There's a critical regression between the way Windows XP and Windows 7 perform filename searches. In XP, the default is that the entire filename would be searched as a string using using a case-insensitive containment search (allowing you to match the middle or end of a word within a filename). Windows 7 seems to only match the beginning of words within the file name.

Example: Thisismy-reallylongfilename.txt when searching for long will match on XP, but not on Windows 7. Searching for really matches on both, because Windows 7 recognizes it as the beginning of a "word" in the filename.

Is there any way to cause Windows 7 search to behave like XP and match any part of the filename, not just the beginning of each word?

Answer: use ~~searchterm. The two tildes cause Windows 7 search to perform a substring search, very simliar to Windows XP.


4 Answers 4


You can use the Advanced Query Syntax, which is probably more powerful, yet also more complicated. They don't make it very easy to figure out how their search works either.

name: tells it to only search through the name property of the file and not date, type, folder, file contents...

The tilde ~ tells it to allow dos wild cards (* and ?) where the asterisk is any number of any character and the question mark is a place holder for just one character.


The charts at the bottom of this page are helpful.

  • 2
    ~~long does the exact same thing with less typing :-)
    – Kenaniah
    Apr 11, 2011 at 22:24
  • @Kenaniah lol nice.
    – James T
    Apr 11, 2011 at 23:37
  • 1
    The AQS would be pretty useful if Explorer didn’t being searching the moment you type anything and actually waited until you pressed Enter before starting. (¬_¬)
    – Synetech
    Aug 5, 2013 at 0:13

I'll be honest I don't know of a way to configure Windows 7 search to accomplish the same functionality as XP. After trying to 'fix' Windows Vista/7+ search for years I've slowly come to accept that 3rd party applications are likely the best solution. It is not the ideal solution, I know, but an alternative that hopefully some with appreciate nonetheless.

I have found the files search in Explorer++ (a third party file manager for Windows of which there is conveniently a portable version) to be exceptionally good at basic string matching as the OP described. It also completes searches on my over 90% full terabyte HDD in seconds whereas Windows 7 will take several minutes or more to return less results.

While I haven't tried it, I also just came across a very promising search program for Windows 7 called FileSearchEX that's based on the XP Advanced Search UI (aka Classic Windows 2K search) but with more in depth customizations. Plus apparently it brings back the "search for content in files" which i have dearly missed (the Windows 7 'content:' syntax isn't as good, and Explorer++ lacks this option). Seems worth a try.

Explorer++ explorerplusplus.com/

Explorer++ (portable) http://portableapps.com/apps/utilities/explorerplusplus_portable

FileSearchEX http://www.goffconcepts.com/products/filesearchex/


Are you using the search bar in the start menu? I've actually found that the search bar in Windows 7 is pretty similar to XP's: http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows7/products/features/windows-search

  • 2
    Just curious, what was the point of your answer?
    – Kenaniah
    Apr 12, 2011 at 0:28

An unsatisfied user (LindsayB1 from this page) made their own solution, available for free in sourceforge, File Search Classic , described by its author as «File search without animated animals».


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