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How to use PowerToys Run to launch programs on Windows 10

Powertoys Run Program Search
Powertoys Run Program Search (Image credit: Windows Central)

Microsoft's PowerToys recently gained a Run launcher that makes it easy to find and launch programs, folders, and files with your keyboard. The feature is somewhat similar to Spotlight search on devices running macOS, though right now, PowerToys Run is relatively basic. It's a new feature that should expand over time, especially since it's open-source and can work with plugins. Right now, you can use PowerToys Run to find and launch programs, folders, and files, and as a handy quick calculator.

Products used in this guide

  • Handy little toys: PowerToys (Free at GitHub)

Getting PowerToys

PowerToys is currently in beta and distributed through GitHub. To get PowerToys, you just need to go to the app's releases page and download the latest version.

  1. Go to the Releases page on GitHub for PowerToys.
  2. Click the most recent release within assets to download PowerToys. For example, "PowerToysSetup-0.18.2-x64.msi".

Powertoys Download

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)
  1. Click on the downloaded file.
  2. Click Next twice (read through the license before clicking next the second time).
  3. Tick the boxes to indicate if you want PowerToys to start at launch and if you want to create a shortcut for PowerToys.
  4. Click Install.
  5. Click Yes to verify the download.
  6. Click Finish. At this point, you can also have a box ticked to launch PowerToys.

PowerToys is now running on your PC. If you opted to have it launch at startup, it will run in the background on your PC, and you don't have to think about it.

Enable PowerToys Run

When we installed version 0.18 of PowerToys, PowerToys Run was off by default. You can enable it with the following steps.

  1. Open PowerToys by clicking its icon in the System Tray.
  2. Click on PowerToys Run.

Powertoys Run Enable

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)
  1. Toggle the button to enable the feature.

How to find and launch program and files

Once PowerToys is running on your PC, and you've enabled PowerToys Run, you can use it to find and launch programs.

  1. Press Alt + Space.
  2. Type the program or file you'd like to find.

Powertoys Search

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)
  1. Click on the program, folder, or file that appears in search results.

You can also type basic calculations into PowerToys Run after pressing Alt + Space.

Right now, PowerToys Run is quite basic. It's very fast but currently limited. Over time, it should become more useful. For example, PowerToys version 0.18.2 improved the PowerToy Run's search capabilities, making it easy to search through files in your File Explorer.

Sean Endicott
Sean Endicott

Sean Endicott is the news writer for Windows Central. If it runs Windows, is made by Microsoft, or has anything to do with either, he's on it. Sean's been with Windows Central since 2017 and is also our resident app expert. If you have a news tip or an app to review, hit him up at sean.endicott@futurenet.com.

10 Comments
  • I may be missing something, but how is Alt+Space and typing better or different from tapping the Windows key and typing?
  • Was wondering the same thing. I used to use 3rd party launchers like this back in winxp, but as soon as I could start a search with the windows key I didn't see the point anymore.
  • the start menu results are terrible, sometimes opting not to include installed applications in favor of web results or documents and system files, or worse gives it's suggested results instead.
  • What this guy said ^ Funnily enough this feature built into macOS is one of the things I missed the most. This is such a clean execution compared to start menu typing which, in my experience, has always been horrid.
  • That's why I hope they enable PT Run to be mapped to the Windows key. It's just more straightforward when you just want to RUN a task as it gives priority to installed applications.
  • That's interesting. Don't think that's ever happened to me. Do you have any example on how to trigger that behavior? Or do you mean if you search for some text in the middle of the program name? Like you want to start Excel and type xcel?
  • "very fast" is not how I'd characterize my experience with any of the power toys suite
  • If the startmenu wasn't broken by default with search results out weighing installs applications, we wouldn't need a toy. crazy.
  • This is rather pointless really, Windows already has a Run command and anything used a lot just needs a shortcut on the start menu or desktop. I don't search for any programs
  • Just because you think it's pointless doesn't mean it doesn't have a place. The macOS version of this is one of the things I used to use most during my time with a Mac. Anything Windows has had remotely similar, like the Start Menu search is, in my experience, worse. So I like this. If nobody tried anything new, there would never be innovation. Remember that.