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Windows 10's Latest Search Woes Prompt Widespread Backlash

(Image credit: Antonio Guillem/Shutterstock)

Windows 10's search tool stopped working earlier this week. Instead of the blank text field just waiting for user queries, the operating system displayed a black box, leaving users without a convenient way to run local searches. Microsoft quickly responded to the issue, but many aren't satisfied. 

The company said on February 5 that it was "aware of a temporary server-side issue causing Windows search to show a blank box." This issue was reportedly fixed "for most users," Microsoft said, although the affected Windows 10 users might have to restart their systems to regain access to the search function "in some cases."

Microsoft then said the issue was resolved for most by 12 p.m. PT on February 5. That didn't include people who needed to restart their devices for the fix to take effect or those who "may need to manually end the SearchUI.exe or SearchApp.exe process via Task Manager." (Although that was purportedly limited to "rare cases.")

That alone was enough to prompt backlash from some users. Why did Windows need access to Microsoft servers to conduct local searches? How much information about those searches--and their results--was being shared with Microsoft? And how could such a critical utility fail for so many people?

But the community's anger was exacerbated by reports that Microsoft's fixes--restarting a system or ending the relevant processes in Task Manager--didn't actually resolve the problem for all Windows 10 users. It's not clear how may people remained affected by the issue, but any number higher than zero ain't great.

A discussion thread on Reddit included many complaints about this most recent Windows 10 search failure, for example, and other threads have offered tips on how to prevent the utility from relying on external Microsoft services. 

Susan "Patch Lady" Bradley also published an open letter to Microsoft's Panos Panay, the chief product officer for the Microsoft Devices Group, asking for Microsoft to be more transparent with Windows 10 users about how their data is being used. Bradley wrote:

"It’s not enough to post up whitepapers on how your cloud services provide privacy and security. Your firm has to earn our trust in the actions of your firm. Your firm can’t go back to the behavior of a software bully.  Microsoft, remember not THAT long ago you had to pay penalties and fees for doing monopolistic behavior. Don’t do that again.

"So please. As you take over the reins of this company, your shareholders aren’t the only important people you need to cater to. Your customers, those of us that have to trust you with our data, our businesses, our future endeavors deserve better behavior than this."

We now have new privacy concerns about ostensibly local searches and claims that Microsoft didn't actually solve the issue. It probably doesn't help that Windows 10's search tool experienced problem after problem throughout 2019, either. At this point it's no wonder that there are Windows 10 users who aren't happy with Microsoft.