You are currently offline, waiting for your internet to reconnect

How to recursively search directories by using Visual C#

This article was previously published under Q303974
For a Microsoft Visual C++ .NET version of this article, see 307009.
For a Microsoft Visual Basic .NET version of this article, see 306666.

This article refers to the following Microsoft .NET Framework Class Library namespace:
  • System.IO
This step-by-step article shows how to recursively search subdirectories for files in a C# Windows Forms application. A search string is specified so that you can search for files that match a certain wildcard criteria. Each part of the code is explained as necessary. A working code sample is also provided at the end of the article.

Directory recursion is a common IO task for developers. The FileSystemObject makes this task easy for Component Object Model (COM) applications. Now this task has become even easier in .NET. Similar to the FileSystemObject, the classes in the System.IO namespace provide an object-oriented way to access files and directories.


  • Microsoft Visual C# 2005 or Microsoft Visual C# .NET

Directory recursion

The file and directory manipulation classes reside in the System.IO namespace. Before you work with these classes, you should import the following namespace into your project:
using System.IO;
The System.IO namespace classes provide many classes that let you work with files and directories. These classes include file classes, directory classes, and utility classes. Many of these classes contain static methods that you can call without having to declare a variable of that type. For example, you can use the Directory object to obtain the subdirectories of a given directory.

The following code uses the static GetDirectories method of the Directory object to return an array of strings. This array contains directory path names to the subdirectories of the C directory, if any.
string[] directories = Directory.GetDirectories("C:\\");
The Directory object also contains a method called GetFiles that lets you retrieve a string array of files that match a certain criteria. The following code sample uses the File object to retrieve all the files in the C directory that end with a .dll extension:
string[] files = Directory.GetFiles("C:\\", "*.dll");
The GetDirectories and GetFiles methods of the Directory object are all that you need to recursively search for files that match the search string. The following method is used to perform the recursion:
void DirSearch(string sDir) {	try		{	   foreach (string d in Directory.GetDirectories(sDir)) 	   {		foreach (string f in Directory.GetFiles(d, txtFile.Text)) 		{		   lstFilesFound.Items.Add(f);		}		DirSearch(d);	   }	}	catch (System.Exception excpt) 	{		Console.WriteLine(excpt.Message);	}}
The preceding code passes a string, which contains the directory that you want to search, to DirSearch. This string value is the full path of the directory. You can use GetDirectories to retrieve the subdirectories of the directory that is passed into your procedure. Because GetDirectories returns an array, you can use a for/each statement to iterate over each subdirectory. For each subdirectory, use the GetFiles method to iterate over the files in that directory. The value of the text box on your form is passed to GetFiles. The text box contains the search string that filters the results that GetFiles returns. If any files match the search criteria, they are added to your list box. For each subdirectory that is located, call DirSearch again, and pass it a subdirectory. By using this recursive call, you can search all subdirectories of a given root directory.

