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How to Find Files on Your Mac: 5 Easy Methods

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Last updated: September 6, 2023

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Ever had that heart-stopping moment when you can’t find that one important file on your computer? It’s like playing hide-and-seek with a sneaky digital ninja, leading to hours of frustrating and often fruitless searching.

Lucky for you, I have compiled a list of practical methods you can use to find files on your Mac. Whether you’re a tech whiz or a laid-back user like me, these methods will help you find your files in no time. So, let’s get started.

Before We Begin

Finding your files on Mac is already time-consuming, add to that duplicate files. Mac accumulates hundreds if not thousands of duplicate files over time. Finding and deleting each duplicate file will take you hours, but MacKeeper can remove these annoying doubles in just one-click. So, download and install it on your Mac to clean up storage space.

5 Methods to Find Files on Mac

Searching for files on your Mac can sometimes feel like searching for a needle in a haystack. It’s frustrating, time-consuming, and let’s face it, a little bit overwhelming. To save you from this tedious task, I’ve shared five foolproof methods below to find files on your Mac with ease.

1. Using Spotlight

Spotlight is a search feature built into macOS that allows you to quickly find files, folders, apps, emails, and other content on your Mac. You can use natural language to search, making finding what you’re looking for easy. It can also search the web and find information online without opening a browser.

Here’s how to use Spotlight to find files on your Mac:

  1. Click the magnifying glass icon in the top right corner of your screen, or use the keyboard shortcut Command + Space to open Spotlight.
macbook air command space keys
  1. Type in the name or keyword of the file you’re looking for. As you type, Spotlight will provide suggestions based on what you’ve typed so far.
type something in spotlight search to get suggestions
  1. If you see the file you’re looking for in the list of suggestions, click to open it.

Finder is the default file manager on macOS, allowing you to navigate your files and folders, view file metadata, and manage your files. It allows you to search for files based on specific criteria.

You can also use advanced search operators to create complex search queries. It’s integrated with Finder, so you can easily manage your search results within the Finder window.

Follow these steps to use Finder’s Search Bar to find files on your Mac:

  1. Open a Finder window by clicking on the Finder icon in the Dock.
click finder in your dock
  1. Click the search bar in the top right corner of the window. If you don’t see the search bar, click the magnifying glass icon and it will expand into a search bar.
click the small magnifying icon in the top right of finder
  1. Type in the name or keyword of the file you’re looking for. As you type, Finder will provide suggestions based on what you’ve typed so far.
type something in finder search bar
  1. Skim through the results to find files on your Mac.

While Finder’s search bar allows you to search for files based on specific criteria, Finder’s Advanced Search offers even more search options and the ability to search for files based on multiple criteria simultaneously. You can save your search criteria as a Smart Folder for easy access to frequently used searches

You can find files on your Mac using Finder’s Advanced Search by following these steps:

  1. Open a Finder window by clicking on the Finder icon in the Dock.
click finder in your dock
  1. Click the File menu in the top left corner of the screen and select New Smart Folder or use the keyboard shortcut Command + Option  + N to open a new Smart Folder.
click file in the menu bar and select new smart folder
  1. Click the + button in the window’s top right corner to add a search criterion.
click the small plus button in the top right corner
  1. Choose the search criteria you want to use from the drop-down menus.
  2. Once you’ve added your search criteria, click the Save button in the top right corner of the window to save your Smart Folder. You can name your Smart Folder and choose where to save it.
    set the criteria such as file type date created or keyword click save

    To access your Smart Folder, open a Finder window and click the Smart Folder in the sidebar. Your search results will be displayed in the Finder window.

    4. Using Spotlight Comments

    Spotlight Comments are metadata tags you can add to files to provide additional information about them. They allow you to tag files with keywords to search for them more easily. You can add these comments to any file type and search them in Spotlight, Finder, and other search tools, making it easy to find files based on specific keywords or notes.

    Here’s how to add Spotlight Comments to find files easily on your Mac:

    1. Select the file you want to add a comment to in Finder.
    2. Right-click the file and select Get Info.
    right click a file and select get info
    1. In the Info window that appears, expand the Comments section.
    in the info window that appears scroll down to the comments section
    1. Click the empty field under Comments and type in any keywords or notes you want to associate with the file and press Enter.
    click the empty field next to comments
    1. Close the Info window and repeat the process for any other files you want to tag with comments.
    2. Spotlight will display a list of all files on your Mac that match the search criteria, including those with matching Spotlight Comments.

