Why I can’t use Microsoft Live Search for real work

I’ve complained before about the quality of Microsoft’s Live Search vs Google; but today’s example seemed too good an illustration not to mention.

I needed to update Windows XP to SP3. In particular, I wanted what Microsoft calls the “network” download; that is, the entire service pack, not the launcher app that initiates a piecemeal download tailored to the specific machine.

I pulled up Live Search and entered “windows xp sp3 download”.

To my surprise, Live Search offered me only third party download sites in its first page of results. Actually, that’s not strictly true. At number 8 is the download for “Windows XP SP3 RC2 Refresh” (obsolete); and at number 10 the general home page for XP downloads:

Find popular Windows XP downloads, including PowerToys, trial software, tools and utilities

I tried Google. Same search. The official network download is in first place. The official piecemeal download is second.

I know: you can argue that this is just an isolated search, and that some other search might show Google in an equally bad light. However, I find this constantly: Google gets me much better results. Further, this case is particularly telling, since a third-party download site is not what you want when patching Windows. Quite likely those other sites do point you to the correct official download eventually; but getting Microsoft downloads from Microsoft’s site is safer.

I am not surprised Microsoft has a tiny share of the search market; and I don’t believe this is simply because of Google’s clever marketing.

Update PS: The above screen grab still matches what I get today. However, users in different countries may get different results; from the comments below I suspect that US users get better results in this instance. Maybe Live Search is worse in the UK than in the US; I’d be interested to know.

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16 thoughts on “Why I can’t use Microsoft Live Search for real work”

  1. Wow You are the first person I heard about that actualy try to use Live search 🙂

  2. Just tried it, he’s right. Had same experience looking for some stuff on wpf earlier today in fact.

  3. I agree. But you know what is worst?

    Google being the best does not necessarily mean that their search results ROCK. 🙁

    It just means that the other huge giants are even more stupid than Google…

  4. Tried it, worked fine. First two hits were the same as Google.

    Not that I’m a fan of Live (I’m not).

    Move along sheeple, there’s nothing to see here.

  5. @Tim, the one you were looking for was at 11(in page 2).. i think MS guys saw your post, so they just rolled out a new patch just before @Michael did his search..
    somth like:

    results = search(q);
    if(q == “windows xp sp3 download”){results[0] = results[10];}


  6. I suspect those of you gettting good results are in the USA. Maybe some algorithm is considering microsoft.com as a US site and therefore uninteresting to a UK user. Though that doesn’t explain another US site, softwarepatch.com, comes top when I search from here.


  7. My first guess would be that the difference in search results is due primarily to Live Search’s reliance on *paid* placement in it’s search results. The reason the third party sites are there first is because they paid to be there.

  8. I use live search as my primary search engine I actually like it. This one example can not be your defining reason. PS: I tried the exact same search 4 minutes after u posted this and I got the correct link, FYI.

  9. @dions30

    Are you in the USA? I’m getting the impression the search works better there.


  10. I give up !

    I just typed a question ‘ why cant live search find my web site’ – seems a simple question.

    the third highest ranking result was ‘ why cant I get an erection during sexual intercourse’

    Well done MSN, you are either psychic or useless.

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