Complete code sample

  1. Start a new Visual C# Windows application project. By default, a form that is named Form1 is created.
  2. In the View menu, click to display Solution Explorer.
  3. In Solution Explorer, right-click Form1, and then click View Code.
  4. In the Form1 code window, highlight and then delete all the existing code.
  5. Paste the following code in the code window of Form1.
    using System;using System.Drawing;using System.Collections;using System.ComponentModel;using System.Windows.Forms;using System.Data;using System.IO;namespace RecursiveSearchCS{    /// <summary>    /// Summary description for Form1    /// </summary>    public class Form1 : System.Windows.Forms.Form    {        internal System.Windows.Forms.Button btnSearch;        internal System.Windows.Forms.TextBox txtFile;        internal System.Windows.Forms.Label lblFile;        internal System.Windows.Forms.Label lblDirectory;        internal System.Windows.Forms.ListBox lstFilesFound;        internal System.Windows.Forms.ComboBox cboDirectory;        /// <summary>        /// Required designer variable        /// </summary>        private System.ComponentModel.Container components = null;        public Form1()        {            //             // Required for Windows Form Designer support            //             InitializeComponent();            //             // TODO: Add any constructor code after InitializeComponent call.            //         }        /// <summary>        /// Clean up any resources being used.        /// </summary>        protected override void Dispose( bool disposing )        {            if( disposing )            {                if (components != null)                 {                    components.Dispose();                }            }            base.Dispose( disposing );        }        #region Windows Form Designer generated code        /// <summary>        /// Required method for Designer support: do not modify        /// the contents of this method with the code editor.        /// </summary>        private void InitializeComponent()        {            this.btnSearch = new System.Windows.Forms.Button();            this.txtFile = new System.Windows.Forms.TextBox();            this.lblFile = new System.Windows.Forms.Label();            this.lblDirectory = new System.Windows.Forms.Label();            this.lstFilesFound = new System.Windows.Forms.ListBox();            this.cboDirectory = new System.Windows.Forms.ComboBox();            this.SuspendLayout();            //             // btnSearch            //             this.btnSearch.Location = new System.Drawing.Point(608, 248);            this.btnSearch.Name = "btnSearch";            this.btnSearch.TabIndex = 0;            this.btnSearch.Text = "Search";            this.btnSearch.Click += new System.EventHandler(this.btnSearch_Click);            //             // txtFile            //             this.txtFile.Location = new System.Drawing.Point(8, 40);            this.txtFile.Name = "txtFile";            this.txtFile.Size = new System.Drawing.Size(120, 20);            this.txtFile.TabIndex = 4;            this.txtFile.Text = "*.dll";            //             // lblFile            //             this.lblFile.Location = new System.Drawing.Point(8, 16);            this.lblFile.Name = "lblFile";            this.lblFile.Size = new System.Drawing.Size(144, 16);            this.lblFile.TabIndex = 5;            this.lblFile.Text = "Search for files containing:";            //             // lblDirectory            //             this.lblDirectory.Location = new System.Drawing.Point(8, 96);            this.lblDirectory.Name = "lblDirectory";            this.lblDirectory.Size = new System.Drawing.Size(120, 23);            this.lblDirectory.TabIndex = 3;            this.lblDirectory.Text = "Look In:";            //             // lstFilesFound            //             this.lstFilesFound.Location = new System.Drawing.Point(152, 8);            this.lstFilesFound.Name = "lstFilesFound";            this.lstFilesFound.Size = new System.Drawing.Size(528, 225);            this.lstFilesFound.TabIndex = 1;            //             // cboDirectory            //             this.cboDirectory.DropDownWidth = 112;            this.cboDirectory.Location = new System.Drawing.Point(8, 128);            this.cboDirectory.Name = "cboDirectory";            this.cboDirectory.Size = new System.Drawing.Size(120, 21);            this.cboDirectory.TabIndex = 2;            this.cboDirectory.Text = "ComboBox1";            //             // Form1            //             this.AutoScaleBaseSize = new System.Drawing.Size(5, 13);            this.ClientSize = new System.Drawing.Size(688, 277);            this.Controls.AddRange(new System.Windows.Forms.Control[] {            this.btnSearch,            this.txtFile,            this.lblFile,            this.lblDirectory,            this.lstFilesFound,            this.cboDirectory});            this.Name = "Form1";            this.Text = "Form1";            this.Load += new System.EventHandler(this.Form1_Load);            this.ResumeLayout(false);        }        #endregion        /// <summary>        /// The main entry point for the application        /// </summary>        [STAThread]        static void Main()         {            Application.Run(new Form1());        }        private void btnSearch_Click(object sender, System.EventArgs e)        {            lstFilesFound.Items.Clear();            txtFile.Enabled = false;            cboDirectory.Enabled = false;            btnSearch.Text = "Searching...";            this.Cursor = Cursors.WaitCursor;            Application.DoEvents();            DirSearch(cboDirectory.Text);            btnSearch.Text = "Search";            this.Cursor = Cursors.Default;            txtFile.Enabled = true;            cboDirectory.Enabled = true;        }        private void Form1_Load(object sender, System.EventArgs e)        {            cboDirectory.Items.Clear();            foreach (string s in Directory.GetLogicalDrives())            {                cboDirectory.Items.Add(s);            }            cboDirectory.Text = "C:\\";        }        void DirSearch(string sDir)         {            try	            {                foreach (string d in Directory.GetDirectories(sDir))                 {                    foreach (string f in Directory.GetFiles(d, txtFile.Text))                     {                        lstFilesFound.Items.Add(f);                    }                    DirSearch(d);                }            }            catch (System.Exception excpt)             {                Console.WriteLine(excpt.Message);            }        }    }}
    NoteYou must change the code in Visual Studio 2005 and in Visual Studio 2008. In versions of Visual Studio that are earlier than Visual Studio 2005, Visual C# adds one form to the project when you create a Windows Forms project. The form is named Form1. In Visual C# 2005 and in later versions, the two files that represent the form are named Form1.cs and Form1.designer.cs. You write code in the Form1.cs file. The Windows Forms Designer writes code in the Form1.designer.cs file.

    To convert the sample code to Visual C# 2005 or to Visual C# 2008, create a new Visual C# Windows application, and then follow these steps:
    1. Copy the Button object, the Text box object, and other Windows objects to the partial class Form1 in the Form1.Designer.cs file.
    2. Add the contents of the InitializeComponent method section in the code above to the InitializeComponent method in the Form1.Designer.cs file. Paste the contents after the current contents of the InitializeComponent method.
    3. Copy the following methods from the code above into the Form1 class in the Form1.cs file:
      • btnSearch_Click
      • Form1_Load
      • DirSearch
    4. Add a using System.IO; using statement to the Form1.cs file.
    For more information about the Windows Forms Designer, visit the following Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) Web site:
  6. Press F5 to build and run the sample program.
For more information, click the following article number to view the article in the Microsoft Knowledge Base:
306777 How to read a text file by using System.IO and Visual C#

Article ID: 303974 - Last Review: 10/15/2012 06:48:00 - Revision: 4.0

  • Microsoft Visual C# 2005
  • Microsoft Visual C# .NET 2002 Standard Edition
  • Microsoft Visual C# 2008 Express Edition
  • kbhowtomaster kbio KB303974