What's the difference between the keyboard shortcuts Windows Key and Windows Key + S?

I seem to be able to find applications, documents and settings in both of the dialogs.


Windows Key opens the start menu:

Windows start menu

Image source

Windows Key + S opens the "Search Windows" dialog:

Search Windows dialog

Image source

  • Well that's the difference.
    – Xavierjazz
    Oct 20, 2016 at 19:30
  • @Xavierjazz: Well, wouldn't it be pretty stupid to put two different dialogs onto the task bar that have the exact same function? There must be some kind of difference.
    – Lernkurve
    Oct 20, 2016 at 20:03
  • In your first example, you open the start menu, in the other you open the Cortana search dialog. I don't understand the question, actually your question is clear, I just don't understand where your confusion lies/lays. Only difference between Windows 7 and Windows 10, with regards to search, is that the Windows Key+S shortcut didn't exist before Windows 10 because Windows Key+ S is actually the search shortcut for Cortana.
    – Ramhound
    Oct 20, 2016 at 20:15
  • @Ramhound: What's the difference when Cortana is turned off? In the first screenshot it says "Ask me anything" and the mic icon for Cortana is on. But the second screenshot shows a version where Cortana is turned off. Is there any difference in that scenario? I have the second scenario on my work computer because the IT has turned Cortana off.
    – Lernkurve
    Oct 20, 2016 at 21:49
  • "What's the difference when Cortana is turned off?" - Its basically Cortana offline. So you don't search online results and don't use voice command. Worth pointing out that, in both screenshots, Version 1511 is being used.
    – Ramhound
    Oct 20, 2016 at 22:31

1 Answer 1


Historically the Windows Key + S key opened the Windows search box which was not part of the start menu. Now they are effectively the same thing almost so there is not much difference in Windows 10.

The only real difference is the fact that through the Windows Key + S key, you won't see the apps but the search instead.

  • Won't see the apps? But when I enter "Word" the first hit is "Word 2016 (Desktop app)". Did I misunderstand you?
    – Lernkurve
    Oct 20, 2016 at 19:59
  • 1
    You misunderstood @IronWilliamCash just a bit. He meant 'not see immediately after the keypress'. If you hit only Windows you will be able to search and already see apps, while starting the search with Windows + S will show you an empty list until you start to type. Exactly as your screenshots are showing.
    – Zina
    Oct 20, 2016 at 20:14
  • @Zina wrote exactly what I mean. It has everything to do with the first loading of the menu and what appears on it. Oct 20, 2016 at 21:49
  • 1
    @IronWilliamCash - I know. The comment was meant to be for the OP. Tried to explain him what you meant :)
    – Zina
    Oct 20, 2016 at 23:26

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