7 Windows Filters to Search by File Type, Date, and More

Person holding a magnifying glass in front of their face.

Finding what you need in File Explorer isn’t always easy, but mastering Windows search filters helps find what you need quickly. Instead of just a general search, use Windows filters to limit File Explorer to specific results by date, file type, and much more. You just have to learn a few File Explorer search commands and syntax.

1. Find Files With Wildcards

File Explorer does a great job finding files based on just a word or two, but try filtering the results further by using wildcards. For instance, if you don’t know a full file name, a wildcard lets you enter part of the name and use an asterisk (*) in place of the rest.

For example, if I wanted to search past How To articles I’ve written for Make Tech Easier that are about Windows, I might search for “how to *windows.”

Windows Filters To Search By File Wildcards

2. Windows Search by File Type

If you’re looking for a specific file type, such as a Word doc or image file, use the File Extension search filter. This limits your search to only files with a set file extension.

In File Explorer, enter any part of the file name (if you know it), along with “*.fileextension.” (Replace fileextension with your desired file extension.) For instance, if I’m looking for a Word doc, I’d search for “*.doc” or “*.docx.” If you know part of the file name, place it before the asterisk, such as “name*.doc.”

Searching File Explorer for Word documents using the Windows search filter for file extensions.

Tip: the asterisk is used as a wildcard when searching. Use this anytime you’re not sure about all or part of a file name.

3. Search File Explorer Based on File Size

Whether you’re trying to clean up your hard drive to gain space or know the approximate size of your file, there’s a Windows search filter for it. Use the “size: FileSize” File Explorer search filter.

In the File Explorer search bar, replace the FileSize portion of the filter with your desired size. It can be exact or use the greater than (>) and less than (<) operators to find files over or under a set size. You can also use an equal sign with these, such as <= or >=.

For instance, if I wanted to only find large files over 2GB, I’d enter “size: >2GB.”

Searching File Explorer for files over 2GB in size.

Though you can manually enter the file size as needed, File Explorer has some built-in predefined properties to make things a tad bit easier. Enter one of the following as your file size instead of an exact size:

  • Empty: files that are empty or 0KB
  • Tiny: files between 0 and 16KB
  • Small: files between 16KB and 1MB
  • Medium: files between 1MB and 128MB
  • Large: files between 128MB and 1GB
  • Huge: files between 1GB and 4GB
  • Gigantic: files larger than 4GB

4. Search Files by Date

The above File Explorer filters may still give you too many results to find what you need. If you know the exact or approximate date a file was created or modified, filter the results based on date.

In the File Explorer search box, type date: followed by the date. The date follows MM/DD/YYYY. If your region typically uses the DD/MM/YYYY syntax, use that instead. Once again, you can use greater than, less than, and equal operators.

Windows search filter to search for files created or modified after December 2023.

You can also use predefined properties to search Windows by date, including:

  • Today
  • Yesterday
  • This week
  • Last week
  • Past month

Enter these directly after date:, such as date:past month.

If you want to only find files that were modified (not created) on a set date, use “modified:” with your date instead, such as “modified: 01/24/2024.”

5. Windows Search by File Kind

File kind and extension aren’t the same. Instead of a specific extension, you’re search is more general. For instance, if you’re searching for an image but want to include all image file extensions, use the “kind:” or “type:” filters. The latter works best with Windows 10 and earlier versions.

This is one of the harder filters to use, as there are so many different types of files to find, such as images, videos, documents, etc. And, depending on your version of Windows, the filter may vary. For instance, in Windows 10, I can search for “type:image” and get all images. But I don’t get any results when using “type:picture.” In Windows 11, I can use “kind:image” or “kind:picture” and get all image files.

Searching File Explorer for image files using the Kind filter.

There are numerous properties to search for, with some of the most common listed below:

  • Image, picture, or photo
  • Music
  • Video
  • Calendar
  • Program
  • Document
  • Email
  • Text
  • Folder (limits search to actual folders and not files)

FYI: You can discover more of these, along with even more search filters, directly from Microsoft’s Advanced Query Syntax guide.

6. Find Files With the Specific Tag

If you’ve tagged your files, search by the tag using tag:” followed by the tag name. For example, if I wanted to just see files tagged with the word “work,” I’d search for “tag:work.”

Using Windows search filters to search for files tagged with the word work.

If you’re not sure how to tag files, right-click the desired file. Select Properties, and click the Details tab. Enter the tag(s) you want in the Tag field, and press Apply.

Adding the work tag to a word document.

7. Using Boolean Operators and Further Filtering

All these Windows search filters are nice, but if you really want to create advanced searches in File Explorer, you’ll need Boolean operators to mix commands together. These include:

  • AND: combines two or more search filters
  • OR: searches for either filter
  • NOT: excludes words from a filter
  • ” “: searches for an exact match
  • ( ): searches for items containing the phrase in any order

A few important rules to remember:

  • AND, OR, and NOT must be capitalized. If not, they’re seen as part of the search phrase versus part of the filter.
  • OR and NOT cannot be used together.

As an example, if I wanted to find Word documents created after January 1st, 2024, I’d use the following filter: “*.doc AND date: >01/01/2024.”

Combining extension and date filters with the Boolean term AND.

One more thing you can do to further filter search results is to navigate to the specific folder containing the file you’re looking for. This tells File Explorer to only search that folder. Or, if you want to look through everything, start your search from Home, My PC, or your main hard drive letter. Keep in mind that the larger the search area, the longer the results take to appear.

Find Exactly What You’re Looking For

Forget general File Explorer searches, and find exactly what you need with more advanced Windows search filters. If you don’t like using File Explorer for search, try these Windows search alternatives. Also, learn how to search inside Word and PDF documents.

Image credit: Unsplash. All screenshots by Crystal Crowder.

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Crystal Crowder

Crystal Crowder has spent over 15 years working in the tech industry, first as an IT technician and then as a writer. She works to help teach others how to get the most from their devices, systems, and apps. She stays on top of the latest trends and is always finding solutions to common tech problems.

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