Has your Win10 Search box gone black? Does Search even work?

The Windows 10 Search debacle continues, with many people reporting this morning that their Search box has turned black and that Search itself doesn’t work. The cause seems to be related to Microsoft moving Search from old-fashioned Win32 code to a new-fangled WinRT/UWP/JavaScript mess. Can you search this morning?

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Here’s a quick test. Fire up or reboot your Win10 machine. Click inside the Search box on the lower left. You should see something like the screenshot I posted on Computerworld two days ago. This morning, though, many people are reporting a completely black screen, as shown in this screenshot of a recently patched Win10 version 1903 system (Build 18362.592).

black search screen Woody Leonhard/IDG

In addition, Search simply doesn’t work: Type something in the Search box and nothing happens.

How is that possible? you ask. How can a key working piece of Windows 10 just fade to black? What did you do to break your machine?

The top-level answer is pretty simple: You didn’t do anything wrong. Microsoft reached into your Win10 PC overnight and screwed up its search function. Again. You didn’t give Microsoft permission to break Search. It just broke, all by itself.

For a more detailed explanation, specifically for Win10 version 1909, I’ll refer to @warrenrumak on AskWoody:

What really sticks out for me with some of these newer Search versions, is that they use a ton of memory. Click on the Search box and it immediately consumes 120+ MB of memory on my machine.

I did a little digging around I think I figured out why … the entire search box is now a web application built with JavaScript & React. This of course means that some kind of web rendering engine is required … it’s probably Edge.

Further exploration put the pieces together:

The search box on the Task Bar, and in Windows Explorer, both load C:WindowsSystemAppsMicrosoft.Windows.Search_(version)SearchApp.exe when you click on them. Only the UI is different.

As he pushed on his system, he triggered a compilation error (screenshot).

search javascript error Woody Leonhard/IDG

Which sure looks like a JavaScript smoking gun to me. @warrenrumak concludes:

JavaScript is used to render the filtered search results. No wonder it’s so buggy … that’s way too much unnecessary technology to render a drop-down list. 

Which brings me around to the question we’ve all been asking for the past few months: What’s wrong with Search in Win10 version 1909? @warrenrumak has a theory that sure rings true with me:

There is a lot of evidence in the JavaScript source to suggest that it was built by the Bing team. If I had to guess, I’d say that what happened here was that the desktop search experience was moved from the Windows team to the Bing web team, and they just don’t have the skills to build desktop programs with efficient C++.

And, it looks like there is a mechanism to update the JavaScript code from a remote server, without actually upgrading the Search application itself.

Maybe this also explains why the bugs with the new Windows Explorer search bar haven’t been acknowledged by the Windows team … could very well be that the Windows team doesn’t even own that code anymore!

We still haven’t resolved the question of what triggers a change in the text down in the Search box. Since writing about this two days ago, Howard Goldberg has extended the list of observed Search default texts:

  • Type here to search (vast majority, at least so it seems)
  • Search the web and PC (at least one from the original post)
  • Start your search (at least 1 confirmed with screenshot)
  • Start a Web Search (at least 3 confirmed)
  • Search (at least one confirmed with screenshot)

As for the black Search box, Goldberg has two different Win10 1909 systems, one of which works:

I went through both of my Win10 systems. … Cortana and Search settings are all configured identifically.

On one system, search is still ‘working.’ On my other system, it’s blank.

An anonymous poster now says that disabling Bing in Win10 Search, followed by a reboot, fixed the problem.

Whatever happened, it’s an unholy mess — and it’s being pushed without notification, without permission. Where’s the Windows team on all of this? Oh. That’s right. There isn’t a Windows team anymore.

Breaking Windows as a Service ...

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