How to search for files in Windows 10 with Cortana

A quick way to get to your files in your Windows 10 PC is by using Cortana's search feature. Sure, you can use File Explorer and go browse through multiple folders, but searching will probably be faster. Cortana can search your PC and the web from the taskbar to find help, apps, files, and settings. We'll show you how.

1. Select the search box on the taskbar, and type what you're looking for. You can also tap or click the microphone icon if you'd rather say it.

2. After you enter a search term, tap or click My stuff to find results for files, apps, settings, photos, videos, and music across your PC and even OneDrive.

That's it! It's that simple. There are also few neat tricks that Cortana can do when searching for files. She understands phrases in natural language. For example, try asking Cortana:

  • Show photos from last week
  • Show me photos from Philippines
  • Show documents from last Monday
  • PDF files from July

The search results are listed within Cortana above the Taskbar. Tap or click the photo, document, or file to open it in its corresponding app.

How do you like the search feature in Windows 10? Has it been working well for you? Let us know in the comments!

Note: Cortana is only available in certain countries/regions, and some Cortana features might not be available everywhere. If Cortana isn't available or is turned off, you can still use search. For more tips, we have many more posts like this one in our Windows 10 help, tips, and tricks page.

Mark Guim is Video Editor at Windows Central. He switched to Windows because the MacBook Pro isn't Pro enough. You can follow him on Twitter at @markguim.

