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Applies To: Windows Server 2003, Windows Server 2003 R2, Windows Server 2003 with SP1, Windows Server 2003 with SP2


Searches for patterns of text in files using regular expressions.


findstr [/b] [/e] [/l] [/r] [/s] [/i] [/x] [/v] [/n] [/m] [/o] [/p] [/offline] [/g:File] [/f:File] [/c:String] [/d:DirList] [/a:ColorAttribute] [Strings] [[Drive:][Path] FileName [...]]

  • /b
    Matches the pattern if at the beginning of a line.
  • /e
    Matches the pattern if at the end of a line.
  • /l
    Uses search strings literally.
  • /r
    Uses search strings as regular expressions. Findstr interprets all metacharacters as regular expressions unless you use /l.
  • /s
    Searches for matching files in the current directory and all subdirectories.
  • /i
    Specifies that the search is not to be case-sensitive.
  • /x
    Prints lines that match exactly.
  • /v
    Prints only lines that do not contain a match.
  • /n
    Prints the line number before each line that matches.
  • /m
    Prints only the file name if a file contains a match.
  • /o
    Prints seek offset before each matching line.
  • /p
    Skips files with non-printable characters.
  • /offline
    Processes files with offline attribute set.
  • /f: File
    Reads file list from the specified file.
  • /c: String
    Uses specified text as a literal search string.
  • /g: File
    Gets search strings from the specified file.
  • /d: DirList
    Searches a comma-delimited list of directories.
  • /a: ColorAttribute
    Specifies color attributes with two hexadecimal digits.
  • Strings
    Specified text to be searched for in FileName.
  • [ Drive:][ Path] FileName [...]
    Specifies a file or files to search.
  • /?
    Displays help at the command prompt.
  • Using Strings and [Drive**:**][Path] FileName [...]

    All findstr command-line options must precede Strings and [Drive**:**][Path] FileName [...] in the command string.

  • Using regular expressions with findstr

    Findstr is capable of finding the exact text you are looking for in any ASCII file or files. However, sometimes you have only part of the information that you want to match, or you want to find a wider range of information. In such cases, findstr has the powerful capability to search for patterns of text using regular expressions.

    Regular expressions are a notation for specifying patterns of text, as opposed to exact strings of characters. The notation uses literal characters and metacharacters. Every character that does not have special meaning in the regular expression syntax is a literal character and matches an occurrence of that character. For example, letters and numbers are literal characters. A metacharacter is a symbol with special meaning (an operator or delimiter) in the regular-expression syntax.

    The following table lists the metacharacters that findstr accepts.

    Character Value


    Wildcard: any character


    Repeat: zero or more occurrences of previous character or class


    Line position: beginning of line


    Line position: end of line


    Character class: any one character in set


    Inverse class: any one character not in set


    Range: any characters within the specified range


    Escape: literal use of metacharacter X


    Word position: beginning of word


    Word position: end of word

    The special characters in regular expression syntax are most powerful when you use them together. For example, the following combination of the wildcard character (.) and repeat (*) character match any string of characters:


    Use the following expression as part of a larger expression that matches any string beginning with "b" and ending with "ing":



Use spaces to separate multiple search strings unless the argument is prefixed with /c. To search for "hello" or "there" in file x.y, type:

findstr "hello there" x.y

To search for "hello there" in file x.y, type:

findstr /c:"hello there" x.y

To find all occurrences of the word "Windows" (with an initial capital letter W) in the file Proposal.txt, type:

findstr Windows proposal.txt

To search every file in the current directory and all subdirectories that contained the word Windows, regardless of the letter case, type:

findstr /s /i Windows *.*

To find all occurrences of lines that contain the word "FOR", preceded by any number of spaces, (as in a computer program loop), and to include the line number where each occurrence is found, type:

findstr /b /n /c:" *FOR" *.bas

If you want to search for several different items in the same set of files, create a text file that contains each search criterion on a new line. You can also list the exact files you want to search in a text file. To use the search criteria in the file Finddata.txt, search the files listed in Filelist.txt, and then store the results in the file Results.out, type:

findstr /g:finddata.txt /f:filelist.txt > results.out

Assume you wanted to find every file in the current directory and all subdirectories that contained the word computer, regardless of the letter case. To list every file containing the word computer, type:

findstr /s /i /m "\<computer\>" *.*

Now assume you want to find not only the word "computer," but also any other words that begin with the letters comp, such as "compliment" and "compete. " type the following:

findstr /s /i /m "\<comp.*" *.*

Formatting legend

Format Meaning


Information that the user must supply


Elements that the user must type exactly as shown

Ellipsis (...)

Parameter that can be repeated several times in a command line

Between brackets ([])

Optional items

Between braces ({}); choices separated by pipe (|). Example: {even|odd}

Set of choices from which the user must choose only one

Courier font

Code or program output

See Also


Command-line reference A-Z
Command shell overview