How to Find a Misplaced File in Windows 10

By Peter Weverka

Have you ever hit the save button too quickly and then wondered where your file magically disappeared to? You’re not alone! Windows 10 makes it easy to find that pesky misplaced file. Follow these simple steps:

  1. To search for a misplaced file, begin in the Search box. This box is located on the left side of the taskbar. Type the name of a document or photo you have on your computer.

    The search results panel appears.

    Initially, the search panel shows all and sundry — settings, apps, files, websites, and other search opportunities — in the search results. If you don’t see the item you want in a search, narrow the list of items by selecting one of the three Find Results buttons at the top of the search panel — In Apps, In Documents, or In web. Find Results in Documents narrows the search to items on your computer.

  2. To open a file, select it in the search results.

    If more than one application on your computer is capable of opening the file, you may see the How Do You Want to Open This File? dialog box. Select an application to open the file.

    The How Do You Want to Open This File? dialog box offers a means of telling Windows 10 to always open files of a certain type with a particular application. Selecting the Always Use This App to Open check box tells Windows 10 to open files of a certain type automatically with the app you chose.

  3. Close the app that opens the file by using one of these methods:
  4. Click or tap the Close button (the X located in the upper-right corner of the screen).
  5. Press Alt+F4.

    Strictly speaking, if you find what you’re looking for, stop looking. (No extra charge for pearls of wisdom.) In this case, however, keep looking because doing so reveals important information about how files are organized and how you can take control of that organization.

  6. On the desktop, select the File Explorer icon (the yellow folder) in the taskbar.

    File Explorer opens. Note the Ribbon, which is the collapsible toolbar at the top of the window.

    On the Ribbon, tools are grouped by tabs, which in File Explorer consist of File, Home, Share, and View, as well as other tabs that appear based on the selection. Tabs are further divided into sections, labeled below the related tools. (Note, for example, the Clipboard section on the Home tab.) To expand the Ribbon, select the up arrow at the far right of the tabs. Collapse the Ribbon by selecting the down arrow. Select a tab to display its tools, regardless of whether the Ribbon is expanded or collapsed.

  7. Select This PC on the left side of the File Explorer window, and then select the box labeled Search (probably followed by This PC), below the Ribbon and to the right. Type the same search term you used in Step 1.

    As you type, File Explorer displays any matching files, highlighting the text that matches.

    misplaced file Windows 10

    On a touchscreen, the virtual keyboard doesn’t appear on the desktop until you select the keyboard icon on the right side of the taskbar.

    If the search results include too many files, making it hard to see the one you want, type more of the filename in the Search box. The number of matching files should decrease as you type more text in the box.

    The focus of a search — where File Explorer searches — determines what files and folders are found. In Step 5, you selected This PC, making all the files on your computer the focus of the search. Accordingly, Windows 10 searched for files and folders throughout your computer.

  8. To change the focus of your search to the Pictures folder, select the Pictures folder in the navigation pane. Then select the box labeled Search and enter your search term again.

    The search results focus on files in the Pictures folder.

    You can use Search Tools in the Ribbon to refine a search, as needed. Start a search and then select the Search tab. In the section labeled Refine, select Date Modified and then select a time period ranging from Today to Last Year. Select Kind to limit the search to specific types of files. You can even select by size and other properties.