Software Windows

Has this one setting finally made Windows search useful after 30 years?

Windows 10 Enhanced Search
Call ON the search: Windows search just got better

The built-in search facility in Windows has always been painful. Poorly presented results that almost always fail to return the file, photo or document you were looking for. Well, hold the front page – because Windows search just got better with Windows 10 Enhanced Search.

This feature is hidden away in Windows 10 version 1903 and makes finding files anywhere on your PC and external drives much easier. Here’s how to find it.

How to turn on Windows 10 Enhanced Search

First, you need to make sure you’ve got Windows 10 version 1903 installed. It’s been out for weeks and your PC should auto-update to the latest version, but my computer only installed it this week because it was waiting for a driver update for one of my devices.

To check if you’ve been updated, type “about” into the Windows search bar and open the About Your PC setting. Scroll down and you should see your current version number listed under Windows specifications.

If you’re not on version 1903, type “update” into the search bar, click on Check for Updates and see if that forces the PC to download 1903. If not, you may see a warning on that page, explaining the reason why it can’t update you to the latest version.

If you are sailing the good ship 1903, then go back to the search menu and type “search” and you should be offered the option to open Windows Search Settings.

You’ll now see an option under Find My Files for either Classic or Enhanced. Check Enhanced.

Windows 10 search settings

What does this do? Instead of merely indexing only the files in your Windows Libraries (a concept that’s never really taken off) and on your computer desktop, this will index all the files on your computer and any external drives you’ve got plugged in. In short, if it’s stored anywhere on your computer, Windows search should now find it.

Note that there’s a list of Excluded Folders at the foot of the screen. The default list is sensible, excluding things such as Program Files and temporary data, but you might want to review the list or even add a top secret folder to it.

Also, don’t expect instant results. It will take Windows some time to index all those files on your computer and various disks, and if you’re currently using your PC, indexing is slowed or paused so that it doesn’t hamper performance. I switched on the feature a day ago and it’s still not indexed my entire PC.

What do the Windows 10 Enhanced Search results look like?

Windows 10 Enhanced Search

Here’s an example from my own machine. I keep a backup of the Fortnite magazine I write on an external drive that previously wouldn’t have been included in Windows Search by default. Now, I need only type in the name of the file I’m looking for, such as a photo of the Drum Gun, and it appears among the results.

You can narrow the results by clicking on the Apps, Documents, Email etc buttons along the top, or you can do so when entering the search term. If I only want to show photos of the Drum Gun, for example, I type “photos: drum” into the Windows search box.

Enchanced Search is still a long way from perfect. It would be great if you could open the search results in a full window rather than the condensed pop-up menu that you can see here. Also, searching email only works with Outlook Web and not the desktop version of the software. Y’know, the desktop version you pay Microsoft a monthly fee for. Someone should be fired for this.

And even though I’m sure Windows 10 Enhanced Search will make it easier to quickly find the file I’m looking for, I still prefer the more comprehensive results you get from searching in Windows Explorer. Here, for example, I can open the disk I know the file is stored on, enter the search term, and have all the results returned near instantly in full-screen view if I want it.

Well done Microsoft for at least making Windows Search usable at last, but it could still be much better.

NOW READ THIS: Why has my Windows 10 search bar gone missing?

About the author

Barry Collins

Barry has scribbled about tech for almost 20 years for The Sunday Times, PC Pro, WebUser, Which? and many others. He was once Deputy Editor of Mail Online and remains in therapy to this day. Email Barry at

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