A Free Replacement for Windows Search

After nearly a decade, software developer Mythicsoft has finally released a new version of its popular search program Agent Ransack.  The program has always had a strong following as a replacement for Windows Search and the new version will further increase its appeal.

Windows inbuilt search function has always been a problem child. Older versions like that in XP took forever and made a habit of missing files while the newer versions in Vista and Windows 7 consume a lot of your PC’s horsepower building and maintaining huge search indexes.

If you only need to search for a file or folder by its name you can use the superb freeware program Everything Search which can find files instantly and carries virtually no indexing overhead.  However Everything Search can’t search the contents of files.

Programs like Google Desktop Search and Copernic Search will search file contents but carry a similar high overhead to the latest versions of Windows Search. Agent Ransack on the other hand will also search file contents but has virtually zero overhead as it doesn’t build and maintain search indexes. Instead it sequentially scans through the files on your hard drive and looks inside the contents of each.

This approach to searching is of course much slower than using an index but on the other hand it carries no maintenance overhead.  Furthermore Agent Ransack is much faster in its sequential search than the unindexed version of Windows Search like that used in Windows XP.

What’s new in the latest version of Agent Ransack?

The immediate thing obvious in the new version is the improved user interface:

Other important features include the ability to search inside PDF files and Microsoft Office files (though not Outlook .PST files). Boolean expressions and now supported as well as regular expressions. A 64 bit version is also available.

Agent Ransack is also available under the name of File Locator Lite.  This is an identical program but has been renamed as apparently some corporate IT departments are not keen on having a program called “ransack” on their PCs. 

There is also a $39.95 File Locator Pro that adds a number of additional features not found in the free version including context search and the ability to search within ZIP and Outlook PST files.  For a full comparison see here:


In my tests the free Agent Ransack proved remarkably fast for a sequential search program. For example when searching for a file name it searched 92,000 files on my hard disk in 27 seconds. When searching for some specific words in a PDF file it found and searched all the 86 PDF files on C: drive in less than two minutes and showed me the location of the search term within the PDF file.

While this is fast for an unindexed search program, it is slow compared to the index-based Everything Search which can find any file or folder by name in less than a second. However Everything Search cannot search inside files like Agent Ransack.

Overall Agent Ransack impressed me sufficiently that I decided to install it on my personal laptop, a rare honor for any utility.

Most of my day-to-day searching is email search and for that I use the search function in Outlook.  Most of my remaining searches are for files and for that I use Everything Search. Now for the occasional search inside a non-email file I now have Agent Ransack available and knowing that is a real comfort.

Agent Ransack can be downloaded from the Mythicsoft website here:


The download file is 2.94 MB. The system requirements are not stated on the Mythicsoft website but it worked fine both on my XP test PC and on my Windows 7 laptop.


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by Anonymous on 20. June 2010 - 8:26  (52510)

I've been using Agent Ransack for a long time and haven't used the Windows search function since -- does this mean I can disable the Windows indexing service with no problems?
(Sorry if it's a dumb question.)

by Drongo on 20. June 2010 - 11:26  (52522)


by Anonymous on 21. June 2010 - 21:20  (52655)

Yes, you'd better do, because it has no use maintaining and updating indexes if you are never using them.

by Anonymous on 18. June 2010 - 8:38  (52380)

And another one UltraFileSearch http://www.ultrafilesearch.com

by Anonymous on 17. June 2010 - 12:11  (52320)

You can also try UltraSearch http://www.jam-software.com/ultrasearch

by Anonymous on 19. April 2010 - 9:24  (47955)

Consider AstroGrep from http://astrogrep.sourceforge.net for searching file content. Its pretty fast

by Anonymous on 21. April 2010 - 7:18  (48110)

Neh, it requires the Microsoft .NET Framework. Translation: LARGE memory consumption and SLOW to load. I just loaded AstroGrep and sure enough, it took about 5 seconds to load, and then consumed ~23MB just sitting pretty doing nothing.

If you want a light grep utility for Windows, check out V-Grep instead:


by Anonymous on 22. April 2010 - 11:12  (48184)

About loading: You're right, Astrogreps loading could/should be faster

About memory use: Astrogrep loads about 23 mb at start but doesnt increase memory. vgrep starts at a lower level but EVERY search increase the memory but over 2 mb !!!

About .NET: yes, Astrogrep needs .NET but that should be a real problem in today

About feature: what I like in Astrogrep is the feature to display context lines (lines before & after) the line containing the search argument

About spees: both progs are very fast

by Anonymous on 18. April 2010 - 21:54  (47931)

haha hey there, I wrote hound. I know it's pretty lacking in doco lol. You're right - it doesn't support regular expressions, but then again the audience was more for casual users. If you want to search more than 1 file type, you can go:

Another feature is that in the search result, if you ctrl+click a result it shows the explorer context menu.

