How to Find a PDF File on My Computer

By R.L. Cultrona

If you are like many people, you live your life by your computer. Most people have thousands of pictures, documents and spreadsheets stored on their computer, all of which help you accomplish what you need to do. Sooner or later, however, you may have trouble locating a file. Since most people don't generally work with PDF files in their normal, every day lives, these files can sometimes get lost in the shuffle. If you need to locate a PDF file on your computer, there are a couple of different things you can try.

Things You'll Need

  • Microsoft Windows
  • Google Desktop

Using a Windows Search

Step 1

Click on the "Start" button or the Windows icon at the bottom left-hand corner of the screen. This will bring up the Windows Start menu.

Step 2

For Windows XP or below, click on the "Find" command. For Windows Vista, click into the search box at the bottom of the Start menu.

Step 3

For Windows XP and below, click on the "All files and folders" link at the bottom of the left-hand frame of the search window to bring up the search text box. Type "*.pdf" in to the search box (in all versions of Windows). Press the "Enter" button.

Step 4

The search window will begin to list all of the PDF files you have on your computer in the order that it finds them. Scroll through the list to find the one you want and double click it to open.

Searching with Google Desktop

Step 1

Download Google Desktop from Once the file is downloaded, follow the instructions to install the program. Google Desktop is a tool which indexes your computer and allows you to find files.

Step 2

Open the Google desktop search window and type "*.PDF" in the search bar. Press the "Enter" key to open up a browser window that has a list of files on your computer.

Step 3

Scroll through the files the program has found. Click on the file you want to open.

Tips & Warnings

  • If you know part of the file name or date it was modified, you can narrow your search result and make it quicker and easier.
  • When searching, you must use the asterisk before the ".pdf." This designates a file extension and the search engine will only look for files with that extension. If not, your computer may search every file that mentions the term "PDF," which can greatly expand your search and make it difficult to find what you are looking for.