There are some things that go beyond being considered cool add-on features. These things are fundamental to your experience with any device. You’re comfortable with a mouse because it works in the same predictable way year after year. You know where to go to browse the web because it’s been in the same program since Windows 95. If you’ve used Microsoft’s Windows 8.1 operating system for an extended amount of time, you know what kind of havoc change can bring. Windows 8.1 gets a lot of things right, but search isn’t one of them.
Here’s how to search Windows 8.1 using the built-in search engine and Bing Smart Search.
Read: 21 Windows 8.1 Tips
Before we get to the actual breakdown, it’s important for you to understand a few things about Windows 8.1 if you don’t already. First, Windows 8.1 is a free update for Windows 8 available directly from the Windows Store. You’ll need to download it from the Windows Store before what you see on your notebook, desktop or tablet looks anything like what we have here. If you can, download the update – it’s a smaller upgrade than what you’re probably used to from Microsoft. The upgrade shouldn’t break any of your Desktop programs and you’ll get new versions of all the Windows Store apps made by Microsoft.
Search Windows 8.1 Desktop
Windows 8.1 is essentially two interfaces laid on top of each other. The interface you’re likely most familiar with is the Windows 8.1 Desktop. It’s the area that’s been in Windows for years. You can assign backgrounds to it. There’s a Taskbar for switching between apps, and programs open in different Windows.
Searching in the Windows 8.1 Desktop hasn’t changed much at all. You search specific folders by finding those folders on your Desktop or in the This PC area. To get to This PC, open any folder you have on your Desktop or pinned to your Taskbar. Once you’ve opened a window, look for the This PC button on the left side of your window. You may have to scroll down to find it. Click on This PC. Now use the Search box in the top right corner of your Window.
Remember that whichever folder you’re in is the one you are searching. Only by being in the This PC area do you search the entire PC in the Desktop.
Search in Windows 8.1 Start Screen
The second interface in Windows 8.1 is the Start Screen and it works more like your smartphone or tablet than it does the Desktop. Advancements in the way the Start Screen handles searching mean that you don’t have to hunt down individual folders to find something you’re looking for. What’s more, Microsoft integrated its Bing search engine into Windows 8.1. As such, you don’t have to find a web browser window and open Bing to search the web.
Press the Windows key on your keyboard or the Windows button beneath your touch-enabled device’s display.
Welcome to the Start Screen. Now tap or click on the magnifying glass in the top-right corner of your screen beside the power button.
This is the Search Charm and from here you can find just about anything. Often times it’s used to quickly launch apps. Others use it to track down lost pictures and documents. Microsoft hopes you’ll use the Search Charm to find things on the internet too.
Begin typing the name of what you’re trying to find and the Search Charm will immediately start narrowing down the results. Again, document names, app names, websites and even settings are all accessible from here. Click or tap on Everything to narrow what type of search results you want. When you see a result you’re interested in click on it below the search box or, simply hit the enter key on your keyboard. Hitting enter will take you to another interface.
This is Bing SmartSearch and from here you can see all of the search results from your computer and the web. Immediately on the left you’ll find your documents. As you scroll over to the right you’ll find website listings, pictures and video.
You don’t have to go back to the Start Screen to search your computer. In fact, searching most apps download from the Windows Store actually requires you to use the Search Charm. When you’re in an app and you can’t find a way to search, place your mouse cursor in the top right corner to reveal the Charms Bar. Touch users should place their finger on the right side of their screen and swipe to the left to reveal the Charms Bar.
Now tap or click on Search.
Tap or click on the Everywhere button and select the name of the app you’re in if it isn’t already highlighted.
Good luck using search in Windows 8.1. It’s a bit confusing, but pretty powerful once you manage to figure out the basics.