With Windows 7, I try to run a search for a word or pattern in (mostly MS Word) files. Typing contents:NeedleInHaystack this works perfectly. But as soon as I include wildcards (e.g. Needle?nHaystack") (because of spelling alternatives US/UK etc.), the search is obviously running but does not retrieve anything.

I tried any combination of - quotes/no quotes around the search term, - * at beginning and end or not, - differnt wildcards (?, *) to replace a single letter of a known hit, - using contents:xxx or contents:~=xxx, - folder search option with index search (has been indexing for several months, and the files I am looking for are old enough to be indexed already) or not, => nothing works.

I've ben searching on Superuser and Google for quite a while but could not figure out what I did wrong, although I realize that also other people are experiencing problems with Win-7 search, without a solution o far. I'd appreciate any recommendations, thanks in advance!

  • 1
    @Tanner: Everything is great no doubt, but since when did it start indexing file contents?
    – Karan
    May 17, 2013 at 20:42
  • Missed the contents part.
    – rtf
    May 17, 2013 at 20:44
  • - I tried the ":~" version instead of ":~=", but that produces no results at all. With :multiple or :~=multiple -> 13 files, with :muliple -> 1 file, with :=~muliple 0 files ("multiple" is a single word with blanks on both sides in at lesat 13 of 29 Word (*.doc) files. Funny enough: before reboot, +/-"content(s):" did not matter w/o wildcards, after reboot -> 0 results w/o "contents". - Unclear when indexing started, but the files have been there for months with indexed search option switchd on.
    – Martin
    May 17, 2013 at 23:00

2 Answers 2


I would recommend that you stop struggling unnecessarily with Windows Search, stop getting frustrated and stop banging your head against its stupid restrictions (why for example did they bother with all this AQS nonsense when simple regex support would have been a million times more powerful?)

Switch to something else for your needs. Agent Ransack/FileLocator Lite is free for both personal and commercial use, has regex support and can easily search Office and OpenOffice files (the former even without Office installed, as long as you have the small Office Filter Pack on your system). What you want to do is easily accomplished, no indexing required:



  • most people would have no idea what a regex is and how to use it
    – phuclv
    Mar 23, 2019 at 1:15

Yeah, the documentation for search sucks, plus I think they made changes to how it works with Win7 SP1, so plenty of that documentation seems inaccurate.

You're close with ~= (which seems to be what online documentation suggests), but when searching for "Content:" (or "Contents:") specifically you just use the ~.

So to search for documents containing either 'colourful' or 'colorful' you'd use:


Note: This will also match coloTOOTIEFRUITYrful. ;)

The question mark wildcard requires a character to be there, so it wouldn't work in that example.

But you could use it to search for documents containing 'warm' or 'worm' as such:


Hope that helps.


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