Windows Search is a feature that has been around for more than 15 years, starting from the ancient Windows Vista. It has evolved and matured over the years, and the latest iteration from Windows 11 is simpler, faster, and more efficient than previous versions. Here’s how to access Search in Windows 11 and use it to find what you want:
You can access the Search feature in several ways. The most obvious one is by clicking on the magnifying glass icon on the taskbar, next to the Start button.
If, by any chance, the icon is missing from the taskbar, you can access Search by pressing the Windows key on the keyboard or by clicking or tapping the Start button on the desktop. This opens the Start Menu, which contains, in the upper part, the Windows Search input field.
You don’t have to select the field, you can just start writing as soon as you press the Windows key.
Another way to access Windows Search is by pressing the keyboard shortcut Windows + S.
Finally, you have the option to enter search terms in File Explorer. You just have to go to the Search field on the top-right and click on it to write the search terms. This only searches locally for files and folders, though.
NOTE: In the Windows Search window, search results are displayed as you type. If you search for a term and press Enter on your keyboard, the first result opens automatically. When searching using Windows Search in a File Explorer window, you need to press Enter or tap the arrow next to the search box to begin the search.
The Windows Search window has many useful links and settings. Starting from the top, you have the input field and then several filters that you can use to restrict your searches. Pressing More presents you with even more options.
On the right side, next to the filters, there are two buttons. The portrait icon is for giving feedback to Microsoft about the Search feature, while pressing on the one with three dots opens the Options menu.
Further down, you can see the Top apps, a shortcut list of apps that you use most frequently on the device. Finally, you have Recent, a list of the most recently accessed items.
In some countries like the USA, the Search window displays the Quick searches section.
The links from this section show you live data from Microsoft's Bing search engine, directly in the Search window. Below you can see the results shown after clicking on the New movies link.
Let’s now focus a bit more on the filters.
Windows Search does much more than search for files stored locally on your computer. Depending on the options you select in the Search window, it can search for the term on the internet, in e-mails and even find contacts in your People list.
By default, Windows Search shows the results in all categories, but if you are looking for a specific item, you can narrow down the scope to search faster. You do this by first opening the Search window (Windows key + S). Then, select the category you want by using the options below the search box on the top. Pressing More opens a dropdown list for selecting even more categories. You can choose between All (default), Apps, Documents, Web, Email, Folders, Music, People, Photos, Settings, and Videos.
NOTE: Web searches are done using Microsoft’s Bing search engine. If you want to use another search engine, you have to use your web browser and navigate to your favorite search engine.
When you search for an item, Windows Search shows the results instantly and displays them in order of importance. It shows the Best match first, then Apps, Settings, Web results, Documents, etc.
There are several actions you can take at this point:
- Pressing Enter on your keyboard after typing the search term automatically opens the result in the Best Match category
- By default, the right pane shows a list of available actions for the Best match item. Clicking or tapping on the arrow (“See more information”) next to a result different from the Best Match shows the context menu for that result.
- Right-clicking (or pressing and holding for devices with a touch screen) on a search result opens a contextual menu where you can choose other actions. For apps, you can run them as administrator, open the item location, pin the icon to the taskbar or the Start Menu or uninstall the app. The actions available vary depending on the item.
We believe that Windows Search is an essential tool for the day-to-day usage of Windows devices. But how often do you use Search? Is it daily or very rarely? Choose an answer from the poll below. Also, comment and tell us whether you are satisfied with your experience when using Search in Windows 11.