If you have any questions, please let me know here or email me (its at jimmythefork.com)


p.s. thanks Rob for bringing the thread to my attention :)

by Anonymous on 18. April 2010 - 20:24  (47925)

Snowbird is really good.
Consider it a mix of windows explorer and everything (search tool :D) It is a tad slower than everything, but not by much. I like how it's simple too.

by Anonymous on 18. April 2010 - 20:26  (47927)

forgot to mention, it can search file contents too

by TexasVet on 17. April 2010 - 19:07  (47853)

Thanks for the email on this. Tho I didn't pick it you directed me to Everything Search and WOWZA ! More than I expected and super fast.
Way out in front of Windows search. Thanks again. TechsupportAlert ROKZ!

by Anonymous on 17. April 2010 - 15:17  (47845)

Gizmo, I use Google Desktop Toolbar to search in Outlook. It's much faster than Outlook's builtin search. Also, use Everything by Voidtools for file/folder name search. Since it uses the file allocation table for it's index. it's extremely fast. I may give Ransack a try for seaching MS Office and pdf files.

Anyone know of a free program that will search networked drives?


by kendall.a on 19. April 2010 - 15:22  (47965)

Check out my reviews of Desktop Search Tools here:


I list several freeware options that will search networked drives.

P.S. Agent Ransack will search networked drives.

by Anonymous on 17. April 2010 - 11:19  (47840)

Used the old version for quite some time so when i discovered the new version was out I quickly updated. As far as quick non-indexed searches go I swear by this tool and often use it to do searches across large source code trees faster than the IDE usually can perform a similar search.

by Anonymous on 16. April 2010 - 20:28  (47809)

How about Digital Volcano's Text Crawler, currently version 1.14 and version 2.0 in Beta stage?


Text Crawler allows regular expressions to be used.

Text Crawler can be used to:
- find files
- find files containing text
- extract text matches (Agent Ransack will "extract" complete lines)
- replace in files

It is also possible to check (include or exclude) files from the list of found files to further operate upon.

I use Agent Ransack if I want to find files (containing text).
I use Text Crawler if I want to process text matches, extract lists etc.

by Anonymous on 16. April 2010 - 18:38  (47793)

tip :
locate32 - fast and furious !!

by Anonymous on 21. April 2010 - 16:53  (48143)

..and may i add the best too. :)
Been using it eversince I found out about it,and will never change it to anything else!

by Anonymous on 16. April 2010 - 20:16  (47805)

creates indexes, makes me furious

by Anonymous on 16. April 2010 - 20:55  (47813)

Well, better indexes, than waiting minutes for search results. Locate32 makes indexes pretty fast, and you can schedule index updates, or you can update it only manually if you want. Great tool..

by Anonymous on 16. April 2010 - 14:38  (47780)

NirSoft has a little, portable tool called SearchMyFiles; it works like a dream, and supports an awful lot of stuff. I'd be curious to see how SMF stacks up against Agent Ransack.

P. S. You can get SearchMyFiles from http://www.nirsoft.net/utils/search_my_files.html

by Diva99999999 (not verified) on 26. April 2012 - 20:16  (92645)

SearchMyFiles is a great tool. It lets you for multiple items in files, comma delimited. I do this a lot so very useful. I mostly use Agent Ransack but when I have to search for multiple items I use SearchMyFiles.

by Anonymous on 22. April 2010 - 12:14  (48186)

SearchMyFiles from NirSoft is excellent. Portable and useful to majority users.

by Anonymous on 16. April 2010 - 20:07  (47803)

No regular expressions, yet.

by Anonymous on 16. April 2010 - 8:57  (47758)

I would love to be able to use the portable version, but I cannot find it. Where can I download it from?

by Anonymous on 16. April 2010 - 5:57  (47746)

I've always been a big fan of Agent Ransack. Seeing an updated version out pleases me to no end! I'm not huge on index-based search programs and quickly found that Agent Ransack cannot be beat in terms of it's thoroughness and abilities.

by Anonymous on 16. April 2010 - 4:32  (47744)

Take a look at the very simple File Search 3.08 (Hound Search). Processes pdf too! And Free!

by Anonymous on 16. April 2010 - 20:20  (47806)

apparently no regular expressions

www.jimmythefork.com is not at all that informative!

by ianjrichards (not verified) on 16. April 2010 - 8:44  (47754)

This one is new to me so I had a quick look. Not bad: small (868KB), portable and it even works on Windows 7.

On the downside it took almost twice the time as Agent Ransack to do the same searches, it has no boolean or regex searching and there's virtually no documentation either so you have to find out how it works by trial and error. For example it took me a little while to realize the file name search does not support stemming so to find all files that have 'foobar' anywhere in their filename you need to use a syntax like *foobar*.*

That said its portability makes it a handy addition to your USB flash drive toolkit.


by Anonymous on 16. April 2010 - 4:26  (47741)

Nice find - surprising quick for a program in this class though huge searches still take minutes not seconds

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