With each subsequent version of the Windows operating system, the search feature gets a little bit better. Despite incremental improvements, the Windows search tool is still far behind the state of the art. Fortunately, there are many alternatives you can use to replace the default Windows search tool. Here are three completely free search programs for your PC, each with a robust set of features that will have you wondering how you tolerated the poor performance of the Windows search tool for so long.
1) Everything, from voidtools.com
Everything works by reading file information tables on your disks and storing that information in a database. Everything can index an entire hard drive from scratch in a matter of minutes. Searching is instantaneous once the index is built. Everything monitors disks for changes and updates the file information as soon as a change is made to to any disk Everything is watching.
You can create as many databases as you want and include or exclude drives as you see fit. The databases are stored in files and can be easily transferred from one computer to another.
One great feature of Everything is that it supports regular expressions. Regular expressions are patterns that follow a special syntax and allow for extremely complex searches. A regular expression can be crafted to locate any text pattern you can imagine, which is useful if you want to find files containing several different patterns, or if you want to search for text with some flexibility.
2) Ultrasearch, from www.jam-software.com
Ultrasearch also uses the master file table on your drive to find files, but it does not create a database of those files. This means that there is no delay when you start the program or add drives, but it also means searches are not instantaneous. If you only search your drives occasionally, this is a fine tradeoff. If you do a lot of searching, however, it is more convenient to have the instantaneous search. Note that Ultrasearch is not slow; it just isn’t as fast as it would be if it kept its own databases.
Ultrasearch also has some useful advanced features, such as filters to exclude locations and file types, and a search history that gives you quick access to the last 100 searches you performed.
3) Locate32, from locate32.cogit.net
Like Everything, Locate32 stores file indexes in its own databases, making searches blazing fast. Search filters such as file size, modification date, and other information can be used to limit search results. Several other advanced search options are available, and Locate32 can automatically modify your search pattern to make it more useful.
Locate32 also allows you to search for strings inside text files. Although this is a useful feature, it is slower than file name searches because Locate32 does not store file contents in its databases.
The final thing about Locate32 that makes it stand out is that it is completely portable. There is no installation required. Simply extract the program from its archive and it is ready to be used. This makes it perfect for placing on a thumb drive to take with you anyplace quick searches are needed.