Ask Techerator: How can I search by only File Name in Windows 7?

Techerator team:

I’ve just switched from Windows XP/Office 2003 to Windows 7/Office 2010.  Before, I could easily find files in Word & Excel by simply typing a word that I knew was in the filename….

Now with Windows7/Office 2010, by searching in the upper right corner search box, the directory instead lists all the files which have that word anywhere in the body or the title.  It produces a ton more results and makes it hard to find what I want without going down a long list.  Do you know how I can make it search only the titles of files, not the body?

I have to say, this same problem was a bother to me as well. With Windows 7, Microsoft significantly “upgraded” the search functionality with an improved indexing service with the ability to search not only file names, but the actual contents of the files as well.

I’m not trying to say this is a bad feature; it certainly is very useful. I just find it odd that Microsoft would completely remove the old functionality, the ability to search only by file name. Now every user has to re-learn how to find a document to which he or she knows the file name offhand. Fortunately, the functionality is still there, the users just have to work harder.

The key to the new Windows 7 search are “search filters,” which allow the user to specify which part of the file to search in. Start typing a keyword in the search box in the upper right-hand corner of the window, and a little drop-down menu will appear with these search filters. The two visible are probably useful in the most unrealistic of scenarios: “Date modified” and “Size.”

Apparently, you should just know that a search filter called “Name” exists. Using this search filter will only look in the file name (and folder name) for the search, and you won’t have to worry about every single Office document containing the word “hello” appearing in your search results.

So there it is. To search by only filename, prefix your search with name:, followed by the word or words you wish to find. It’s so simple, yet so user-unfriendly. I think I’ll get back to scratching my head about this one.

  • Iantemp2

    Is there a way to have NAME” be a default filter?

    • Bryant Sombke

      I am not aware of any way to do this. After doing some research, my best answer would be “no.” If this is possible, and anyone knows how to do it, I would love to hear about it.

  • Thanks for this blog entry. I had the same question, which you’ve now answered.

  • Stacydan

    Thank you!  Thank you! Thank you!  With 1000’s of files with millions of words, the default search of everything in Windows 7 has been extremely frustrating.  Now I just prefix with name! and I’m back to the good old days of searching on filename and not all the contnent!

  • Stacydan

    Thank you!  Thank you! Thank you!  With 1000’s of files with millions of words, the default search of everything in Windows 7 has been extremely frustrating.  Now I just prefix with name! and I’m back to the good old days of searching on filename and not all the contnent!

  • Thank you! Thank you!

  • Except this still does not work if the particular file type you are looking for is not indexed. In this case you’ll have to drop to a DOS box, CD to / or the directory you are searching in, and do a “dir partialfilename*.* /s”

    This is progress? I find it inexcusable. And it’s still like this two years later.

    We get a touch screen interface that nobody asked for but we still can’t reliably find a file name from the GUI.

    • Yes, you are right that the new search engine only works for indexed files and file types. You can always customize your Indexing Options to include results to your liking, but it’s definitely a lot of work when all you want to do is find a file.

  • Anonymous

    Windows 7 search sucks.

  • Michael Peterson

    This was an awesome tip. Wish I would have read it a year ago

  • Positive Payton

    thank you so much. I could search files names easy in windows xp but
    struggled in windows 7. I googled for answer to this question and
    landed on a few other blogs on this topic and it was terrible the mean
    comments to this question. thanks for making it easy to understand and
    acknowledging the difference between windows xp and windows 7 in how
    this works.

  • Balaji Manu

    Thanks mate, you saved my time.