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Best way to confidently search files and contents in Windows without using an indexing service?

I use Windows Vista SP2

I was searching for the file I knew existed somewhere on C: drive using Windows Explorer. I started my search from "C:\", drive is not indexed for search. File was not found. Then I searched for the same file name using "dir opends60.lib /s" command (started it in "C:\") and the file was found in subfolder of "Program Files".

Then I pointed Windows Explorer to "C:\Program Files" and searched it - file was found. I detected the same behavior for Windows system folder.

Is this documented somewhere? What are the other folders that are not searched by default? What do you use for search (I am not looking for anything that creates index of any kind)?

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migrated from Aug 24 '11 at 22:41

This question came from our site for professional and enthusiast programmers.

marked as duplicate by Moab, Nifle, surfasb, 8088, studiohack Nov 10 '11 at 16:26

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

I have not fully trusted the file search since Win2000 (Content text search was "optimized" aka broken in XP but fixed in later SPs) On NT6 you have to fight the index service and force it to search the whole computer and even after that sometimes if feels like it does not find things... There are some shareware and freeware search apps out there that you might want to take a look at. – Anders Aug 24 '11 at 20:45

This MSDN link specifies exactly what is included in, and excluded from, the index:

Folders and Files Excluded

The following folders are excluded by default:

  1. The following %SystemDrive% directories and their contents are not indexed:

    • \Build\
    • \Installed Repository\
    • \ProgramData\ (except the shared Start Menu directory)
    • \Program Files\
    • \Program files (x86)\
    • \Users\Default
    • \Windows\
    • \Windows.000\
    • \Windows.old\
    • \$Recycle Bin\
  2. Default User folders.

  3. Any item marked as Hidden or System.
  4. Removable drives.
  5. Files without extensions or filters. Windows Search does not assume that a file format necessarily contains text.

For info on some alternatives, perhaps check out this SU question:

Best way to confidently search files and contents in Windows without using an indexing service?

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