What to Do if Windows Search Isn’t Working in Windows 10

The Windows 10 Start Menu search is a valuable feature that allows you to quickly access files, apps, and web services using the Start Menu search bar. When the search feature becomes corrupted, it can interfere with the Cortana and the Start menu. This article teaches you what you need to do to resolve the error. For more methods that deal with what to do when the Start menu icon is not working, you can click here.

No Matter Which Method(s) You Try, Perform a System Backup First

Before making any changes to your PC, you should always perform a system backup and create a restore point to prevent losing important files and to avoid serious permanent issues that can ruin functionality. If you haven’t already done it, be sure to perform a system backup by following these steps:

Step #1

Press the [X] key and [Windows] key simultaneously. Choose “Settings” when the menu appears.

settings in the quick link

Step #2

In the Settings window, click Update & Security. Then choose “Backup” from the left panel.

backup in setings window

Step #3

Connect an external drive such as a USB drive to your computer. Click “Add a Drive” and then select the drive you attached.

add a drive under backup

Please note that making a backup can take a bit of time, but Windows does all the work for you. Remove the backup drive when it is finished and store it in a safe place.

Fixing the Start Menu Search Feature

Make Sure Windows Firewall Is On

Unlike Windows Defender Antivirus, the Windows 10 Firewall is designed to run alone or with another third-party firewall. Shutting off the built-in firewall will make your system vulnerable and can cause internal problems including problems with the search feature. Follow these steps to make sure the Windows 10 Firewall is on.

Step #1

Press the [X] and the [Windows] keys on your keyboard at the same time. Choose “Settings” on the menu that appears.

settings in the quick link

Step #2

In the Settings window, click on “Update & Security.”

updates and security in windows settings

Step #3

Now, choose “Windows Security” on the left side panel and then click on “Firewall & network protection.”

firewall and network protection under windows security

Step #4

Now, you will see a list of networks on the right side. Make sure the firewall is on for all the networks. If it isn’t, click the network and turn on the firewall.

firewall is on

If the search function is still broken, continue to the next method.

Run the Microsoft Search and Indexing Troubleshooter

Windows10 comes with a variety of troubleshooting apps including one that is specifically for search issues. Here is how to access and run this troubleshooter.

Step #1

Press the [X] key and [Windows] key on your keyboard at the same time. Choose “Settings” from the menu that opens.

settings in the quick link

Step #2

Select “Update & Security” from the Settings window.

updates and security in windows settings

Step #3

On the left panel, choose “Troubleshoot.” Then, on the right side, scroll down until you find “Search and Indexing.” Click on that. Then click “Run the troubleshooter.”

search and indexing under troubleshoot

Step #4

The troubleshooter will ask you what problems you are having. Click all the options that apply. For example, if your search works, but the list does not populate for a long time, you would choose “Search or indexing is slowing down the computer.” When you have chosen your specific issues, click “Next” and allow the troubleshooter a chance to find and repair the problem.

search and indexing issue

If the troubleshooter could not find the problem or could not fix it, continue to the next method to try to resolve the issue.

Reboot Windows

Although it seems like a no-brainer, this is the easiest way to deal with this issue. There are many reasons why this works especially if the search app is stuck, but this should be one of the first methods you try since it is so simple.

Step #1

Press the [Ctrl], [Alt], and [Delete] keys on your keyboard at the same time. This opens the Task Manager menu.

task manager menu

Step #2

Click the Power icon in the lower right corner. Choose “Restart.”

restart under power icon

As soon as your computer reboots, you can check to see if your Search menu is working again.

Restart Cortana

Cortana is an integral part of the Windows 10 search function. Even if you have disabled the voice-activated search feature, Cortana still runs in the background helping your Start menu searches. Restarting this app can restore the search function.

Step #1

Right-click on the taskbar and when the menu opens choose “Task Manager.” Alternately, you could press the [Ctrl], [Shift], and [Esc] keys at the same time to open the Task Manager menu and select it from there.

task manager in list

Step #2

When the Task Manager opens, you need to scroll down to find the Cortana task. This is easier if you alphabetize the list by clicking “Name.” Click on “Cortana” and then click on “End Task.”

end task cortana.exe

Cortana should automatically restart after you close it. Check your search function and see if it is working now. If not, continue to the next method.

Restart Windows Explorer

Windows Explorer is Microsoft’s file manager. It allows you to move, copy, and view files. Because it is responsible for file management, it can easily cause problems with your search function. Restarting it can fix these issues.

Step #1

As before, right-click on the taskbar and choose “Task Manager.”

task manager in list

Step #2

This time when the Task Manager opens, you need to click on the Windows Explorer task. If you have alphabetized the list by clicking “Name,” you will find it under the “Apps” heading. Once you have clicked on it, click on “Restart.”

restart windows explorer

Again, check to see if the search feature is working and continue to the next method if it isn’t.

