Hide-and-seek has been a popular children’s game around the world since at least the 2nd Century. Sometimes it seems as though searching for computer files is an adult version of the game, minus any of the fun.
Finding one specific document on a machine that may contain several hundred thousand files can be a maddening process. An IDC study from a few years back found that knowledge workers were spending up to 2.5 hours per day searching for documents. In roughly half of the cases, they eventually had to give up and re-create materials they couldn’t locate.
One of the newer features in Windows 10 can make the search process much easier. Enhancements to the Windows search function make the utility faster, more thorough and more consistent.
Microsoft desktop operating systems have featured an integrated search function since Windows 2000, but there have always been some drawbacks. Until recently, the Windows 10 search function was unable to scan the entire computer — it would only search through files on your desktop and in your libraries.
In the May 2019 update (Windows 10, version 1903), Microsoft added an enhanced search mode that allows you to search all the files on your PC, regardless of their location. However, the enhanced search is disabled by default. You must go into the settings page to switch from classic mode to enhanced.
Enabling the enhanced search mode is an easy process:
- Open the Start menu by clicking on the Windows logo icon in the left corner of the taskbar or the logo key on your keyboard.
- Open Settings, click on Search and then open Searching Windows
- Click the Enhanced radio button under Find My Files.
Be aware that the enhanced search function may decrease battery life and increase CPU consumption due to the advanced indexing required to support system-wide search. Indexing is the process search engines use to organize information in order to improve response time for search queries. In the enhanced search mode, the indexing function runs continually in the background. You can customize settings to speed things up a bit, however. An Excluded Folders function allows you to ignore any folders you don’t need to search by removing them from the index.
Whether you’re in the enhanced or classic search mode, the Windows desktop search tool also allows you to conduct Internet searches without opening up a browser. When you type in a query, the search bar will give the option of looking for results in applications, documents or on the web. If you select web results, the search tool will automatically launch a Bing web search in an Edge browser.
The web search feature was once closely tied to Cortana, Microsoft’s virtual assistant, but users reported significant spikes in CPU usage. The May 2019 update split the Cortana and search functions apart.
With the updated desktop search functions, you may be surprised by how much time you can save while looking for files on your computer or searching on the Internet. What are your thoughts on this added functionality? Let us know in the comments and be sure to subscribe for more great tech tips and tricks.