43 Comments
  • Having to click 'my stuff' really isn't the way to go. It should instantly show the content without much extra clicking
  • Please provide this in feedback app if you haven't already.
  • What, like in windows 8 you mean?? :(
  • I never do, seems to default to "my stuff", & if there's nothing it gives the option to do the net.
  • I have used Windows 10 for a while now.  When I first started using this search it worked great - able to find my files on the hard drive.  Now when I search for the files, it only gives me Apps, or stuff on the internet.  The option to click "My Stuff" does not appear on the screen to click.  Do you know how I can get it to search my hard drives, and/or flash drives again?  Thank you in advance for your help.  
  • Utter rubbish, I just bout managed on my old PC to get Cortana or whatever to search but always had to tell it WHERE to search ie my Files.  Want to go back 5 years to when you could search and all your recent documents showed up.  Now a search takes me to the *** internet.  If i wanted to search the web I would go to Google or my web browser.  5 minutes now searching web for how to get Cortana to search MY files -,  Still not tried it.  10 minutes wasted.  Designed by someone under 25 who has no concept of what instinctive means to anyone over 40 let alone approaching 60.  PS I used to work for ICL and knew my way around a computer  
  • Can we change region on windows 10 to get Cortana like we do on our WP?
  • Yes u can
  • Yes we can. On settings you can change your region into US. Make sure your prefer languange is English US. I'm from Indonesia and I have Cortana in US region.
  • Actually Cortana is opposite to apple solution. Apple iOS ans mac OSx search first local then online, Microsoft does opposite. You switch off Bing search from Cortana setting and it will only search local
  • This is the only way I open anything. Win key, start typing.
  • Use this all the time...searches my SP3 and sd card. Soooo easy!
  • I realized Cortana W10 doesn't look up contacts.
  • I hate clicking My stuff every time I need to find files/folders stored on my PC. Even after you click my stuff exe files doesn't show up. They even removed context menu support (Send to, open with, delete etc) for search items which is present in windows 7. Windows 10 completely suck to provide user friendly search experience.
  • I have about 30 PDFs, Cortana only finds one.
  • The one one the phone I horrible at searching local things.
  • If you have files on drive 'C' in user's folder the results show up instantly. If you are looking for files on other drives you need to click 'my stuff'. I checked that. I moved all the folders like music, documents to drive 'd' an now they don't show up in searching result, only when I click 'my stuff'. Is there any way to go this around? Searching is faster when they show up at once!
  • This works, but I dislike that everything I type is sent to MS to show autocomplete results. If I search for some proprietary document on my PC, the search box sends the part of the filename that I type to MS for autocomplete. The only way to avoid this is turning off Cortana altogether - right? Ideally we would have an option to only enable 'local autocomplete' without network traffic, with an explicit 'ask cortana' button for if we need web results or a Cortana action (reminder etc). 
  • I think it is a slight step backwards. Generally the basic windows search is enough to find relevant searches. a file/app result I'm looking for is usually in the top 5 although amost never in the top 2. A surface pro has a microsd slot which is designated as the d drive. Windows search unfortunately does not tap or find this file on this drive, not even if I type d:/ I could do this with windows 8. With windows 7 I remember that there was an option to index all files. Also temporary drives on usb and microsd would be indexed. I think that is really missing in windows 10 and was really expecting this in windows 10. I don't know what to make of windows search. It is similar to windows 8 but that's about all I can say positively about it. I think improvements could be made to further improve a universal search and indexing of all files on the pc and external drives. It would make my work a lot easier. Now I actually have to still use explorer to find a file I need on the external drive. This is one field where microsoft could have shined and make a powerful tool. Search is still a tool that I and everyone uses and it saves a lot of time if search would be a bit smarter to find and show relevant search results. I am currently experience a kind of block in my workflow by the fact that microsoft seems to suggest bing results higher in the listing. I therefore notice that I enjoy windows search less than search in windows 8. I notice I find other methods and wishes of how winodws 10 could work for me. For example the wish that microsoft would allow to pin files as live tiles and that there was a more touch friendly version of explorer. I think if they could make windows search better the need for my wishes would be less. But at this point in time it isn't. I cant speak for Cortana, because it is not supported in my market. So I cant verify if Cortana is as good as claimed.
  • Cortana still has ways to go. One feature that I had read was launching application. Now, if ask Cortana "Map of 123 main street in city state", it will bring up Edge with the City's home page. I close it and try again..then it opens the Maps application with a balloon over the city I asked, but zoomed out to show all of the continental US.
  • How can I search for particular filenames without having the search results cluttered up with all sorts of nonsense where parts of the name might be included in a file? I am simply looking for a search facility similar to that in WindowsXP.
  • Re above comment; the DOS version works fine but can't Windows do it too?
  •   Can't find files to set permissions. Windows 10 sucks.  
