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Restore the "Search…" Item to the Folder Context Menu in Windows Vista SP1

One of the unwelcome changes that Microsoft introduced in Service Pack 1 was the removal of some of the easy ways to get to the Search screen: the start menu button and folder context menu item. Thankfully we can easily add the “Search…” item back to the context menu with a simple registry tweak.

The nice thing about the folder context menu is that the search window will be already set to search only that folder.

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Manual Registry Hack

Open up regedit.exe through the start menu search or run box, and then browse down to the following key:

HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\Directory\shell\find

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Find the LegacyDisable key on the right-hand side and either delete it, or rename it to something else. That’s all you have to do… now you can right-click on a folder and see the Search… option again:

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This will open up the search window for that folder, which will be a lot faster than searching the entire drive.

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Of course you could just use the F3 key while you have a folder open, which will show you the same window, and is typically simpler. I primarily use the context menu for quick access to search a folders from the shortcuts I’ve added to the quick launch.

Downloadable Registry Hack

Simply download, extract, and double-click on ReEnableFolderSearchMenu.reg to enter the information into the registry. There’s also an included DisableFolderSearchMenu.reg file to put things back to the SP1 default.

Download ReEnableFolderSearchMenu Registry Hack

Lowell Heddings, better known online as the How-To Geek, spends all his free time bringing you fresh geekery on a daily basis. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 07/2/08

Comments (15)

  1. dcj2

    Now *that’s* a handy tip. I right-click like a fiend, and even after two months with Vista, I was still right-clicking to look for the “Search…” (kinda like when you go to the fridge for snack, don’t see anything, then go back 10 minutes later and there’s still nothing there ;-) Thanks for this one!

  2. Michael

    What is this? I don’t understand this… I might as well check if I have the Search option but I might try this out when I get to my computer.

  3. Tom

    So *that’s* what happened! I just ran into this problem this morning on my home Vista machine (no Vista at work). Microsoft: you gotta be kidding me. Why did you pull this out?

  4. Michael

    It worked! Thanks! I already did this advise.

  5. gic

    “Of course you could just use the F3 key while you have a folder open, which will show you the same window, and is typically simpler.”

    While you have a folder open, maybe a even faster way is just to type in your search keywords in the search field at the upper-right corner (if you don’t need advanced options right away)?

    The question I have is, how did you get the search window to open with the advanced panel opened as shown in the picture above? Is there an option I can change to set this to default? When I open a search window the advanced panel is always closed. I have to click on the little arrow to bring it up.

    Thanks!

  6. The Geek

    @gic

    I did click the arrow to illustrate that we were searching through that folder. I’m not actually sure how to make it open to advanced, although I imagine there must be a way.

  7. mikel

    Interesting…Have you/can you do a tutorial on how to optimize indexing for faster searches? I am quite frustrated at the fact that I cant find something I downloaded like 2 minutes ago because it is not yet indexed. In mac’s spotlight you can type in the file name immediately after a download and it is lightning quick…i just wish vistas search box was as reliable

  8. Ed

    @Tom

    “Microsoft: you gotta be kidding me. Why did you pull this out?”

    Short Answer: They were forced to by an anti-trust complaint from Google…

  9. jd2066

    @Ed: Actully not quite. Because of the anti-trust complaint they added a search protocal to launch the default search program and switched most of the search boxes to use it. They decided on this search item to just remove it instead of making it use the new search protocal.

  10. Matt Ellis

    Don’t forget to do the same to the find verb registered under HKCR/Drive…

  11. Kyle

    Thank you Geek! Missed my familiar way to search particular folders.

  12. Jaques

    Anyone know how to do this in Windows 7 pleeeeeeeeeeeease?

    I love having the folder right-click search option! Sometimes you don’t want to open another explorer window or move from the folder you’re in but want to just search a different folder for various reasons…

  13. julie

    I wish this worked for Windows 7? The “new and improved” search has halved my productivity whenever I’m working with files from several folders – which change, sometimes daily – at the same time. Half the time, the new search will not bring up the file I’m looking for, in which case it can take me 2-5 minutes to find a file instead of 5 seconds, by opening an closing dozens of folders and reading through the file lists. If I’m not sure if what I want is a gif or a jpeg, I have to search for each one separately, rather than both at once. I’d go on, but I’m getting angry all over again. What were they thinking?

  14. Cecil

    Well, it added the option but it isn’t working for me. I get a now file association error. I also sort of deleted teh entire key under shell….how do I fix that?

  15. Hugo

    I downloaded the ReEnableFolderSearchMenu.zip
    and it worked just fine with win 7 sp1.. thank you so much!!
    I missed this right click search option a lot..

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