If you haven’t heard by now, the Windows 11 desktop search box appears in Insider Build 25120. The search box, which first appeared in Windows XP, went missing in Windows 8 and hasn’t been seen since. Today, it’s back! How do you use it? What will this mean for all the third-party apps that have taken over the spot? Here’s what we know about the return of the classic search box, and how it might affect your work habits in Windows 11. Why the Windows 8 Desktop Search Box is Such a Big Deal
How do you get the new search box?
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You have to be using Insider Build 25120, which you can get by joining the Insiders program. Once you’re on that build, all you have to do is click on your start menu and then type search. The new search box will appear. Also note that if you already have Cortana installed, it will disappear for now; in Build 25120 Cortana and traditional desktop search are being combined into one thing called Search and Indexing. This change represents something Microsoft has been working towards for years: making its virtual assistant as useful as possible on all devices, including desktops and laptops where typing—and not talking—is more common. (You can still access Cortana via a taskbar button or hotkey.)
How does it work?
The most obvious use of a search box on your desktop is to quickly find documents, but it’s not limited to just that. Take files, for example. You can easily hide them by moving them off your desktop (or even onto another drive), and they might not show up in searches. With a search box, however, you can quickly scour both locations to make sure nothing gets lost. The same goes for applications: Just click on Start or hit Alt+F4 and start typing what you want to find. For all intents and purposes, having a full-size search bar on your desktop lets you replace your Start menu without actually losing any functionality—making it more than just something cool that’s nice-to-have in theory.
How can I turn it off?
If you don’t like it, don’t worry—Windows 10 allows you to easily turn off its functionality. You can just right-click on your taskbar and select Search. When that pop-up window opens, all you have to do is uncheck Show search box in Start menu and click Apply. Your changes will be reflected immediately in both the Start menu and on the taskbar at your discretion. That said, there may be times when it might make sense to keep it turned on—for example, if you use Cortana a lot or are prone to forgetting where an app or file lives.
What about Cortana?
The most obvious place to look for Cortana on your desktop is in your taskbar. Just move your mouse to hover over it, and Cortana’s taskbar button will pop up. Click that and you’ll get an expanded view of Cortana with all its various features (below). You can click or tap through any of these features to get additional functionality, or simply use it as a search box. It’s similar in functionality to what you might be used to with Google Now on Android, but integrated right into Windows itself. At least for now.