Fix Search association settings in Vista

After installing Windows Vista Service Pack 1, when you click Start, type a search string in the Instant Search box, and press ENTER, one of the following problems may occur:

  • Nothing happens
  • Two instances of search window are opened
  • You receive the following error:
This file does not have a program associated with it for performing this action. Create an association in the Set Associations control panel.

Fix Permissions for the Search key

Click Start, type regedit.exe and press ENTER

Navigate to the following key:


Ignore the following error message:

An error is preventing this key from being opened.
Details: Access is denied.

1. Right-click the Search key and choose Permissions…

2. Click Advanced, and select the Owner tab

3. Select Administrators under Change owner to: section

4. Click Apply, OK

5. Back in the Security tab, click Add

6. Type Administrators and press ENTER

7. Select the Allow check box for Full Control permission

8. Click Add, type Users and press ENTER

9. Select the Allow check box for the Read permission

10. Click Add, type SYSTEM and press ENTER

11. Select the Allow check box for Full Control permission

12. Click OK.

If the permissions are correct and the problem still persists, then this may be due to missing association settings. I have created a .reg file that should fix the problem.

Fixing the Search Protocol

1. Download fix_srch_assoc.reg and save it to the Desktop.

2. Right-click on the file and choose Merge.

3. Click Yes when asked for confirmation.

4. Logoff and login back and check if Search work correctly.

Editor’s note: This problem does not occur in every Windows Vista computer with SP1 installed. None of my systems running Windows Vista Service Pack 1 exhibit this behavior.

Last Updated on March 24, 2008

About the author

Ramesh Srinivasan founded back in 2005. He is passionate about Microsoft technologies and has a vast experience in the ITeS industry — delivering support for Microsoft's consumer products. He has been a Microsoft MVP [2003 to 2012] who contributes to various Windows support forums.

2 thoughts on “Fix Search association settings in Vista

  1. hours and hours and hours and hours looking–
    FINALLY yours worked though i had to do the reg entries manually it worked
    halo looooooya

  2. had the problem that search resulted in nothing … neither programs nor files.

    telll users that the problem occurs if you index folders of type “picture”, i.e. trying to display pictures in the start-menu-result-list.

    not indexing file contents but only file properties of folder “my pictures” solved the problem.

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