How to Find Lost Excel Files

By Anne Hirsh

Losing Excel files can be frustrating, particularly if you don't recall the name of the file. Fortunately, the Windows operating system offers several file search options that allow you to locate specific file types no matter where they are located on your computer. If you remember any keywords within the file, you can add those to narrow down your search. However, be certain your file contains those keywords exactly as you enter them into the search function; otherwise, you might exclude the file you're seeking from the search.

Windows XP

Step 1

Click "Start" in the lower-left corner of your computer screen.

Step 2

Place your mouse pointer over "Search," then select "For files or folders."

Step 3

Click on the "Documents" option, then select "Use advanced search options," then click "More advanced search options."

Step 4

Click the appropriate box for when the file was last modified. If you don't know, leave this section blank.

Step 5

Type ".xls" (without quotes) in the box that asks for all or part of the document name. If you are using Excel 2007 or later versions, type ".xlsx" instead of ".xls." This will limit your search to Excel files.

Step 6

Add keywords in the keyword field if you know any from the spreadsheet and change the "Look in" field to "My computer."

Step 7

Click to place check marks in the boxes labeled "Search system folders," "Search hidden files and folders," "Search subfolders" and "Search tape backup."

Step 8

Click "Search" and allow Windows to find your document for you. If you have not entered keywords, the system will find all Excel files that meet the other criteria, so you may have a long list to scroll through to find your file.

Windows Vista

Step 1

Click the "Start" orb in the lower-left corner of your screen. A search box is included at the bottom of the Start menu.

Step 2

Type ".xls" (without quotes) in the search box. If you are using Excel 2007 or later versions, type ".xlsx" instead of ".xls." This will limit your search to Excel files. Add any keywords you remember from the document to this box as well, separated from the Excel file extension with a space.

Step 3

Press the "Enter" key.

Step 4

Look through the search results for your file. If you do not see it listed, click the box at the top of the search results window labeled "Include non-indexed, hidden and system files."

Step 5

Click on "Document" near the top of the window to narrow your results to documents only (this includes spreadsheets) and click "Search." Scroll through the results to find your lost Excel file.

Windows 7

Step 1

Click "Start," then type "folder options" into the search box near the bottom of the Start menu.

Step 2

Click "Folder options" when it appears, then click "Change search options for files and folders."

Step 3

Click the boxes to search hidden files and folders and system folders, then click "OK."

Step 4

Click "Start" again and type ".xls" or ".xlsx" plus any keywords from your Excel file into the search box. Click "Show more results" on the results page and scroll down to find your Excel file.