How To Search Your Entire Mac’s Hard Drive

Did you know that Apple’s built-in search tool called Spotlight doesn’t search the entire hard drive? There are good reasons why Apple does this (which I won’t go into now), but there are also times when you want to be able to search the entire hard drive. When I’m troubleshooting a problem on a client’s Mac, I often need to search through various folders that Spotlight doesn’t search. I use Devon Technologies’ EasyFind or Thomas Tempelmann’s Find Any File.

Both EasyFind and Find Any File have their strengths. Here are some highlights.

EasyFind is very fast. It’s free. It lets you search for files and folders or both at the same time. It can search by file name or content. It lets you use boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT and many others). It displays a file’s location, size, creation and modification date. While it searches most folders, it can only search through folders that you have access to. If you want to be able to search through all folders on the hard drive as the root user, then you should consider Find Any File.

Find Any File’s interface looks a lot like the Classic Mac OS’ Find File application, which was called Sherlock for a while. So if you’re a long-time Mac user and you miss Find File, consider Find Any File. It is free to try but then the developer asks for a modest donation if you continue to use it. After you enter your search term if you hold down the Option key, the Find button changes to Find All. When you click Find All you’ll be asked for an administrative user’s password and you’ll then be able to search the entire hard drive as the root user. You can search by name, size, date, item type, creator code or a number of other file attributes. It can not search by file content. To learn more read this excellent MacWorld review of Find Any File or Find Any File’s own online manual.

I find both applications useful and have both installed on my Mac.

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