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In my downloads folder I have a file called If I go to that folder in Vista Windows Explorer, and then type pb or pb* or anything like that in the search box, it doesn't find that file. Why?

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File searching in Vista and (and probably Windows 7 though I'm not sure) works differently to that in XP and older versions.
I'm not sure about the reality, but several pages I found via Google a few months ago imply that Vista searches for known words in file names, and wildcard searching (using ? and * characters) either doesn't work at all or has reduced support.

Now, here's a bit of opinion backed up by several other commenters on the web...
Vista file search is basically broken.
One of the best proofs of this that I've found on my own PC is as follows:
- I have a folder containing several files of the same type (i.e. same extension) and the same attributes (none of them are hidden or system files).
- I search for the extension only (e.g. "jsp"), and Windows shows some of those files in the search results, but not all of them.

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Windows searches only for those file types registered for the "search" operation.

If you are familiar with the command line I would suggest using "dir file_to_search /a /s" or using alternative software like Locate32 (

I have stopped using the Windows Search thing since 2000/2001 :) :P

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Windows XP search ALSO behaves wrong, although the search in Vista and Windows 7 is even worse.

For example, in Windows XP I made this search:

Filename: *.pas

Word or phrase (sentence?) in file: MediaPlayer

Where to look for: S:\

Windows XP search only finds two files:

MediaPlayer_TLB.pas - in Folder S:\d7comp\activex\msplayer64 MediaPlayer_TLB.pas - in Folder S:\d7comp\activex\Wmp64

My own FindFile.exe (this is a self made application programmed using Delphi 7) instead finds 23 files using the same search criteria !

One of those 23 is S:\d7app\Testapps\msplayer1\msplayerMF.pas

This (text, source code) file begins like this:

unit msplayerMF;


uses Windows, Messages, SysUtils, Variants, Classes, Graphics, Controls, Forms, Dialogs, StdCtrls, OleCtrls, MediaPlayer_TLB;

type TForm1 = class(TForm) MsMediaPlayer1: TMsMediaPlayer;

On line 7, as part of the "uses" clause, you can see: MediaPlayer_TLB

My own FindFile.exe corretly finds the keyword "MediaPlayer" even when it is immediately followed by "_TLB". But for some odd reason Microsoft's search utility gets confused about that "_TLB" and fails to find that file.

I cannot understand why Microsoft's programmers failed to implement the search function properly.

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For Windows XP, there's something in the registry that defines how it searches for contents in different file types. I've seen a web page (unofficial I think) about changing the registry to change that behaviour, but haven't had to use it for ages because I've been using Vista or 7. I once tried a content search in XML files, and Windows XP would find the text in the content of elements but ignore it in element or attribute names. – Scott Leis Jun 28 '13 at 8:01

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