How to Find Forgotten Files or Folders Using the Command Prompt


It happens from time to time that people forget things. For example they put a file on a hard drive somewhere. A few years go by and they need to find that file. Except that now there are a million files on the drive and no clear idea where the file might be.

Today, I will be looking into variations of this problem and the various solutions that exist for Windows users.

The Setup

In all cases, I will be using the Command Prompt. It is accessible via Start > All Programs > Accessories.

There are various commands and command options available to Windows users that can help find any file or folder in a fraction of a second.

I will be using the G: drive as the source drive, i.e. where the forgotten file or folder is located.

Because of that I will type G: into the Command Prompt, so that I don’t have to specify the source drive in every command.


Command Prompt Initial Setup

You can copy-paste all commands from this tutorial, but when pasting it into the Command Prompt window instead of Ctrl+V use right-click and then select Paste from the drop-down menu.

The Basics

To find a specific PDF file somewhere on your drive, simply use the following command:

The /s parameter orders the command to look for the file in all sub-folders recursively.

To find a DOC file that we remember contains the word Partial in its file name, use this command:

But what if we don’t remember the file name at all, only that it’s a ZIP file? Use this then:

if it is a folder we are looking for, we use:

The /ad parameter tells the command only to search for folders and ignore all files.

If we are not sure how we named the folder, we can use:


Command Prompt Full Output

Tweaking the Search

If there are a lot of results, we can use the /b parameter, to make the output cleaner and more easily readable.



Command Prompt Bare Output

If we want to save the results for later use, we can divert the output to a text file, like this:

Advanced Search

What if we know that the file we are looking for was created on September 25, 2014 but don’t remember its name or type?


Now what if we know that we created the file somewhere between January and March 2012 but, again, don’t remember its name or type?

Use the following command:

In this case we are required to specify the source drive even though we are on it.

As a side note, should a search take too long, we can always abort it by pressing Ctrl+C.

Final Thoughts

That’s what I call command prompt porn. 🙂

I hope that this short tutorial helped you find that long lost file or folder. If not, let me know in the comments below and I might be able to come up with a command for your specific needs.

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