. However, wildcards are not supported by the app. My search experience with Search Everything has been great. I have been able to find the exact files that I was looking for using this utility.
UltraSearch is my personal favorite. It has all the functionalities, including advanced search, to cater to my search needs in my local computer. It comes with almost the same interface as Search Everything with an exception of selecting drives to search in and using exclude filters.
UltraSearch comes with a pretty good advanced search. You can use wildcards and other operators like double quotes for exact matching, regular expressions. The best feature of UltraSearch is that it will add a context menu item which can be used to search in a particular folder instantly. Just right click any folder, select UltraSearch and search within that folder.
Technically, UltraSearch does not maintain any index or database of files like Everything or Windows Search. It attains speedy search results by working directly with the Master File Table under NTFS file system.
Locate32 is another popular searching tool for Windows. Its interface resembles the old Windows advanced search dialog. It is suitable for the people who would like to search visually rather than using regular expressions and other advanced searching techniques. You can define different parameters like the file name, extension, location, size and date etc. Locate32 will create a database of local files and folders upon first startup, so you will need to keep it running for a few minutes before searching for the first time. Otherwise, it will give the following error:
4. Copernic Desktop Search
Copernic Desktop Search gives you a wealth of options and preferences while keeping the user interface intuitive. With Copernic Desktop Search, you will be able to search for not just files but a whole lot of different categories including emails, music, pictures, videos, contacts, history etc.
Copernic Desktop Search also maintains an index database of all the files in the computer. You will need to build the index before actually be able to search for anything. Although CDS builds the index automatically, it is better to build the first index manually from the tools menu.
Other Desktop Search Options
If none of the above catch your eyes, here are more choices that you can choose from. We have not tested thoroughly the apps below. If you have used any of the app below and find it really useful, do let us know.
DocFetcher will let you within the content rather than files and folders.
SearchMyFiles will let you search for files and folders on the go using wildcard operators.
FileSeek is a fast file finder which can be integrated into the context menu in Windows.
Index Your Files lets you search local files as well as network locations without remote admin rights.
Pipy combines a launcher and the desktop search tool together to improve productivity.
Searchmonkey is a real-time search engine for the desktop. Works on Windows, Linux and Mac.
LAN Search Pro will let you quickly find files across your local area network. It is free and portable.
Which is your favorite desktop search tool? If I have missed any useful tool, please share it in the comments.