Change Mac Default To Search The Current Folder

Change Mac Default To Search The Current Folder

There are different ways to search for files on the Mac.

Usually I am searching my entire computer for a document, and for that I use Spotlight[1].

Occasionally I am in a Finder window and want to filter the displayed files, and for that I use the Search box in the top-right corner of the window.

One annoying thing about this is it would always search my entire Mac, and then I’d have to click on the folder name to just limit the search to the current folder.

Search Folder Entire Computer

I recently[2] noticed that there is a setting that controls this behavior, and you can make the default search limited to the current folder. Here’s how to do it.

First, go to Finder and then Preferences up in the menu bar.

Finder Preferences

Next, click on the Advanced tab. You’ll see a setting titled When performing a search:. Change that to Search the Current Folder.

Search Settings

Boom. Now when you do a search, by default it will only search the current folder.

Search Current Folder


  1. Usually via Alfred.  ↩
  2. I’m embarrassed to admit how long it took me to figure this out.  ↩

About the Author

Brooks Duncan helps individuals and small businesses go paperless. He's been an accountant, a software developer, a manager in a very large corporation, and has run DocumentSnap since 2008. You can find Brooks on Twitter at @documentsnap or @brooksduncan. Thanks for stopping by.

Leave a Reply 4 comments

ruben - May 8, 2018 Reply

I just lost a whole folder with all my music from all the last 20 years because of this… I hope to find your article before it happended

Monica Ricci - July 1, 2015 Reply

I was looking under the Advanced tab on SYSTEM PREFERENCES and not FINDER preferences. LOL… whoopsy! Thanks!!

Monica M. Ricci - June 26, 2015 Reply

Brooks, my “Preferences” doesn’t offer that option under “Advanced” – I am using Mavericks though, so is this only on Yosemite?


    Brooks Duncan - June 30, 2015 Reply

    Hmm, strange. I just checked my wife’s computer which is on Mavericks and it is there. So you’re in Finder, and go to Finder > Preferences, hit the Advanced tab, and the option isn’t there for you?

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