How to find any file or folder instantly on your computer with Everything

Even though computers have evolved tremendously in the past several years, the amount of data stored on your disk drive has also exponentially increased. Often this data is unorganized and that is why users need desktop search to find it instantly. If this vast amount of data is properly indexed on your PC, then searching is only a matter of querying the index database. Unfortunately, the process of indexing the data and its contents by crawling the file systems of all disk drives takes considerable time. What if there was a way to instantly index the file names of all files on your drive? That would make finding anything much faster. That is what the app called Everything does.

Everything search results

Windows uses NTFS as the file system. In NTFS, data such as file names, creation and modification dates, access permissions, size etc is stored in the Master File Table. Everything reads the NTFS file system's Master File Table (MFT) and within seconds, it instantly create a database of all entries in the MFT stored inside a small database (DB) file on the file system. Thereafter, searching any file located anywhere is only a matter querying this small database. So the indexing process is nearly instant and the searching is super-fast. One downside to this approach is that only the file names can be instantly indexed, the contents of files can't be.

Previously, we showed you how to search your entire PC using Windows Search and Classic Shell. Windows Search indexer uses a different approach to index data - it crawls the file system and indexes the names as well as the contents of files from the locations you specify. While this certainly creates a far more comprehensive index of your PC, it takes an enormous amount of time compared to the time required to query the MFT and write its results into a small database. If for the majority of your searches, you only need to do file name searches, then indexing the contents is an unnecessary waste of time and your PC's resources.

Everything indexes much faster. Once the database is created by Everything, you can literally find everything on your hard drive instantly. If you specify a hotkey to open Everything, then you can find and launch any file or folder in seconds. Everything runs at Windows startup and quickly updates it database if the MFT has changed. To monitor changes after indexing the MFT, Everything can makes use of the NTFS change journal (also called USN journal).

Installing and setting up Everything for everyday searches

  1. Download Everything from voidtools.com. We recommend that you get the beta version 1.3.3.658b because it is completely stable even if it says beta. Plus the newest beta has native 64-bit builds. On 64-bit Windows, get the x64 build.
  2. During installation, leave the default options checked - it is important that you install the Everything service on Windows 7/8/Vista to avoid a UAC prompt, so it loads on startup.
    Everything Installer
  3. Launch Everything from the Start menu or Start screen. You will see by observing the status bar at the bottom, that within just a few seconds, it read your the MFT of your NTFS drives and builds a database in C:\Users\<your user name>\AppData\Roaming\Everything folder.
    Everything Search
  4. Now you can begin typing in the search box right away to search your entire local hard drives which are NTFS formatted.
  5. It has tons of options to configure so power users may to change the defaults to suit them; many excellent features are off by default. We recommend everyone to at least change these defaults for an optical search experience.
    • Click the Tools menu and click Options. On the Results page inside the Options dialog, check the option "Hide results when the search is empty".

      Hide results

      Checking 'Hide results....' gives you a clean and simple UI to begin searching

    • Click the View page of options, and change the Size format to Auto
    • Finally, on the Keyboard page of Options, you can assign a hotkey to quickly show the search window. We chose Ctrl+Shift+F as the Show window hotkey.
      Click OK to save changes.
  6. Now every time you need to find any file or folder on your computer, you can press Ctrl+Shift+F (or the hotkey you assigned) and instantly find it.

To search and access a remote host's folders and files, Everything also comes with an ETP/FTP server. Ever since Everything was updated in 2013, it also has the ability to regular slow indexing like Windows Search has by crawling the file system (although it doesn't support iFilters or content searches). This kind of folder indexing will take a while to complete, so use it only for locations such as network shares or NAS drives where it can't do MFT indexing or use the ETP server. Another interesting ability is the feature to build file lists containing the custom folders and files you specify.

Some important operators and functions in Everything's search syntax

Everything began as a product in 2008 and was actively developed till 2009. It had to be run as administrator. After 2009, development was stopped but the developer resumed it in 2013 and made some major improvements. It now runs as a Windows service to avoid the UAC prompt. The query syntax is in some ways similar to Windows Search's Advanced Query Syntax. It also supports wildcards and regular expressions. It can just as instantly index removable drives too.

Although Everything can be used by casual users to simply type the file name and press Enter to launch the results, it has an elaborate search syntax similar to Windows Search:

Operators:
space  /  AND
|    OR
!    NOT
" "    Search for an exact phrase.

Wildcards:
*    Matches zero or more characters.
?    Matches one character.
*.    Matches filenames with no extension.
*.*    Same as *

Functions:
attrib:<attributes>    Search for files and folders with the specified file attributes.
child:<filename>    Search for folders that contain a child with a matching filename.
dateaccessed:<date>    Search for files and folders with the specified date accessed.
datecreated:<date>    Search for files and folders with the specified date created.
datemodified:<date>    Search for files and folders with the specified date modified.
dupe:    Search for duplicated filenames.
empty:    Search for empty folders.
ext:<list>    Search for files with a matching extension in the specified semi-colon delimited extension list.
fsi:<index>    Search for files and folders in the specified zero based internal file system index.
len:<length>    Search for files and folders that match the specified filename length.
parents:<count>    Search for files and folders with the specified number of parent folders.
recentchange:<date>    Search for files and folders with the specified recently changed date.
root:    Search for files and folders with no parent folders.
runcount:<count>    Search for files and folders with the specified run count.
size:<size>    Search for files with the specified size in bytes.
type:<type>    Search for files and folders with the specified type.

Size:
size[kb|mb|gb]
size constants:
empty
tiny    0 KB < size <= 10 KB
small    10 KB < size <= 100 KB
medium    100 KB < size <= 1 MB
large    1 MB < size <= 16 MB
huge    16 MB < size <= 128 MB
gigantic    size > 128 MB
unknown

Date Syntax:
year
month/year or year/month depending on locale settings
day/month/year, month/day/year or year/month/day depending on locale settings

Date Constants:
today
yesterday
tomorrow
<last|past|prev|current|this|coming|next><year|month|week>
<last|past|prev|coming|next><x><years|months|weeks|hours|minutes|mins|seconds|secs>
unknown

This is not the full syntax. See Help menu -> Search Syntax in Everything's search window for the complete syntax.

We think that Everything is a groundbreaking, killer app for Windows. It is absolutely a must-have tool for casual computer users as well as power users as it revolutionizes the way you find files on your computer.

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