Windows 10 users encountering problems with built-in search

Microsoft's Windows Search service that's built into Windows 10 is encountering issues. No word yet on the cause or ETA for a fix.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

On February 5, many Windows 10 users have found themselves unable to use the Windows Search service that's built into the operating system. When clicking on the search box in the OS, users are getting a blank gray or black box.

Some are reporting that when they decouple Bing from their search results that they again can see Windows Search results.

I'm running Windows 10 1909 and am hitting the blank box issue. Bing.com isn't down for me. I've tried several of Microsoft's suggested fixes for search issues in Windows Search but so far am having no luck.

I've asked Microsoft what's going on and when/how they expect to resolve the issue. No word back so far.

For the past several years, Microsoft been working to unify and personalize its search experience across Office 365, Windows and Bing.  Microsoft's plan has been to feature the search box "in a consistent, prominent place across Edge, Bing, Windows and Office apps, so that search is always one click away." The company also is "supercharging" the search box so that users can more easily find people, related content, commands for apps and more before they actually start typing in the search box, as it will be contextually aware and offer proactive search results and suggestions.

When users are signed into their Microsoft business accounts, Microsoft Search in Bing (formerly known as Bing for Business) acts like an Intranet search and will surface documents, contacts and other company information via the Bing search engine. 

Microsoft recently announced a (very bad) plan to hijack the Chrome browsers of Office 365 ProPlus users with an automatic Microsoft Search in Bing extension which will change users' search engines to Bing. Admins can block this extension in advance using these steps. Microsoft is planning to roll this extension out in certain countries starting in mid-February and plans to also bring it to Firefox at a later date, despite many users' and admins' protests and complaints.

Update (12:30 p.m. ET): I'm still not able to use Windows Search. Nor are many of the folks I see commenting on Twitter. The MSFT365Status account on Twitter has been posting a few vague updates about what's happening. 

First, that account said Microsoft was "investigating a potential access and latency issue with multiple Microsoft 365 services." (That was a couple hours ago.) Then that account said they've "rerouted user connections and validated that impact associated with MO203172 has been remediated." (That was an hour ago.)

Update (1 pm ET): A Microsoft spokesperson says the issue should now be resolved for most. You need to reboot your PC -- at least once. In my case, third reboot was the charm. No word on what caused the issue or how Microsoft intends to prevent this from happening in the future.

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