Is Windows 7 Search Really That Bad?

by Marin Franković on 5 March, 2010

I must admit, long time has passed since I used search feature in Windows 7 in some advanced way. Every time I used it, it was to find some document that I knew exact name. I do remember using Windows Desktop Search on Windows XP and Windows Vista, and as I remember, it worked great. There where many options for indexing content, queries where highly customizable, and results where very accurate.

Since my folders are very well organized, I can almost always find what I need, and up to now, my primary search tool was the one built into Office Outlook 2007, which I used to search my mail.

Win Search Filteri The time has come to do an advanced search on my documents folder. To my surprise, there where only two filtering features, size and date. For most users that is enough, but when you need to create more complex query, it will not do. On the picture on the left you can see that I selected “gigantic” file size filter, and for Win 7 Search, “gigantic” is everything over 128 MB. 🙂 I could not find a feature to customize size in a filter.


When you do a search in a folder or in a Library, you will get lots of results that are not exactly what you where looking for. On the bottom of the Search results pane, you will find couple of option for customizing your Search.


Most of you (including me), will click on Customize option expecting to see bunch of search options. But I must disappoint you. There are no advanced features there, only option to modify search scope and to extend it to more places (Libraries, disks, and so on).

Customize OptionsIt seams that Microsoft managed to cripple this very useful feature in Windows 7. Why was it so hard to port Windows Search 4.0 to Windows 7. And yes, I did try to install it on Windows 7, although  I knew that it wont work. 😉

So what to do if you want quality search results? Will you install 3rd party product? Which one? Google Desktop search is even worse. I did manage to find couple of free applications, but after testing, they do not deserve to be mentioned.

Oh, yes. There is another solution! It seams that Microsoft gracefully implemented it in Search command line (not cmd). So, if you feel adventurous, and have a thing for command line, be my guest. Here  is Windows Search Advanced Query Syntax home page and its MSDN equivalent.

To answer my question in the subject line: “In my honest opinion, Microsoft torpedoed Search feature in Windows 7 (as is backup), and I can only hope that they will release WDS 5.0 for this OS”.

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Tomislav March 6, 2010 at 1:11

This QS is to be used in the search box, not in the command line. It seems they improved it for advanced searches, but made our life harder if we just want to find files with certain content or with size over, let’s say, 4GB. I mean, look at the “gigantic” option in “Size: ” dropdown menu – 128 MB. As one forum poster says: “Hello, Windows 7, 1995 called and they want their “gigantic” back.” 🙂
There is a freeware search replacement which seems to be doing its job very well. Agent Ransack: Hopefully Search will improve and give us our options back, I for one don’t want 3rd party search for my documents.


Marin Franković March 6, 2010 at 11:25

Yes, I know it is a Search box syntax. I guess my inital post was not clear on that so I corrected it.


Tony March 6, 2010 at 18:27

Hi there!
I’m using a 3rd party search tool called Lookeen. Originally it’s an Outlook search add-on, however, it can also be set up to perform as a full desktop search… Proved to be very useful and fast to me, performing more complex and specific searches. Could be of some interest for you until the release of WDS5.0 ?!? More here if you like to

Greets Tony


Marin Franković March 6, 2010 at 18:48

Lookeen is not free. 🙂


Geoff August 27, 2010 at 12:39

I need a search not only to find my stuff but also tell me where it is! Once found you should be able to click on something “Open containing directory” or some such. As it is I have to right click on the found item, select properties, highlight and copy the path, and paste that into the address panel in explorer. Shoddy stuff MS!


Marin Franković August 27, 2010 at 13:56

Hi Geoff,

when you search for some document or any file, and when search finishes you normally see results. If you want to open folder that containes file that you searched for, right click on that file in search results pane and select “Open file location”.

Hope this helps


Geoff August 27, 2010 at 14:39

Thank you Marin,

You are right, and when I tried it before writing my original post that’s what I was looking for, and yet managed to miss, even though it is immediately above “properties” which I opened! Where’s the :blush: smiley?


lpeluso December 4, 2010 at 16:08

its netscape scroll lag bad. its comet cursors, real player circa 1996 bad. if only for this, somebody high up at microsoft should be fired. dragged into the town square and set ablaze. yes really.

its so bad i am despondent. i will never understand why ms takes perfectly functioning things and utterly ruins them.

it will be taught to future generations as another example of how to kill a product. they took a function which worked and made it dissapear. as if people arent going to notice.

a) let indexing permanently slow down your machine and give you far to many results. rendering video? forget about it.

b) turn it off and never find anything. ever. again

mac’s search is even worse, but i dont understand why microsoft would ruin functionality? dont get me started on ie.


Glen January 17, 2011 at 9:07

It’s entirely possible MS lost the license to use the XP search engine so they had to recreate something from scratch.


lpeluso January 20, 2011 at 6:44

anything’s possible, but who would withold the license and for what purpose and surely ms could afford fees, lol.

i think its that somebody up there liked the idea of libraries and throught they would force people into using them.

when you consider that bing is a steaming pile of dung (lets be honest) which they ALSO try to get people to use in annoying ways, it seems to me that the tail is wagging the dog. either way, agent ransack is perfect for it, so my problem is solved, but really my opinion of microsoft which was just making a slight comeback after vista has now landed back in the gutter. especially in light of that insane phone os on my htc which i could only bear for a week, but thats a rant for another forum.

ms get your stuff together. jeez.


Acrylic March 3, 2011 at 12:21

Simple solution – change to a mac where search really works


pcunite June 10, 2011 at 1:57

Windows 7 search makes me shudder. Downloaded and ran FileSearchEX, which looks like XP search, and save on the frustrations.


P. February 28, 2013 at 21:17

Search on Windows XP was usable, but only AFTER editing the registry settings to get rid of the obfuscatingly dumbed-down interface.

Search on Windows Vista was incomplete, unintelligible, and utterly useless, even if I just wanted to find files by file extension, so I paid out-of-pocket to put Effective File Search on my work computer.

When I got Windows 7, I tried to search once and right away decided that it was still just as useless, so I removed it, disabled file indexing, and again installed Effect File Search.

I spit on Windows Search!


M. May 7, 2013 at 16:06

Cannot agree more! File search since Vista is totally bad! For example, when a file is named as “Hello a1234.pdf”, when search by “1234” and got NO results!


Marco Schoolenberg July 29, 2013 at 3:43

Some infuriating search hell this is… I search for a file…. I don’t get it as a result…??Grrr but I get a file called blabla.bat… which contains a line ” do something”… After browsing to the containing folder %^%#$ I find the file with the name… I am seriously considering writing a quick and dirty java application to make my own searches work… like : someclass.* and stuff like that. Terrible and unbelievable they can screw this up so badly.


roganthefirst April 1, 2014 at 21:58

I cannot think of a product as egregiously bad as the W7 Search. I spent a bit of time, and eventually told it to index the whole of my C-drive. Then I searched for a simple file, “abook”. No results. And yet, being suspicious (I’ve suffered MS for much too long), I zoomed down in Explorer to a directory containing just such a filename. Search still found no results! (If this were a court of law, that would be perjury). Even a customized search on the same directory found nix! On the containing directory! (and I agree with Marin: the filter options are absolutely inadequate). I don’t know why we put up with this “steaming pile of dung” (in Ipuleso’s graphic but accurate phrase): why don’t we mount a class action against MS for feeding us such excreta, dressed up as a “super fast search engine”?
I think it’s close to becoming Linux time for me.


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