Windows 10: Search file contents, search and index options

Posted on 23rd September 2015

With the increasing amount of data that is stored on your PC every day, it gets more and more difficult to rake through this data to get the file you want. It becomes easier if you could remember the full filename or at least some part of it. But more often you might remember the contents of the file rather than the filename.

By default Windows search looks for the filename and not the contents of the file. In this article you will see how to change the search options in Windows 10 to make it more powerful and adjusted to your needs.

There are two places where you will find the search settings - Indexing Options and File Explorer Options

Indexing Options

To perform fast searches Windows creates an index of the files properties. All settings to manage this index are in Indexing Options. To access Indexing Options:

  1. Type Control Panel in search box and click on the Control Panel Windows Application.
  2. In the search box on top of control panel window, type Indexing Options. This will show you both Indexing Options and File Explorer Options.
    control panel
  3. Click on Indexing Options
    Indexing Options
  4. In Index options page you can click Modify to change the locations to include on the index.
    Click Advanced for more settings.
    Advanced Index Options
  5. If you experience the search to be very slow or if some files don't appear in the search results then you can try to rebuild the index by clicking the Rebuild button.
  6. To add new file types to index click on the File Types tab.
    Index File Types
  7. Here you have the option to add a new file type or change existing file types to Index the files properties and also contents. For example you can add a new extension php - enter php in the box below Add new extension to list and click Add. Then select the newly added extension and set the indexing to Index Properties and File Contents. Click OK.
    Add File Types
    Now if you want to search for a PHP function that you have created but could not remember the file that contains the function, you can simply enter the function name in windows search and it can find the right file that you are looking for.

File Explorer Options

If you are performing search on a location which is not indexed, you can still search the file contents. To do this, open Control Panel and search File Explorer Options

File explorer options

Click File Explorer Options and select the Search tab.

Select the checkbox option Always search file names and contents (this might take several minutes)

Search options

Click Apply and OK

Which locations and file types to Index?

Indexing helps to make the search faster but if the index is too big it will slow down your search operation. For this reason you should be careful in choosing the locations to index and file types to be indexed. You should index the file contents only if you have to perform such searches very frequently. Including system files in the index can also slow down your normal searches.

Post a comment


Randy Hislop | December 30, 2016 11:49 AM |

I have thousands of photos that I have named in various ways. Most names have a hyphen as part of the name. If a name is like.... "2016-xmas-001_mary-Bruce", if I do an Explorer search for Bruce, the photo will not be found. If I change the hyphen to an underscore, the file will be found. Is there a way to search that will yield the desired search results where file names contain hyphens?

Patrick | December 19, 2017 12:26 PM |

search *-Bruce* you should get the desired result

Kathryn | August 4, 2016 5:16 AM |

I have chosen Index properties and file contents for all the file types listed (because the search was not finding the contents of emails) but now there are so many files that need to be indexed it is taking forever and I would like to restore the default settings for this. I have not been able to work out how to do this. Was wondering if you could tell me