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Windows 8.1 Windows Search/Indexing will not start

Posted on 2013-10-30
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Last Modified: 2013-11-01
After upgrading last week from Windows 8.0 (which I liked very much) to Windows 8.1, Windows Search Service (and Indexing) will not start.  In the Computer Management window, after trying to manually restart Windows Search, the Error message displayed is:
"Windows could not start the Windows Search service on Local Computer.  Error 2:  The system cannot find the file specified."

This same Windows Search failure has appeared on another PC which I also upgraded to Windows 8.1 from 8.0 about the same time.

MS Level 2 tech support have reinstalled 8.1 on both machines but so far cannot resolve the issue.
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Question by:rjjacobs
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ZamZ0 earned 2000 total points
ID: 39612812
A couple of things - you may want to try from an elevated command prompt (right click command prompt shortcut and run as administrator)

sfc /scannow

Also, check C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Search\Data to see if its empty. You will need to go into Windows Explorer and first enable viewing of hidden files and viewing of system files (two separate checkboxes) In the Organize menu option and then View/Folder Options. Sometimes this folder gets removed/corrupted and you'll need to restore from a backup or copy from another pc that has those folders. You could try a system restore but I don't think that will help with lost files (search for System Restore from the search menu/charms widget)

Lastly, MS has a hotfix that might work:

http://support.microsoft.com/mats/windows_search/
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Expert Comment

by:McKnife
ID: 39612921
Is MS support done yet? Why not wait a little?
Have they verified if the error applies, so if the path of the service executable really ain't accessible by the configured account (which would need to be the local system account)? ->C:\WINDOWS\system32\SearchIndexer.exe
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Author Comment

by:rjjacobs
ID: 39614004
ZamZ0 -  Thanks for the quick reply.  After restarting Windows Search last night with your assistance following a system restore to a point back when Windows Search was working, I left the machine on overnight but then rebooted this morning, only to find Windows Search stopped again and refusing to restart (missing file problem).  System Mechanic 12 had run overnight too, however, and had made a number of registry repairs automatically.  When I reversed those "repairs", Windows Search restarted and ran perfectly except for the need to now rebuild the indexes.  I've seen other posts where the suspicion was that System Mechanic was the cause of the stopped Windows Search, and I can now confirm that on my own system.
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Author Comment

by:rjjacobs
ID: 39617965
This is a follow-up. The same problem (Windows Search in Windows 8.1 is stopped) also occurs if Norton Utilities 16 runs a registry scan and makes changes to the registry.  This can be fixed and the Windows Search service restarted if you use NU's "restore registry backups"
option to remove and rollback the registry changes.

None of these issues occurred with Windows 8.0 or any earlier version of Windows in my experience.  A Symantec level 2 tech worked on my systems for several hours today and appeared baffled by the problem.  Clearly, Microsoft has made changes to the Windows Search service in 8.1 that Symantec and Iolo were not aware of.  Also, since this problem and recovery solutions work on two of my machines each upgraded from Windows 8.0 to 8.1 it seems unlikely this is a "machine specific" issue.
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