Restart the Windows Search Service

The Windows search service might have frozen and might need a simple restart. Follow these steps to restart this service:

Step #1

Press the [R] key and the [Windows] key together to open the Run box. Type “services.msc,” and click “OK.”

services.msc in run box

Step #2

Scroll down to the Windows Search service. It helps to alphabetize the list first by clicking on “Name.” Right-click on “Windows Search” and choose “Properties.”

windows search properties

Step #3

In the Properties window, find the drop-down menu next to “Startup type:” and choose “Automatic.” Now click “Stop.” The process should automatically restart after a few seconds, but if it doesn’t, click “Start.” When you have finished, click “Apply” and “OK.”

startup type is automatic

Step #4

After you made the changes, you need to restart your computer. If you can’t access the Power icon on the Start menu because of your Search malfunction, simply press the [Ctrl], [Alt], and [Delete] keys on your keyboard at the same time to access the Task Manager menu, click the Power icon, and choose “Restart.”

restart under power icon

Again, check the Search function. Hopefully, it has returned to normal. Otherwise, continue reading for more methods of dealing with this issue.

Update or Uninstall a Third-Party Antivirus

Some third-party antivirus programs are notorious for causing search function issues. If you are using a third-party antivirus, the next thing you need to do is see if that is causing the problem. Windows 10 comes with Windows Defender, so first make sure Windows Defender has been deactivated if you are running a third-party antivirus. To find out how to deactivate Windows Defender, click here.

deactivate windows defender

Keep in mind that each antivirus is different, these instructions are general and not meant to be specific for your third-party antivirus program. Visit the manufacturer’s website for your antivirus to get specific instructions on how to update or uninstall your antivirus.

Step #1

You should be able to find an “Update” area as soon as you open your antivirus program. Sometimes, this is located in a “General” tab. In other cases, it may be under “Settings.” Click the correct button to update the program.

update button on antivirus program

Step #2

Once the update is complete, restart your computer. Now, check the search function. If it is still not working, you need to uninstall your third-party antivirus software. To do this, it should be the same on all Windows 10 computers. Press the [X] key and [Windows] key together. Then choose “Settings.”

settings in the quick link

Step #3

In the “Settings” window, click “Apps.” In the “Apps & Features” submenu, scroll down until you find your antivirus program. Click on it, and then click the “Uninstall” button.

uninstall antivirus program

Step #4

As you did previously, you need to restart your computer. Remember, you can press the [Ctrl], [Alt], and [Delete] keys on your keyboard at the same time to access the Task Manager menu if your Start menu does not display the Power icon.

restart under power icon

Step #5

Try the search function again. If the problem is resolved, you can try reinstalling your third-party antivirus. If the problem appears after you reinstall the antivirus again, you will need to uninstall it and find another antivirus program or turn on Windows Defender and use that. Make sure you have one antivirus running on your computer at all times.

Rebuild the Window’s 10 Index

This method takes a little bit of time, but it recreates the index used by the search feature.

Step #1

Press the [R] key and the [Windows] keys on your keyboard at the same time. This will open the Run box. Type “Control Panel” into the prompt and click “OK.”

control panel in run box

Step #2

Change the Control Panel view to “Large Icons.” (“Small icons” would also work.) Look for the icon titled “Indexing Options” and click on that.

indexing options under control panel

Step #3

Now, choose “Advanced” at the bottom of the Indexing Options window.

advanced indexing options window

Step #4

Now click on “Rebuild.” Again, this process will take some time. Click “OK” when it tells you this.

rebuild button

Once the index is rebuilt, you can check to see if the search function is working again. If it isn’t, continue to the next method.

Create a New User Account With Administrative Privileges

Sometimes, certain settings you saved can create search feature issues. By creating a new account with administrative privileges, you will reset these settings and restore the search feature.

Step #1

Right-click on the taskbar and choose “Task Manager.”

task manager in list

Step #2

When the Task Manager opens, click “File” in the upper left-hand corner. Choose “Run new task” from the drop-down menu. Type “PowerShell” into the window that opens and check the box next to “Create this task with administrative privileges” before clicking “OK.”

open poweshell with administrative privileges

Step #3

Type “net user DifferentUsername DifferentPassword /add” without the quotation marks into the PowerShell prompt. You need to replace DifferentUsername with the actual username you want for the new account. DifferentPassword should be replaced with the password you want to use for the new account. Neither the password nor the username can contain any spaces, and both will be case-sensitive. When you have finished typing the command in, press [Enter] to execute it.

net user powershell prompt

Step #4

This is another method that requires you to restart your computer before the changes take effect.. Close the PowerShell window, and restart using the Start menu Power icon or by pressing the [Ctrl], [Alt], and [Delete] keys simultaneously on your keyboard to access the Task Manager menu and the Power icon there. When the computer restarts, you have to log on to the new user account you created using the new username and password you typed into the PowerShell command.

restart under power icon

Re-register Cortana

In some cases, the registration process for Cortana is missing on your computer, which creates search function problems. This is the best option for resolving the issue if one of these caused it.

