Help! My SharePoint Help Search is Broken

Was your SharePoint Help Search broken? Here’s why:

Recently, we had a ticket submitted to us regarding a SharePoint 2013 Foundation server who’s Help Search was in a broken state. Every time we tried to use the search, it would load a big nasty, multi-language error saying, “Sorry, the page you’re looking for can’t be found.”

Typically if SharePoint Help doesn’t work, it loads a blank white page, but, in this case, we get an error page.

SharePoint Help Search Broken

After much troubleshooting, we found some of our other SharePoint sites were having the same problem.

Some of the SharePoint sites were on 2010, others 2013. Also, it didn’t seem to matter if it was Foundation or Server – all of them had problems reaching the Search Help page. After worrying a bit that we may have a possible problem with all our SharePoint sites we host, we did some research.

We quickly discovered this problem affected more than just the SharePoint environments we host; it was a global SharePoint issue.

It seems as though the page that would do the search was just broken and had no relation to the SharePoint environment itself. The actual webpage Microsoft was hosting was broken. We found a TechNet article that had a posting from Microsoft regarding the exact issue and it stated:

“Regarding your concern with SharePoint, I can inform you that this is a general concern, and that is not from your system or configuration. We are working on this issue to try to find a solution as quickly as possible. One way to solve temporarily, in some cases, this concern would be as follows (with SharePoint 2010 she normally works well with SharePoint 2013, only in some cases):

  • Go to central admin url and replace “default.apx” by“ admin/privacy.aspx
  • Display Help from external Web Sites as specified by each Help collection. Click No.

This allows for local SharePoint help, but online help is still unavailable.

This workaround Microsoft provided disables the online help search, so it will only look toward local resources for help.  This isn’t a fix however, but it will get rid of the error page and will limit the search results to information store in the help files.

SharePoint Help Search Privacy Options

This is the SharePoint forum where we found this information regarding the help page being down for all SharePoint users.

Another TechNet article addresses the same problem:

However, before this blog was posted, Microsoft seems to have fixed the broken web page. The page would originally load to this resource, which is still down.

On this broke search page, if you navigate to the bottom of the page, there’s a link to Support which takes you to support.office.com. So you still can search for articles if you ever get that page. You’ll notice that the support.office.com page is now the new fixed link. Here is a link to the now fixed SharePoint Help page.

In that link, you’ll notice in the search terms the top one is “qu=test” and the bottom link is “query=help.” Below is a screenshot of the working search for the term “help”:

SharePoint Help Search

This help search page isn’t a unique website to SharePoint; it’s a support page Microsoft provides for a variety of their Office products.

The page has since been fixed by Microsoft, so if you have changed the help to look at the local resources by changing the settings on the privacy page, you can turn the “Display Help from external Web Sites as specified by each Help collection” back to “Yes.”

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