Search for a text string in a file (or multiple files) unlike the simple FIND command FINDSTR supports more complex regular expressions.

      FINDSTR string(s) [pathname(s)]
         [/R] [/C:"string"] [/G:StringsFile] [/F:file] [/D:DirList]
            [/A:color] [/OFF[LINE]] [options]

   string(s)    Text to search for, each word a separate search.
   pathname(s)  The file(s) to search. 
   /C:string    Use string as a literal search string (may include spaces).
   /R           Evaluate as a regular expression.
   /R /C:string  Use string as a regular expression.
   /G:StringsFile  Get search string from a file (/ stands for console).
   /F:file      Get a list of filename(s) to search from a file (/ stands for console).
   /d:dirlist   Search a comma-delimited list of directories.
   /A:color     Display filenames in colour (2 hex digits)

options can be any combination of the following switches:
/I Case-insensitive search. /S Search subfolders. /P Skip any file that contains non-printable characters /OFF[LINE] Do not skip files with the OffLine attribute set. /L Use search string(s) literally. /B Match pattern if at the Beginning of a line. /E Match pattern if at the END of a line. /X Print lines that match exactly. /V Print only lines that do NOT contain a match. /N Print the line number before each line that matches. /M Print only the filename if a file contains a match. /O Print character offset before each matching line.

When using /G or /F the text file should be a plain ANSI text file with one Search string or Filename/Path on each line.
If more than one file is searched (/F), the results will be prefixed with the filename where the text was found.

The default behaviour of FINDSTR is to match any word, so FINDSTR "blue planet" will match the word blue or the word planet.
To match an entire phrase/sentence or to use Regular Expressions use the /C and /R options.

Option syntax

Options can be prefixed with either / or -
Options can also be concatenated after a single / or -. However, the concatenated option list can contain at most one multicharacter option such as OFF or F:, and the multi-character option must be the last option in the list.

The following are all equivalent ways of expressing a case insensitive regex search for any line that contains both "hello" and "goodbye" in any order

FINDSTR /i /r /c:"hello.*goodbye" /c:"goodbye.*hello" Demo.txt
FINDSTR -i -r -c:"hello.*goodbye" /c:"goodbye.*hello" Demo.txt
FINDSTR /irc:"hello.*goodbye" /c:"goodbye.*hello" Demo.txt

To search for more than 2 items in any order starts to become impractical as you would you need every permutation. An alternative approach is to chain multiple findstr commands:

FINDSTR /ic:"hello" Demo.txt | findstr /ic:"goodbye"

Regular Expressions (Search for patterns of text)

FINDSTR with the /R option can use the following metacharacters which have special meaning either as an operator or delimiter. FINDSTR support for regular expressions is limited and non-standard, only the following metacharacters are supported:

 .         Wildcard: any character.

 *         Repeat: zero or more occurances of previous character or class.

 ^         Line position: beginning of line.
 $         Line position: end of line.

 [class]   Character class: any one character in the set. [aB4] will match a or B or 4
 [^class]  Inverse class: any one character NOT in the set.

 [x-y]     Range: any characters within the specified range

 \x        Escape: literal use of metacharacter x.

 \<xyz     Word position: beginning of word.
 xyz\>     Word position: end of word.

Metacharacters are most powerful when they are used together. For example, the combination of the wildcard character (.) and repeat (*) character is similar in effect to the filename wildcard (*.*)

.*         Match any string of characters.

The .* expression can be useful within a larger expression, for example a.*b will match any string beginning with A and ending with B.

FINDSTR does not support alternation with the pipe character (|) multiple Regular Expressions can be separated with spaces, just the same as separating multiple words (assuming you have not specified a literal search with /C) but this might not be useful if the regex itself contains spaces.

FINDSTR does not support UTF-16 files, but FIND does.

Regex Line Position anchors ^ and $

^ matches beginning of input stream as well as any position immediately following a <LF>. Since FINDSTR also breaks lines after <LF>, a simple regex of "^" will always match all lines within a file, even a binary file.
So to find the string snark at the beginning of a line, use ^snark

$ matches any position immediately preceding a <CR>. This means that a regex search string containing $ will never match any lines within a Unix style text file, nor will it match the last line of a Windows text file if it is missing the EOL marker of <CR><LF>.
So to find the string snark at the end of a line, use snark$

Note - As detailed further below, piped and redirected input to FINDSTR can have <CR><LF> appended that is not in the source. This can impact a regex search that uses $.

