Simple search with PowerShell

One day I was looking for a certain video file on my computer but I didn’t know where to look, however I new the name (in this case it was a video I posted on YouTube and there I could easily find the original file name).

With the standard search bar in the Windows Explorer window the file could not be found (it was not indexed). I figured: “how hard can it be to use PowerShell to look for a file with a certain name?”. I limited my scope to only search based on the file name. After this I constructed a fairly simple but effective script which did just that. Not only did I find the file, it even appeared multiple times on my 2TB drive (several copies of the same file). It went through the 2TB drive faster then I would expect (benefit is this case was the limited scope which only looked at the names of files).

I wanted to share this simple (and really, it doesn’t get much more straight forward then this) script which enables¬†empowers you to search large amounts of files as long as you know a part of the filename. If you are familiar with regular expressions you can use this in the search. If you are not familiar with them you can still use a part of the file name.

This is the script:

function Find-File {
    return Get-ChildItem -Path $Path -Recurse -File -ErrorAction SilentlyContinue | ? {$_.Name -match $regexSearchString};
New-Alias -Name ff -Value Find-File;

To make the function easier to work with I also created an alias “ff” as you can see in the last line.

Most of the lines consist of the two mandatory parameters: Path and regexSearchString (don’t worry if you do not know much about regular expressions; normal text will also work).

The actual search is basically a one liner. It collects all files below the provided path (as you can see by the switches “-File” and “-Recurse”. In addition if no files are found (or the path is no valid path) the result will be $null, which indicates there are no results for the current patch/search string combination. When all files are collected there is a filter which matches each file name against the regular expression (or search string).

If called directly it will simply write the result to the screen:

ff -Path c:\ -regexSearchString test

It makes more sense to store the result in a variable like this:

$result = ff -Path c:\ -regexSearchString test

Here $result will contain a collection fileInfo objects; if there is only one match it will be no collection but it will be a fileInfo object directly.

If you are only interested in the location of the files you may choose to only collect the FullName (path+filename) property of the objects. You can do this by piping it to a select:

$result = ff -Path c:\ -regexSearchString test | Select FullName

Here $result will be a collection of strings (or a single string if there is only one match).

If you are looking for a directory of which you know the name, the script can easily be modified to look for directories. Simply replace “-File” with “-Directory”, the rest works the same.