How-To Geek

How to Easily View Recently Modified Files in Windows

To find just about anything in Windows, type something describing the file in the search box. Windows will then quickly search all your files, and present a list of matches according to your search criteria. Today we’ll show you how to find files you’ve recently modified.

Sometimes you may want to check for recently created or modified files because someone might have installed a third party software without your permission and you want to locate them quickly, or perhaps you’re trying to find a document that you modified a week back but cannot remember the file name or its location. Windows already possess some handy search tools to let you view recently created or modified files easily.

Understanding File Time Stamps

Each file has one or more time stamps. They are used by the operating system to record when the file was created, last modified, or last accessed. Windows keeps a record of these three values for each file and directory.

A File Time is a 64-bit value representing the number of 100-nanosecond intervals since January 1, 1601 (UTC). Conversion from this internal format to a format more suitable for human interpretation is performed by the Windows system call, which extracts the year, month, day, hour, minutes, seconds and milliseconds from the timestamp data. NTFS file system stores time values in UTC format, so they are not affected by changes in timezone or daylight saving time.

The time stamps displayed by the operating system are by no means foolproof but they hold a great value in many situations, ranging from business transactions to computer forensics investigations.

Date Created — is the date and time when the current instance of the file was created. This value is set and does not normally change unless you change them through third party software.

Date Modified — is the date and time the file was last written, i.e, when its contents was last modified. Renaming the file doesn’t change the modification time stamp. Neither does opening the file without making any changes to it.

Date Accessed — is the date, and on NTFS volumes, the time, when the file was last accessed for either reading or writing.

How to View Timestamps via File Explorer

If you want to view the information for all files, folders and subfolders in a directory at a glance, you can do so via File Explorer. By default, only the modification date and time are shown. If you also want to view the creation and last access dates, then you’ll need to make some changes to the Explorer display.

Open “File Explorer” and right-click the column title in the “Details view” (where the column labels Name, Size, Type, and Date Modified appear). Select “Date created” from the context menu.

Click “More” and from the list of options check the box for “Date accessed” and click “Ok.” Now sort them in descending order to see all the recently changed files.

How to View Last Modified Files Using Windows Search

We’ll use a datemodified filter to search for the recently modified files. Open “File Explorer” to the top-level folder from which you want to start searching. If you want to search entire computer, select “This PC” as your location. Click in the search box and type datemodified:. A new window named “Select a date or date range” will appear.

For general searches, the calendar has preset labels for today, yesterday, this week, last week, and so on. Since we’re looking for recently modified files type the preset label (such as today, yesterday, or this week) followed by datemodified: or click the preset button in the search pane. Windows will start finding any matching files and display them in the search results.

By default Windows will look for recently modified files only in the indexed locations. To include non-index locations click “Advanced options” from the “Search Tools” and check “System files.” It is not compulsory to check “System files” everytime but it can be of significance if you are facing this issue.

Let’s assume that you have accidentally clicked the wrong button on a download wrapper and you won’t even realize it until you find new shortcut icons on your desktop, or you get a random browser popup. You can easily find those files by simply investigating the files that were recently created or modified.

If you are comfortable with keyboard, then you can view last modified files by typing a date range using a shorthand syntax. Say you want to search for all the modified files on 6th and 7th June 2015 then its syntax will be date modified: Mm/Dd/Yy .. Mm/Dd/Yy (the basic syntax varies by locality and make sure to put two periods between the dates).

Creating Saved Searches

After taking all that time to get a search just right, it would be a real pain if you had to repeat the same procedure later on. Windows allows you to take searches you’ve made and save them as a file (with a special filename extension .search-ms.).

To create a saved search, open an Explorer window and perform a search. Now as you survey the search results, click “Save search.” You’ll be then asked to name and save your search. Unless you change the location manually, it shows up as an icon in the “Favorites section” of the Navigation pane in every Explorer window.

You can further sort, organize, and group the contents of this search however you want, perhaps by the date they were created or the tags associated with them. Once you have created a saved search, you can create a copy of it to back it up or perhaps you can share with a colleague.

Viewing the recently modified files is really easy in Windows. If you combine it with advanced search tools then you can quickly find the information you need, and you don’t have to remember file name neither their location.

Rahul Saigal is a writer and all-around computer geek. Born in Kolkata, India, he works from home with all the geeky stuff and gadgets. When not working he loves to read, listen podcasts, and try new software. You can follow him on Twitter if you'd like.

  • Published 06/13/15

Enter Your Email Here to Get Access for Free:

Go check your email!