  • Please help!  I am very frustrated.  I learned to search for files with the little doggie, and that was great.  Now it is totally changed and I am lost.  Where are the simple text instructions?  I don't want a video, I don't want to be told how great windows is, I just want to search my own PC for files. For example:  all word and excel files that were saved in July 2015.  I tried this and got zero results after a very slow process: Modified: 7/1/2015 .. 7/20/2015 System.FileName~>”doc” OR “docx OR “xls” OR “xlsx” How do I perform that simple search, and where is the instruction on what terms I can use?  For example, I'd love to get more specific and search on the documents for contained text, like all files modified in July of 2015 containing the word "mercedes"  But I can't figure out how to do it, and the searches seem to be very slow (like 15 minutes)  
  • Before I upgraded to windows 10 I could easily find my files using search. Now I cant find anything!
  • Terrible loss of simple windows funtionality!!!
  • On Windows 10, I wanted to find files with names matching *.PAS containing the phrase TComport.Read w/in my files.  Your descriptions of how to do it took 30 minutes of my time and did not help at all. --JohnH  
  • hi press windows icon key and f key at same time,the search window will come up on the left side select the location you want to select and on right select the pattern cheers
  • Pressing the windows icon key and f key at same time takes me to the Feedback Hub
  • me too.
  • My first (and hopefully LAST) experience using Cortana was a complete waste of time. I wanted to do a file search on an external hard drive/backup drive. This is something that "she" doesn't understand. I wouldn't be so ticked off if it weren't for the fact that Cortana appears to be the ONLY way to do a file search using Windows 10
  • Searching External Drive Go to Windows explorer, highlight your hard drive and note to the right of the address bar is a Search feature, use that to search your external hard drive.
  • Thank you SO much, this works beautifully!!!   For anyone else reading this who is having the same problem, once you activate the search bar a search tab shows and you're able to modify things like date range of files to search, etc.
  • I've been using Windows 10 for 2 years. Still can't find a search box. I am looking for a file (windows.old) ---- cortana doesn't find it and doesn't give me the option to look in "my stuff" - only searches on the internet. I need to be able to find a file and so far no luck unless I already know where it is????!!!
  • Hi, Press windows icon button and F at the same time ,the search window will show   Then further select options to where you want to search   thanks      
  • Um... that action brings up the feedback page. Perhaps you're suggesting that I should give the Microputzes a piece of advice... some feedback... a rant about how their product sucks?  
  • Windows 10 search is rather primitive, it will only search for documents in certain folders C:\User\Documents, so if you have another drive like a "D" drive you're out of luck.  Pretty sad.  I use a third party search tool.
  • why in the world would Microsoft want to make their search less effective?  They had a good search with Windows XP Pro.  The user could specify where to look, including external drives. It makes no sense to go from a search so effective that there's no reason to look for an alternative, to one so flawed that it spawns discussions across forums.  What was the perceived benefit of replacing a working search function?
  • My Stuff does not appear as a choice in my version of Cortana (which is updated and up to date). My experience is that Microsoft instructions almost never work. How can you consistently do so badly?
  • Windows 10 completely suck Press windows icon button and F at the same time ,the search window will show  It brings you to a feedback window instead. Piece of CRAP!
  • Biggest issues with Cortana search is just that they only find files some exist one C Drive, if you have a E and D drive to they can not find files there. And that make it mabye to the worst windows search by all Windows version so far. Most people just have small SSD and save bigre files one other drives. 
  • I'm transferring .mov files between a mac and a pc, slow going.  I wanted to doublecheck which had transferred.  I tried to do this with Cortana.  No "my stuff" folder.  The most specific I could get was to agree to look in folders.  But this meant that Cortana was going to look for folders by the name of *,mov.  "I'd be happy to help out with that" Cortana prattles cheerfully, "can I use your account to personalize your experience?"  Then the explanation: Let Cortana collect and use things like history and other information on your device to make your experience more personal. There's [Personalize] (highlighted choice)  & [Maybe later]  (grayed out, as if it were a non-functional button).  If you choose the latter button, the message changes.  Cortana tells you to hit the road.  But if you want to come around to it's way of thinking, it will later allow you to "personalize": "I'm afraid I can't help out without that permission.  I'd be happy to do anything else that doesn't require that though". How "personal" do you have to get to look for files with the extension .mov?  I don't want to get chummy with my pc. I didn't have to get personal to have my computer (including external drives), searched via Windows XP Pro. Why should I have to do this?  The data exists on my hard drive(s), so it should have been indexed. I'm going to have to use a third-party app to look through my hard drive?  As people wind up dissatisfied with more and more "improvements" & need to get apps to do what Windows used to be able to do, it makes me wonder why not go to Linux?  It couldn't possibly be any more trouble.  It certainly couldn't take up more time.    
  • When I had Windows XP, I had all of my stuff (word, excel, pdf, photos, scans, etc) in a folder named DEBBIE under the following path:  C > DEBBIE.  I could easily search for anything.  Then I downloaded Windows 10 and couldn’t search and find any of my stuff. I accidently discovered why.  For me, my stuff has to be under the following path instead:  C > USERS > DEBBIE > DOCUMENTS. So I clicked the THIS PC icon on my desktop.  Then I left clicked the C drive (left side of screen) and on my DEBBIE folder I did a right click and cut  Then I clicked on C > USERS > DEBBIE > DOCUMENTS and did a right click and paste inside the right side of the screen. Now all of my stuff is under:  C > USERS > DEBBIE > DOCUMENTS > DEBBIE. So when I type the document name or partial name in CORTANA it actually shows my documents. I hope this helps or gives you an idea as to how to make it work for you.