After a recent reboot of my Windows 10 Pro machine, I noticed that typing into the Start Menu was showing me… nothing. Most likely, an update has broken something, but what’s wrong and more importantly how to fix it?
A cursory search of the web shows that many, many people have encountered this issue. I’m a keyboard-first user, and I prefer not to touch the mouse unless it’s actually required. My preferred methods to launch apps or files in Windows are:
- <Windows key> + <number> to launch apps I’ve pinned to the taskbar
- hit the Windows key and start typing, then use arrow keys and enter to select.
The blank Start Menu search breaks this second way of doing things, and it’s a severe hindrance for me.
This was apparently a widespread issue back in February 2020, and Microsoft asserted that it was fixed back then:
We are aware of a temporary server-side issue causing Windows search to show a blank box. This issue has been resolved for most users and in some cases, you might need to restart your device. We are working diligently to fully resolve the issue and will provide an update once resolved.Microsoft Answers
My immediate question is: why on earth is this a server-side issue? Anyway, let’s fix it first.
Stop trying to make Bing happen
Happily, the fix is simple. Lawrence Abrams at BleepingComputer wrote about the blank Windows Search issue back when it was a widespread issue in February 2020. To get things working again, all that’s needed is just two registry keys and a reboot:
Seems safe enough. I added the registrykeys, rebooted, and the issue is resolved. Great! However… what was the issue?
In typical Microsoft style, the config and features change over time, and it can be difficult to find documentation or determine how to fix an issue on the particular version of Windows 10 you happen to be running. Some sources suggest that the BingSearchEnabled key may no longer be required.
I tried removing the two keys I added, one at a time, and rebooting.
Start Menu search is no longer broken in any combination. Odd.
Anyway, it works. I don’t kid myself that I’ve somehow dodged the all-seeing eye of telemetry leaving my machine just because there’s less unnecessary ‘helpful’ web search clutter showing up now, but I do know which of these two Start Menu search experiences I prefer:
One strange thing: the non-web Start Menu search experience doesn’t seem to respect my Dark Mode preference. Weird – I didn’t change anything at all between those two screenshots other than those two registry keys and a reboot – but I can live with it.
Some questions are best left unanswered
Several things aren’t making sense here still, but I’m making an executive decision: free time and mental resilience are scarce resources, and as I’ve got older it’s become more important to know what’s worth my time and what isn’t. Pursuing this further isn’t worth more of my time.
I know, I know, this isn’t the hacker way. Try harder, and all that. Still, there’s no obvious prize here, and there’s a fine line between climbing every mountain and plunging down every rabbit hole.
Ultimately, I got what I came for: a clean and functional Start Menu search experience.
In summary: Microsoft, if I want to search the web, I’ll use a browser (and probably not Edge, either). Keep your Bing search-y hands off the Start Menu please and thank you.