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Desktop search tools

Missing some files? These hard drive hunters could find what you're looking for.
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01 .Introduction


CHOICE tests eight popular desktop search tools including Windows XP and 7 search.

Our rigorous testing tells you which have the best:

  • Ease of use
  • Average search speed
  • Search scope
  • Search and preview features

On this page, you'll find:

Tracking down a file on a disorganised PC can be a nightmare without the help of a decent search program. Windows has inbuilt file-finding capabilities, but there are also lots of third-party programs that claim to work faster, and with greater accuracy, so you’ll never have to worry about misplacing that vital file again.

These virtual bloodhounds also offer a bunch of time-saving features not found in the standard Windows search. Some even index the contents of each file, so you can search inside and out – great for those moments when you can’t remember the file name, or where you put it.

Programs tested

We lined up six of the most popular Windows search programs, along with Windows XP and Windows 7 Search, to see whether the originals or an outsider claims the title of Windows search king.

How we test

This overall score is a combination of the following scores:

  • Ease of use: 40%
  • Average search speed: 25%
  • Features: 25%
  • Default format options: 10%

Ease of use

Our ease of use assessment takes into account how easy it is to conduct searches for specific files, general terms and folder names, whether you can preview files, ease of navigation, and the customisation options available.

Average search speed

The average amount of time required for the program to gather and display search results. This is scored out of 100:

  • < 1 second: 100
  • 1 second: 90
  • 1-2 seconds: 80
  • 2-3 seconds: 70
  • 3-4 seconds: 60
  • 4-5 seconds: 50
  • 5-6 seconds: 40
  • 6-7 seconds: 30
  • 7-8 seconds: 20
  • 8-9 seconds: 10
  • > 9 seconds: 0


The total score is based on the presence of features which can enhance/improve search capabilities, results and organisation, customisation and functionality. This is scored out of 20.

Default format options

Which formats could the program locate by default, without settings customisation. Based on 25 common formats found on machines owned by average users.

Search methods

  • We search for common documents and system files you would find on most PCs, in over 100GB of data.
  • The files are split across two partitions on one hard drive – one partition for system files and the other one for documents.
  • Of a total of 30 searches for each program, 17 are for specific file types and four for folder names.
  • The remaining nine are for general terms to be found within certain files, to specifically test the indexing capabilities of each program.


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