Windows 10 may now be essential but users new and old have had a rough ride in recent weeks. And it has just gotten a lot worse after a new, high-profile Windows 10 failure has left more questions than answers and some seriously angry users.
The drama began yesterday as Windows 10 users suddenly found that Search was broken with a black bar showing where search results should be, even for those who tried to perform a local search of their files. Breaking with tradition (1,2,3,4,5), Microsoft was fast to act blaming “a temporary server-side issue”. But the explanation instead kicked a hornet’s nest. First, the fix doesn’t work for everyone. Second, and more worryingly, Microsoft’s explanation doesn’t add up and it has prompted serious questions to be asked about how the operating system works and what personal data it is sharing.
02/08 Update: With tensions running high, Windows Latest has today spotted a further act by Microsoft which will not help matters. Missed by many, Microsoft’s release notes for Windows 10 20H1 Build 19035 reveal it has decided to delay plans to roll out its widely-praised Optional Update changes. The improvements, which would have given users greater control over the installation of driver updates (so frequently the source of Windows 10 problems) is now in limbo with Microsoft simply stating: “We’ve completed the experiment related to how we deliver driver updates through Windows Update. Devices that were involved in the experiment will no longer see the Optional Updates link under Settings > Windows Update.” Hope will now build that Microsoft will restore this lost functionality in its Windows 10 20H2 update but, even then, that would see it pushed to October or November. I have contacted Microsoft and asked for an explanation why the feature (which seemed to work well) was unceremoniously pulled.
02/09 Update: Windows 10 users need to brace themselves for further disruption as another Microsoft update is now causing significant problems for a number of users. Picked up by Windows Latest, KB4532695 (which already has some track history) is reported to be causing multiple problems including boot failures, broken sound, knocking out WiFi and Bluebooth adapters and the infamous Blue Screen of Death (BSOD). Ironically, another of its problems is a failure to install for some Windows 10 users who should count their blessings. Not helping matters is Microsoft’s official KB4532695 support page where the company continues to claim it “is not currently aware of any issues with this update.” Bear careful out there Windows 10 users.
Popular Microsoft pundit Woody Leonard led the charge, writing: “If you believe that yesterday’s worldwide crash of Windows 10 Search was caused by a bad third-party fiber provider, I have a bridge to sell you.”
In an open letter to new Windows head Panos Panay, Susan ‘Patch Lady’ Bradley was similarly sceptical, noting that today “we all found out that our local search boxes are somehow dependent on some service working at Microsoft.” She attacked the company for a lack of transparency and gave it a maximum ‘Pinocchio score’ for a lack of trust.
“Microsoft has been working to unify search experience across Windows, Bing, and Office 365 products…Microsoft’s efforts to supercharge the search box has many advantages, but such problems are ruining the company’s reputation,” said Windows Latest, in a stark warning.
Similarly, Engadget writer Richard Lawler revealed that users were now trying to hack the Windows 10 registry to disconnect their local file searches from Microsoft servers (more below) “and I can’t say I blame them after this episode. Microsoft owes users a better explanation than this and should make sure it’s impossible for offline features to get taken out when the cloud is having an issue.”
“That’s Microsoft’s underlying tactics all along: sneak questionable mechanics into Windows with updates, backtrack only if someone noticed them, reported them and if that creates a big enough public outcry,” commented one user.
On top of this, Microsoft’s supposed fix is a long way from being a slam dunk:
“Wow. This is still broken for me. Been broken all day. Even after reboot. This is f****** nuts, Microsoft. This should not be a thing,” – source
“I have rebooted like five times in the past hour and still have the same issue until now.” – source
“#windows10 #search still down for me, and yes I’ve restarted.” – source
Consequently, the aforementioned Windows 10 registry hack appears to be the only 100% fix for this issue and it also disconnects Bing and Cortana online services from Windows 10 search. As detailed on Reddit, you need to perform the following steps:
- Run Regedit.exe
- Navigate to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Search
- Look for ‘BingSearchEnabled’, if you don’t see it you will need to create it (right-click in a blank area, pick ‘New DWORD’ 32 bit. Type in ‘BingSearchEnabled’
- Open BingSearchEnabled, set it to 0, press OK.
- Look for ‘CortanaConsent’, again create it if you don’t have it using the method above. Also set it to 0.
All of which leaves Microsoft with some explaining to do. As Bradley concludes: “Your customers, those of us that have to trust you with our data, our businesses, our future endeavors deserve better behavior than this.”