Why some app shortcuts never appear in Windows 10 search results and how to fix it

Remember when dragging a program into the Start Menu would add a shortcut to the Start Menu? And the shortcut would actually show up when you search for it?

In Windows 10, you can’t drag a .exe (or a shortcut) into the Start Menu anymore. So if you’ve installed a program and it didn’t create an entry in Start, or if you’ve downloaded a standalone .exe you want to add to Start, the easiest way would be to right-click your program and choose “Pin to Start”. Don’t do that.

Pinning a program to Start will add a tile to the right side of Start, but it will never show up as a search result when you type the program’s name. Typical workarounds won’t work (like adding the shortcut manually in Explorer, rebuilding your index, or removing and re-adding the shortcut). Yep, Pin to Start breaks Windows, and it’s infuriating and consternating users.

This is only a problem for an app that isn’t already in the Start Menu. You can pin existing shortcuts without a problem.

Reset a program’s entry in the Start Menu

If you just want to add a new program to Start, skip to the next section. But if you’re here, chances are your Start menu is already screwed up because you tried pinning something.

Pinning a new app will add that tile to Start but won’t make it appear in search results. Worse, Windows will forever remember what apps you’ve pinned. If you unpin the app and try to add a shortcut in the Start folder manually, Windows will happily re-pin that app for you, and Start will never show it in searches.

So first, we have to trick Windows into forgetting our pinned entry by overwriting it.

  1. Unpin the app
  2. Rename the app’s directory, e.g. from AwesomeApp to AwesomeApp2
  3. Create a new shortcut for the app’s new location in your Start Menu directory:
    %AppData%\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs
  4. Rename the app’s directory back to its original name, e.g. AwesomeApp

The app should appear in Start searches now, as well as the program list. You can also safely pin the app now without dropping it from search results.

Add a program to Start, the right way

Here’s a bug-free way to add a shortcut to Start that will show up in search results and the program list. If you’ve already tried pinning the app, you need the steps in the previous section. Otherwise, it’s easy:

  1. Open your Start Menu directory in Explorer:
    %AppData%\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs
  2. Open the app’s directory in another Explorer window
  3. Alt-drag the app into the Start Menu folder to create a shortcut

It’s pretty simple; you just have to add the shortcut manually instead of using “Pin to Start”. Again, once you’ve done this, feel free to pin and unpin the app or rename the shortcut.

You could add the shortcut to %ProgramData%\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs instead if you prefer.