Step #1

Press the [X] and the [Windows] keys together. Click on “Windows PowerShell (Admin).” Choose “Yes” if the system wants permission for the app to make changes.

windows powershell in quick link

Step #2

Type Get-AppxPackage Microsoft.Windows.Cortana | Foreach {Add-AppxPackage –DisableDevelopmentMode –Register “$($_.InstallLocation)\ AppXManifest.xml”} into the PowerShell or copy and paste the command. Press [Enter] when you are done. It may take some time to register.

get appxpackage in windows powershell

Step #3

Now, restart your computer. Press the [Ctrl], [Alt], and [Delete] keys together, click the Power icon, and choose “Restart.”

restart under power icon

Update Java

This method will only work if you already have Java installed on your computer. If you don’t have Java, continue to the next method (method 12).

Step #1

Press the [R] key and the [Windows] keys on your keyboard at the same time. This will open the Run box. Type “Control Panel” into the prompt and click “OK.”

control panel in run box

Step #2

The Control Panel view should already be on “Large icons” or “Small icons” from a previous method, but if it isn’t, switch it. Look for the icon titled “Programs and Features” and click on that.

programs and features under control panel

Step #3

Look for Java in the list of programs. If it isn’t there, you do not already have it installed and should continue to the next method (method 12). If you do find it, click on it and open the Java Control Panel. Follow the instructions here to make sure you are using the latest version. 

Once you finish, see if the search feature is functioning again. Continue reading if you are still having issues with it.

Do a Clean Boot

Third-party apps, such as Dropbox, will interfere with the search function. A clean boot restarts the computer with only necessary Microsoft apps running. If a third-party app is the cause, you can try updating the app or uninstalling it to fix the issue permanently, but this method can help you pinpoint which apps are affecting the search feature.

Step #1

Be sure to log in as an administrator. Then, press the [R] key and the [Windows] key together to open the Run box. Type “msconfig,” and click “OK.”

msconfig in run box

Step #2

The System Configuration appears, and you need to open the “Services” tab. “Hide all Microsoft services” is found at the bottom of the window and should have a checkmark next to it. (Click it if it doesn’t.) Then click “Disable all.”

disable all in services tab

Step #3

Now, click the “Startup” tab and click on “Open Task Manager” there.

open task manager under startup tab

Step #4

When the Task Manager opens, click the tab labeled “Startup.” Select each item there and click the button to “Disable” each one if they aren’t already disabled. Then close the Task Manager and return to the System Configuration window.

disable item in startup tab

Step #5

On the System Configuration window, click the “Apply” button and then “OK.”

apply-ok button on system configuration

Step #6

As before, Restart your computer using either the Start menu Power icon or by pressing [Ctrl], [Alt], and [Delete] to open the Task Manager menu window.

restart under power icon

Step #7

After the computer restarts, see if you can use the search feature. If you can, repeat the steps above, but this time “enable” each app one at a time and restarting after each until you find the app (or apps) causing the error.

Until you determine which app is interfering, you will need to use your computer in the Clean Boot state. If this method did not work, continue to the next method.

Perform a System Restore

To do this method, you would have had to have created a system restore point manually before the search feature stopped working properly or had a restore point automatically created. You can find out how to turn the System Restore feature on and create a restore point here. If you do have a restore point that was created before the problem, you can restore your system to that point. Although some of your information might be lost, this method is a quick fix to this frustrating problem.

Step #1

You need to open the Windows quick menu by pressing the [X] and [Windows] keys at the same time again. Choose “Settings.”

settings in the quick link

Step #2

Choose “Update & Security.” Then, click on “Recovery” on the left side menu in the window that opens. You should see “Advanced Start-up” on the right. Click the “Restart now” button found underneath that.

advanced startup restart now

Step #3

Now Windows will restart, and you will see the “Choose an Option” menu. Select “Troubleshoot.”

troubleshoot options menu

Step #4

Pick “Advanced Options” on the Troubleshoot menu.

advanced options on troubleshoot menu

Step #5

Now, select “System Restore.”

system restore under advanced options

Reset the Computer

If you don’t have a system restore point and if none of the other methods mentioned in this walkthrough work, you will have to reset your computer if you want to be able to use the search feature again.

Step #1

Once again, press the [X] and [Windows] keys together. Choose “Settings” from the menu.

settings in the quick link

Step #2

Click on “Update & Security.” Then click “Recovery” on the left side. You should see “Reset this PC” on the right. Click the “Get started” button found underneath that.

reset pc under recovery

Step #3

Now click “Keep my files” and continue. The computer will reset to Windows 10 factory conditions and save any documents you have.

keep my files option in reset this pc