Windows 8 has pretty decent file-search capabilities built in, especially if you learn a few tricks for smarter searches.
Of course, not everyone has (or wants) Windows 8, and even those who do may find Microsoft's search engine lacking.
Check out SwiftSearch, a free, portable search utility that's remarkably small and remarkably fast. With it you can find just about any file, on any drive, in about the time it takes to read this sentence. In fact, forget sentence; the time it takes to read this word!
SwiftSearch has nothing to install; it's a fully self-contained executable, which explains its "portable" nature: You can run it from your hard drive or keep it on a flash drive if you're looking to build out your portable toolset.
Either way, it loads in seconds. All you do is type your search parameters and then click Search. I'm not sure how the program returns results so quickly giving that it doesn't index your drive (which is how Windows Search operates), but it does.
SwiftSearch also supports a variety of expressions you can use to perform more exacting searches, though these will definitely take a bit of study if you're not accustomed to searching this way. Click Help, Regular expressions for a cheat-sheet of the expressions you can use.
Once you've got your results, you can right-click any item for a menu of options, including Open and Open Containing Folder.
Much as I'm loving SwiftSearch, the program isn't perfect. Although you can sort your search results by clicking any of the column headers (Name, Directory, etc.), there's no file-type option. I want that for grouping things like Word documents and JPEG images.
Also, it would be nice if you could focus searches on a specific folder, but SwiftSearch works only with entire drives.
That said, if you find that it's meeting your search needs, you could even consider turning off Windows' search indexing, which may make your PC run faster. See Chris Null's "Software Speed Boosts for Your PC" to find out how.
Contributing Editor Rick Broida writes about business and consumer technology. Ask for help with your PC hassles at firstname.lastname@example.org. Sign up to have the Hassle-Free PC newsletter (which is included in the Power Tips newsletter) e-mailed to you each week.