A search string with characters (before ^) OR (after $) will always fail to find a match. $nevermatches^

Positional Options /B /E /X

The positional options work the same as ^ and $, except they also work for literal search strings.

/B functions the same as ^ at the start of a regex search string.

/E functions the same as $ at the end of a regex search string.

/X functions the same as having both ^ at the beginning and $ at the end of a regex search string.

FINDSTR - Escapes and Length limits - More detail of how to use search strings that include quotes and/or backslashes. Also maximum Search String length limits vary with OS version.

FINDSTR - Searching across line breaks

Regex character class ranges [x-y]

Character class ranges do not work as expected. See this Q/A on Stack Exchange: Why does findstr not handle case properly (in some circumstances)?

The problem is FINDSTR does not collate the characters by their byte code value (commonly thought of as the ASCII code, but ASCII is only defined from 0x00 - 0x7F). Most regex implementations would treat [A-Z] as all upper case English capital letters. But FINDSTR uses a collation sequence that roughly corresponds to how SORT works. So [A-Z] includes the complete English alphabet, both upper and lower case (except for "a"), as well as non-English alpha characters with diacriticals.

The FINDSTR regex sorts lower case before upper case. So findstr /nrc:"^[A-a]" will find nothing, but findstr /nrc:"^[a-A]" will match.

Default type of search: Literal vs Regular Expression

/C:"string" - The default match like /L literal, but will also accept spaces.

/R /C:"Search string" - This will perform a Regex match, but will also accept spaces in the search string.

"string argument" - The default depends on the content of the very first search string. (Remember that <space> is used to delimit search strings.) If the first search string is a valid regular expression that contains at least one un-escaped meta-character, then all search strings are treated as regular expressions. Otherwise all search strings are treated as literals. For example, "51.4 200" will be treated as two regular expressions because the first string contains an un-escaped dot, whereas "200 51.4" will be treated as two literals because the first string does not contain any meta-characters.

/G:file - The default depends on the content of the first non-empty line in the file. If the first search string is a valid regular expression that contains at least one un-escaped meta-character, then all search strings are treated as regular expressions. Otherwise all search strings are treated as literals.

Recommendation - Always explicitly specify /L literal option or /R regular expression option when using "string argument" or /G:file.

Searching for Spaces

When the search string contains multiple words, separated with spaces, then FINDSTR will return lines that contain either word (OR).
A literal search (/C:"string") will reverse this behaviour and allow searching for a phrase or sentence. A literal search also allow searching for punctuation characters.

Some examples using a text file Demo.txt containing the following:

The quick brown fox
The really ^brown^ fox

Literal searches /L :

Match the first line with: FINDSTR /L /C:"quick brown" Demo.txt
Match the second line with: FINDSTR /L /C:"^brown" Demo.txt

Regex Searches /R :

Match the word fox at the end of any line with: FINDSTR /R /C:"fox$" Demo.txt
Match the word The or the (case insensitive) at the start of any line with: FINDSTR /I /R /C:"^the" Demo.txt


The format of matching line output from FINDSTR is:



fileName = The name of the file containing the matching line. The file name is not printed if the request was explicitly for a single file, or if searching piped input or redirected input. When printed, the fileName will always include any path information provided. Additional path information will be added if the /S option is used. The printed path is always relative to the provided path, or relative to the current directory if none provided.

lineNumber = The line number of the matching line represented as a decimal value with 1 representing the 1st line of the input. Only printed if /N option is specified.

lineOffset = The decimal byte offset of the start of the matching line, with 0 representing the 1st character of the 1st line. Only printed if /O option is specified.

text = The binary representation of the matching line, including any <CR> and/or <LF>.

Nothing is left out of the binary output, such that this example that matches all lines will produce an exact binary copy of the original file:


Using a script file

Multiple search criteria can be specified with a script file /G
Multiple FileNames to search can be specified with /F or by just supplying multiple files on the command line.

FINDSTR "quick brown" File1.txt File2.txt

When multiple files are searched, the output for each match found will be prefixed with the filename.

When preparing a source or script file, place each filename or search criteria on a new line.
If several filenames are to be searched they must all exist or FINDSTR will fail with an error.

For example: to use the search criteria in Criteria.txt to search the files listed in Files.txt:

FINDSTR /g:Criteria.txt /f:Files.txt

Piping and Redirection

A text file can be piped or redirected into FINDSTR:

The various data source specifications are mutually exclusive - FINDSTR can only work with one of the following: filename argument(s), /F:file option, redirected input, or piped input.

