I'm a long-time Mac user, but for some reason I can't get my mind around this. Maybe I'm missing something incredibly obvious.

Baseline: When I choose Finder->File->Find, I get a window titled 'Searching "MacHD"' where "MacHD" is one of two Search places listed just below, to the right of the text "Search:" I see two potential search-places currently defined, "MacHD" and "This Mac". "MacHD" is the default, which generally works for me -- except when I need to restrict the search.

Q1: How do I add to the list of potential search-places? Say, I often want to search ~/Documents/Foo only. To the right, I see a Save button and a "-", but, intuitively, I kind of expect a "+" button there. I assume there's some kind of equivalent, but I can't see it.

Q2: What are the parameters of this Find? How would I find out? System Preferences -> Spotlight -> Search Results allows me to re-order and eliminate some search results from visibility, and System Preferences -> Spotlight -> Privacy lets me excludes some places from indexing, but how do I know, for example, if a file inside the System folder is or isn't findable? Yeah, I can do a trial search and find that the file /System/Library/Accessibility/AccessibilityDefinitions.plist is NOT found, so I infer that Spotlight doesn't index the System folder. But is there a more direct way of figuring this out? Could I add the System Folder to Spotlight's indexing?

At the moment, I'm searching for a mislaid image file among tens of thousands I've collected in various places on my HD. My procedure: I set the Finder find to look at "MacHD" and tell it to find all image files, change the results window to icon view, use the slider at lower right to make the icons "large", grab a cup of coffee, and scroll through all the images. But I'm not confident I'm getting a look at all the images I've placed throughout my HD. Is there a better, more thorough search method? Can I get more control?

Yes I know about the shell (command line) find command. In one command I can get a list of, say, all *.jpg files on my HDD, but I can't see a convenient way of displaying and scrolling through them that's nearly as good as the Finder provides.

No doubt there's a tutorial for using Finder "Find" somewhere on the web that will put me right, but I haven't located one.

  • The command-line equivalent of the Finder's Find (which uses Spotlight) is mdfind, not find.
    – Cajunluke
    Commented May 15, 2012 at 21:39
  • Cool! Never heard of this. Might offer a bit more control, but doesn't seem to address my main issue.
    – hen3ry
    Commented May 16, 2012 at 17:24
  • mdfind is pretty cool, and that's why it's not posted as an answer, just as a comment.
    – Cajunluke
    Commented May 16, 2012 at 17:44
  • Did you ever find the file you’re looking for? I regularly use EasyFind because I can never find what I’m looking for with either SpotLight or Finder. This is especially the case when I’m searching on a removable device. I have also use Classic Find and Find Any File, though they’re less sophisticated.
    – Manngo
    Commented Jan 19, 2017 at 23:34
  • Manngo, thanks for your suggestion. In the 5 years since I posted this issue, Spotlight has been working better and better for me.
    – hen3ry
    Commented Jan 20, 2017 at 16:59

2 Answers 2


You have a few options since you're on Lion. The Find feature of Finder by default will search whatever folder you're in. The option next to it is called "This Mac" which should look through the computer. You can also go to "All My Files" in the sidebar and then click on the images section header and that should look for all the image files as well.

  • 1
    The Finder will not search in whatever folder you're in by default unless you tell it to. "Search This Mac" is the default scope on all new installs, where I always immediately change it to "Search the Current Folder". Commented May 16, 2012 at 1:21
  • 1
    I've got "Search the Current Folder" set in Finder Preferences-->Advanced-->When performing a search:" Seems to me that the result should be searching the current folder (duh!) and any subfolders, right? But what determines the "current folder"? Not at front-most, not highlighted, from my experiments.
    – hen3ry
    Commented May 16, 2012 at 17:28

I always have

Finder->Preferences->Advanced->When Performing a search:

set to "Search the Current Folder" but this was not happening. Causing me lots of frustration. And probably readers of this post much confusion.

After some digging, I discovered my Finder preferences were scrambled, causing the Search window to offer the current window as an option only intermittently. Well, anyway, deleting com.apple.finder.plist seems to have cleared this up; now the current at-front folder is always (so far) offered.

So, basically, my original questions were based on faulty operation.

There IS a way to limit the search to a particular folder in a normally-operating 10.7 Finder; just do


with the target folder open and at front.

A somewhat indirect answer to my second question: to add to the confusion, for reasons I can't fully explain, I have been avoiding entering anything in the top right search specification text box, choosing instead to specify the search with one or more qualifications, e.g. starting by setting

"Name" "begins with" "foo".

Instead of putting something, however minimal, in that specification text pox, and adding qualifications below. Which works very well, now that I've tried it. Bottom line: Finder search does work and offers quite a lot of control when used as the designers intended.

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