    5. Using Recent Items

      Another method to find files on your Mac is utilizing the Recent Items feature. This convenient feature lets you quickly access files that you’ve recently opened, saving time and effort. To find files using the Recent Items feature on your Mac, follow these steps:

      1. Start by clicking the Apple logo in the top-left corner of your screen.
      2. From the dropdown menu, select the Recent Items option.
      click the apple icon and select recent items
      1. This will display a list of recently accessed folders, applications, and documents.
      2. To open a specific file or application, simply click its corresponding icon in the list.
      click an app icon in recent items 1

        If the file you’re looking for doesn’t appear in the Recent Items list, it’s possible that the file hasn’t been opened recently, or the feature is disabled.

        Organize Your Files Using MacKeeper

        While you can use MacKeeper for general system maintenance and protection, it doesn’t have a specific feature for finding files on Mac like the other methods I discussed earlier.

        However, it has a Duplicates Finder tool that can help you manage files and remove unnecessary items on your Mac. This file organization will indirectly help you find files on your Mac easily by removing clutter from your system.

        Here’s how to use MacKeeper’s Duplicates Finder to delete duplicate files on your Mac and find the files you need quickly:

        1. Download and install MacKeeper.
        2. Launch Mackeeper and click the Duplicates Finder tab in the left sidebar.
        click duplicates finder in the left sidebar
        1. Click the Start Scan button to start the scan.
        click start scan in duplicates finder
        1. Once the scan is complete, review the list of duplicate files and select the ones you want to delete.
        click an item in the left sidebar
        1. You can also click Check All. Then, click the Remove button to delete the selected duplicate files.
        click check all and tap remove selected
        1. Click Remove on the pop-up.
        click remove on the pop up window in duplicates finder
        1. It will remove the duplicate files. Click Finish to end the process.
        click finish to complete the process

        What Else Can MacKeeper Do?

        Besides removing duplicates, MacKeeper can delete junk files on your Mac, run virus scans, and clear cache files on your Mac. Check out my MacKeeper review to know more about its features. 

        Never Lose a File on Your Mac

        Finding files on your Mac doesn’t have to be a difficult task with the help of these five easy methods. You can easily and efficiently navigate through your files and locate what you need by utilizing tools like Spotlight, Finder’s search bar, Smart Folders, Terminal, and Spotlight Comments.

        As you continue to use your Mac, here are three unique tips to keep in mind for finding files in the future:

        Frequently Asked Questions

        1. How do I search for a file on my Mac using Spotlight? 

          To search for a file on your Mac using Spotlight, click the magnifying glass icon in the top right corner of your screen, type the name of the file you are looking for, and press Enter. Spotlight will then display a list of files that match your search term.

        2. Can I search for files on my Mac based on specific criteria? 

          Yes, you can search for files on your Mac based on specific criteria. For this purpose, you can use Finder’s search bar or advanced search options. You can use specific criteria, such as file type, date modified, or keyword.

        3. Can I organize my files on my Mac for easier searching? 

          Yes, you can organize your files on your Mac for easier searching. You can do this by creating folders, using tags or labels, or renaming files with consistent naming conventions.

        Hashir Ibrahim


        I'm Hashir, a tech journalist with a decade of experience. My work has been featured in some of the top tech publications like MakeUseOf and MakeTechEasier. I have a bachelor's degree in IT, a master's in cybersecurity, and extensive knowledge of Apple hardware, specifically MacBooks. As the senior writer at MacBook Journal, I write in depth guides that help you solve any issues you have with your mac and unbiased reviews that help you make the right buying decisions.



        Hi there! I'm Ojash, a tech journalist with over a decade of experience in the industry. I've had the privilege of contributing to some of the world's largest tech publications, making my mark as a respected Mac expert. My passion lies in exploring, using, and writing about MacBooks, and I enjoy sharing my expertise to help others make informed decisions and get the most out of their MacBook experience. Join me as we delve into the fascinating world of MacBooks together!

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