I'm looking for a Windows program that searches recursively (although it would be nice to have an option to only search the top-level directory) in a directory for files whose names match a regular expression (although other criteria, such as file type, size, or even contents are nice features).

It should also contain the ability to exclude certain directories from the search entirely (say, the C:\Windows and C:\Users\User\AppData directories, which contain a lot of files, but are unlikely to contain anything I care about in the context of my use of this program).

Having a UI is nice, but not essential. Speed and how lightweight the program is are considerations, but I don't have any specific requirements.

Finally, the program must run on Windows Vista and up, and on Server 2008 and up.

  • You are sitill using Vista & Server 2008? Lolx Well, I guess you don't care much about security ;-) Nice question, though +1
    – Mawg
    Commented Nov 15, 2016 at 16:42
  • One imporant point. Do you want one of those that constantly scan your disk, slowing things down, too build an index, so that they can give a speedy response to your search? Or defintiely no index? Or don't care?
    – Mawg
    Commented Nov 15, 2016 at 16:44

5 Answers 5


I recommend Everything search by voidtools. It is very lightweight, about 500KB.

  1. Searches for any file on your PC instantly while you type.
  2. Support for Regular Expressions.
  3. Adds to context menu and you can directly search for something in a particular folder.
  4. Option to exclude folders of your choice.
  5. Can index a network drive, newly inserted USB device automatically.
  6. Option to run a HTTP server.
  7. Works on all versions of Windows, very low memory usage.
  8. Option to run multiple instances.
  9. Multiple language support.
  10. You can give the part of the file name and it shows you wherever it is in you PC.
  11. Command line option for lot of functionalities.

The tool has very very minimal UI easy to navigate and easily you can explore all the features from the menu bar in the application. You can change the font, backgrounds, in the UI. The application is very lightweight and won't consume too much memory.

  • I love this program! Lightweight and fast, and it does exactly what I need it to without any bloat.
    – KnightOfNi
    Commented Nov 29, 2015 at 18:05

I recommend FreeCommander for this task.

It meets all of your requirements:

  1. It searches recursively
  2. It has an option to only search the top-level directory
  3. It can search by regular expressions (regex)
  4. It can exclude folders (even by regex too!)
  5. It has a nice UI
  6. It is very fast
  7. It works on all the versions of Windows you require

To search by regex, go to the File menu and select Search... (or press Ctrl+F). The Search files/folders window will appear. In that window, select Options and then Advanced Mode. The ability to search by regex will then be enabled.

FreeCommander XE Search UI


UPDATE: After losing important data due to FreeCommander bugs, I can no longer recommend this application for general use. The developer simply does not perform adequate testing before releases, and does not have any dedicated QA testers. For example, the search function works well, and I can still recommend that particular function, but with a tremendous caveat: if you use that function to search for duplicate files, it may erroneously claim that different files are identical. That's a huge bug and can lead to data loss if you then delete the files falsely marked as duplicates. This application has great potential, but overall the project needs a much higher level of QC to recommend it universally.

  • 1
    Very cool program - the UI is a little overwhelming at first, but it looks fantastic for productivity purposes. Search feature is working perfectly!
    – KnightOfNi
    Commented Nov 29, 2015 at 18:08
  • How does #4 work? I didn't know about that
    – Mawg
    Commented Nov 15, 2016 at 16:45
  • 1
    @Mawg Open the Search files/folders window within FreeCommander. Then click on the Filters tab. In the Subfolder filter section of that tab, you can add a checkmark to Exclude filter and, optionally, Regular expression (regex). Commented Nov 16, 2016 at 5:33

My go to program for a Windows Explorer replacement is MultiCommander. It’s an explorer type replacement that has many features including the ability to restrict your search level, regular expressions, and the use of file attributes in the search pattern. It’s free and runs on Windows and Server 2008.

enter image description here


Without installing anything extra, Windows itself could satisfy some of the criteria with the built-in where command. It's just a command-line tool included since Windows 2003 R2 and newer and can do many (although not all) of the things you need:

  • Search by file name pattern (not regular expressions though, just normal file name patterns like *.exe and similar).
  • Can search in a single folder or recursively from all folders within a parent one.
  • Cannot exclude some folder from search.
  • Being command line, it obviously lacks a nice UI
  • In contrast, being command line makes it very lightweight and fast too.
  • Being built-in is a nice extra too.
  • 2
    While this is all true, I asked the question because, as you point out, the regular search feature doesn't satisfy my requirements (nor does where). IMO this would have been better as a comment, since it doesn't really answer my question.
    – KnightOfNi
    Commented Nov 30, 2015 at 22:14

You can try Ffind Ext.

To find filenames *a*, 3 or more levels deep, excluding abc\echo\india\sierra subtree:

enter image description here

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