In Windows, what are the differences between the find and findstr commands?

Both seem to search for text in files:


C:\> find /?
Searches for a text string in a file or files.

FIND [/V] [/C] [/N] [/I] [/OFF[LINE]] "string" [[drive:][path]filename[ ...]]

  /V         Displays all lines NOT containing the specified string.
  /C         Displays only the count of lines containing the string.
  /N         Displays line numbers with the displayed lines.
  /I         Ignores the case of characters when searching for the string.
  /OFF[LINE] Do not skip files with offline attribute set.
  "string"   Specifies the text string to find.
             Specifies a file or files to search.

If a path is not specified, FIND searches the text typed at the prompt
or piped from another command.


C:\> findstr /?
Searches for strings in files.

FINDSTR [/B] [/E] [/L] [/R] [/S] [/I] [/X] [/V] [/N] [/M] [/O] [/P] [/F:file]
        [/C:string] [/G:file] [/D:dir list] [/A:color attributes] [/OFF[LINE]]
        strings [[drive:][path]filename[ ...]]

  /B         Matches pattern if at the beginning of a line.
  /E         Matches pattern if at the end of a line.
  /L         Uses search strings literally.
  /R         Uses search strings as regular expressions.
  /S         Searches for matching files in the current directory and all
  /I         Specifies that the search is not to be case-sensitive.
  /X         Prints lines that match exactly.
  /V         Prints only lines that do not contain a match.
  /N         Prints the line number before each line that matches.
  /M         Prints only the filename if a file contains a match.
  /O         Prints character offset before each matching line.
  /P         Skip files with non-printable characters.
  /OFF[LINE] Do not skip files with offline attribute set.
  /A:attr    Specifies color attribute with two hex digits. See "color /?"
  /F:file    Reads file list from the specified file(/ stands for console).
  /C:string  Uses specified string as a literal search string.
  /G:file    Gets search strings from the specified file(/ stands for console).
  /D:dir     Search a semicolon delimited list of directories
  strings    Text to be searched for.
             Specifies a file or files to search.

Use spaces to separate multiple search strings unless the argument is prefixed
with /C.  For example, 'FINDSTR "hello there" x.y' searches for "hello" or
"there" in file x.y.  'FINDSTR /C:"hello there" x.y' searches for
"hello there" in file x.y.

Regular expression quick reference:
  .        Wildcard: any character
  *        Repeat: zero or more occurences of previous character or class
  ^        Line position: beginning of line
  $        Line position: end of line
  [class]  Character class: any one character in set
  [^class] Inverse class: any one character not in set
  [x-y]    Range: any characters within the specified range
  \x       Escape: literal use of metacharacter x
  \<xyz    Word position: beginning of word
  xyz\>    Word position: end of word

For full information on FINDSTR regular expressions refer to the online Command
  • 1
    It is probably more about evolution. Find goes back to the DOS/UNIX days, and later FINDSTR was added in Windows. Both have probably evolved, and become more alike.
    – KCotreau
    Jul 5, 2011 at 17:25
  • I agree with @KCotreau’s timeline: FIND is ancient and FINDSTR is newer. I doubt that FIND has evolved to become more like FINDSTR; rather, I believe FIND was preserved as the crippled dinosaur that it was (as DOS was, in general) in order to maintain backward compatibility (e.g., with batch files that use it), while FINDSTR was added to provide a decent set of features. Oct 30, 2013 at 17:13
  • 1
    Oh, and by the way, the DOS/Windows FIND command is nothing like the Unix find command; rather, as paradroid suggests below, FIND is like a watered-down version of grep (or perhaps fgrep). Oct 30, 2013 at 17:16
  • don't you see the differences in the help?
    – phuclv
    Jan 8, 2016 at 4:15

6 Answers 6


As shown above, findstr adds regular expressions support, so it's more like grep.

  • 3
    But it's not alway's clear the exact usage and difference if you haven't used both of those frequently. So their perceptions may be different because you may have had far different experiences then they do. Part of a huge problem in learning and career's I call the Experience Gap. Long story.
    – crosenblum
    Feb 24, 2013 at 22:38

The Old New Thing blog touches on these tools in this post.

In summary: tools developed in parallel to suit slightly different needs; they were simply never combined into one single tool.


Findstr has more search options and supports regular expressions. I found that findstr does not work with wild cards in the file name.

The command below returns all occurences of search string in multiple files with the pattern Quant_2013-10-25_*.log

find /I "nFCT255c9A" D:\Comp1\Logs\Quant_2013-10-25_*.log 

The following command returns nothing or simply does not work

findstr nFCT255c9A D:\Comp1\Logs\Quantum_2013-10-25_*.log
  • find also has some limitations. For example, you couldn't use it to append line numbers to each line because find/n"" would not match anything. For that you'll have to use findstr.
    – Pacerier
    Aug 25, 2015 at 13:12
  • 1
    Not able to replicate issue with wildcards in findstr. Microsoft Windows 7 Professional, 6.1.7601 Service Pack 1 Build 7601.
    – lordcheeto
    Dec 24, 2015 at 15:56

Besides those mentioned:

FINDSTR does not support UTF-16 files, but FIND does.

  • Source? May be a link that points to that.
    – Toto
    Dec 11, 2017 at 10:23
  • @Toto, added link
    – a1ezh
    Dec 11, 2017 at 11:09

findstr extends the functionality of find with several useful features. Some of the key additions include

  1. findstr supports multiple search strings
  2. findstr can take as input a file containing file names or directories to search
  3. findstr supports regular expression

Neither function is suitable for large files or large numbers of files.

  • Also findstr does not conflict with cygwin find.
    – Bob Stein
    Nov 17, 2020 at 12:36

Another difference (that often trips me up):

FIND weirdly requires the search pattern to be in quotation marks. FINDSTR does not.

> FIND needle haystack.txt
FIND: Parameter format not correct

> FIND "needle" haystack.txt

---------- HAYSTACK.TXT

This is particularly odd, since the two main command line parsers used on Windows will drop the quotes when they split the command line into an array of arguments. Therefore FIND is grabbing the command line directly from the OS and doing its own parsing.

Like most other programs, FINDSTR is flexible about the quotation marks. You don't have to use them unless you need to include white space in the pattern.

> FINDSTR needle haystack.txt

> FINDSTR "needle" haystack.txt

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