How to search for apps, files and other items in Windows 11

Here's how to use and customize the Search tool in Windows 11 to quickly get the results you need.

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Tracking down a specific app, file, setting or other item in Windows can be challenging if you don't know or don't remember where it's located. That's where the Search feature comes in handy. With the Windows 11 Search tool, you can hunt for almost any type of item and tweak the Search options to control how a typical search works and what it can find.

SEE: Windows 11: Tips on installation, security and more (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

To access the Search screen in Windows 11, click the Search icon on the Taskbar. If you're already at the Start menu, click the Search field at the top, and that will take you to the Search screen. The screen shows your top apps as well as recent searches and quick suggested searches. Click an item you want to find or open (Figure A).

Figure A

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Otherwise, type the name of the app, file or other item you want to find in the Search field. The results show searches across all categories, including apps, documents and websites. Click a specific category to see just those results. Click the More menu to see results for email, folders, music, people, photos, settings or videos. Click the result you want to view or open (Figure B).

Figure B

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Next, you may want to tweak some of the Search options, especially if you're not getting the full results you expect. Go to Settings, select Privacy & Security, and then select Search Permissions. Under SafeSearch, you can set the options for Strict, Moderate or Off to expand or limit the results.

If you sign into Windows with a Microsoft account and want to include content from OneDrive, SharePoint, Outlook and Bing in your search results, turn on the switch for Microsoft Account. If you're using a work or school account instead, turn on the switch for Work Or School Account (Figure C).

Figure C

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You can also control the privacy and history of your searches. If you don't want the search history on your PC to factor into future search suggestions, turn off the switch for Search History On This Device. To remove your recorded search history, click the button for Clear Device Search History. To further view, remove or control your search history, click the links for Privacy Dashboard and Bing Search History Settings (Figure D).

Figure D

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Next, go to the previous screen for Privacy & Security and click the setting for Searching Windows. Normally, Windows will index your apps, files and other items periodically so they quickly appear in search results. If you'd rather not have the indexing chew up battery life when power is low, turn on the switch for Respect Power Settings When Indexing.

SEE: How to install Windows 11 on a Mac (TechRepublic)

You can control where a search will look for files, as well. By default, the tool looks only in specific locations, such as documents, pictures and music. To expand the indexing range, click the link for Customize Search Locations. That triggers the Indexing window where you can modify the parameters to add more folders. Alternatively, click the option for Enhanced to include your entire PC in the search indexing (Figure E).

Figure E

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Scroll down farther to review all the folders excluded in the search indexing. Click the button for Add An Excluded Folder to add any other folders you want to eliminate from the indexing (Figure F).

Figure F

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Finally, scroll to the bottom of the window. Clicking the entry for Advanced Indexing Options opens the Indexing window, where you can modify the parameters. Click the entry for Indexer Troubleshooter if you've been bumping into problems with the search tool or search results and want to check for indexing problems (Figure G).

Figure G

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