A string can also be piped into FINDSTR, this will just tell us if searchString exists within dataString:

Echo "dataString"| FINDSTR "searchString"

Piped and Redirected input can have <CR><LF> appended:

Finding Unicode text under PowerShell

When running FINDSTR under the CMD shell, it can be used to match Unicode strings, but running a similar command under PowerShell will fail.

This is because output data piped from a PowerShell cmdlet into a native application will default to ASCII. This is normally a sensible default because most native commands do not process Unicode correctly.

The output encoding from PowerShell cmdlets is controlled by the $OutputEncoding variable, if that is set then FINDSTR will work against unicode text.

$OutputEncoding = UnicodeEncoding
or to match the console's encoding:
$OutputEncoding = [Console]::OutputEncoding


FINDSTR will set %ERRORLEVEL% as follows:

0 (success) A match is found in at least one line of at least one file.
1 (failure) If a match is not found in any line of any file, (or if the file is not found at all).
2 (error) Wrong syntax.
255 (error) Too many regular expression character class terms.
An invalid switch will only print an error message in error stream.

Echo 12G6 |FindStr /R "[0-9]"
If %ERRORLEVEL% EQU 0 echo The string contains one or more numeric characters

Echo 12G6 |FindStr /R "[^0-9]"
If %ERRORLEVEL% EQU 0 echo The string contains one or more non numeric characters


If the last character of a file used as redirected input does not end with <LF>, then FINDSTR will hang indefinitely once it reaches the end of the redirected file.

FINDSTR is not compatible with unicode files, it cannot search for the null bytes commonly found in UTF16 Unicode files.

Specifying multiple literal search strings can give unreliable results. The following FINDSTR example fails to find a match, even though it should:

echo ffffaaa|findstr /L "ffffaaa faffaffddd" 

Based on experiments, FINDSTR can fail if all of the following conditions are met:

It seems to always be the shorter search strings that fails, for more info see: FINDSTR fails to match multiple literal search strings

In early versions of FindStr /F:file a path length of more than 80 chars will be truncated.

FINDSTR will prevent console color escape sequences from working for subsequent commands within the same command block. To avoid this, nest the command inside parentheses (FINDSTR options).


Search for "granny" OR "Smith" in the files Apples.txt or Pears.txt

FINDSTR "granny Smith" Apples.txt Pears.txt

Search for "granny Smith" in Contacts.txt (effectively the same as the FIND command)

FINDSTR /C:"granny Smith" Contacts.txt

Search every file in the current folder and all subfolders for the word "Smith", regardless of upper/lower case, note that /S will only search below the current directory:

FINDSTR /s /i smith *.*

Match exactly the number 12345:

Echo 12345| findstr /X "12345"

Join two files, return only the lines that they both have in common:

FINDSTR /g:"file1.txt" "file2.txt"

Search all the text files in the current folder for the string "fiona", display the filenames in White on Green (:2F).

FINDSTR /A:2F /C:"fiona" *.txt

Read the file Z:\source.txt, remove all the blank lines and write to Z:\result.txt

FINDSTR /v "^$" Z:\source.txt >Z:\result.txt

Find every line in novel.txt containing the word SMITH, preceeded by any number of spaces, and prefix each line found with a consecutive number:

FINDSTR /b /n /c:" *smith" novel.txt

Finding a string only if surrounded by the standard delimiters
Find the word "computer", but not the words "supercomputer" or "computerise":

FINDSTR "\<computer\>" C:\work\inventory.txt

Find any words that begin with the letters 'comp', such as 'computerise' or 'compete'

FINDSTR "\<comp.*" C:\work\inventory.txt

Find any positive integers in the file sales.txt and include any lines that are a zero (0):

FINDSTR /r "^[1-9][0-9]*$ ^0$" Sales.txt

Dave Benham - List of undocumented features and limitations of FINDSTR from StackOverflow

“Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover” ~ Mark Twain

Related commands

FINDSTR - Escapes and Length limits
FINDSTR - Searching across line breaks
FIND - Search for a text string in a file.
Advanced Query Syntax (AQS) in Windows File Explorer.
VBScript: Find and Replace
Equivalent PowerShell: Regular Expressions / Select-String -raw / Where-Object.
Equivalent bash command (Linux): grep - Search file(s) for lines that match a given pattern.

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