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Can’t find files on your PC? Here’s how to rediscover them with Windows’ desktop search

how to search in windows  cortana
Greg Mombert/Digital Trends

Windows 10 has an instant search capability that’s powerful, but it can be a little tricky to use. To get the most out of your searches, even if you aren’t sure where to start, we’ve made a guide on how to use the search capabilities in Windows 10  and how to customize them to your advantage.

Related: How to go dark, and more — 10 Windows 10 tips you probably didn’t know

Tips to help you get started with Windows search

Log into Windows 10 and check out the taskbar that is (traditionally) located at the bottom of the screen. Toward the left-hand side, you’ll see a blank space that represents the iconic Windows Search bar. Depending on your settings, it probably says something like “Ask me anything” or “Search the web and Windows.” This is where you should begin your search — no matter what you’re looking for.Windows Search Basketball

In Windows 10, this search box is closely connected to Cortana, the voice-recognition assistant that is now programmed into the Windows operating system. This means you can use a voice search if you don’t feel like typing, but the results will be the same either way. If you have disabled Cortana in the past, the search box will still be here and you will still be able to type in searches as you normally would.

Related: How to use and customize Cortana in Windows 10

Put in a key phrase or two, and Windows 10 will immediately open a window showing you a list of results – from everywhere. Please note that these results will not only include files, cloud data, programs, and web links, but also all the settings and tools that Windows 10 comes with. This makes it very easy to find a certain tool or feature. Instead of opening five different windows to navigate Settings or a drive, for instance, you just need to search for whatever you need and go right to it.

When you’re ready to start typing specific terms in, here are a few suggestions to help you use the search tool as efficiently as possible:

  • Cortana Search Bar NotificationsBe natural: The Windows 10 search function is designed to read natural language, the way you would normally ask for
    something. How well this works is open for debate, but it’s still a smart idea to enter a query with organic phrasing, the way you would ask a friend. This includes phrasing like, “Where is,” “Find my,” and even generalities like, “Those business docs from last month.”
  • Scroll through: The list of results that Windows 10 returns to you is actually organized by where the results are pulled from. It typically starts with your documents, moves on to web results and suggestions, and continues from there. If you don’t see what you’re looking for right away, take a moment to scroll down and make sure your destination isn’t waiting under a hidden subheading.
  • Sign Into OneDrive: The search box can also pull results from your OneDrive data, which is a boon for business users who’ve activated OneDrive. That said, make sure you’re signed into a Microsoft account on your computer before searching so that the search will include OneDrive.

Related: Why the hell wouldn’t you upgrade to Windows 10?

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