Oh, I read the whole thing alright, and I knew you would protest when I talked about Windows search. However, in my brief research into the issue, I found that your issue *possibly* has to do with windows search being disabled. Thus, a logical troubleshooting step would be to ensure that windows search is not disabled and then see if the issue is still happening. ....
My apologies to bludshot: upon re-reading my OP again today, I understand why you asked. Although I wish that you had said that you wanted to confirm whether it was disabled on the current Win7 Pro installation. In 20/20 hindsight, I did not offer as much information about the current install as, perhaps, I should have disclosed. I was hoping that someone who has encountered the same problem and found a solution would respond with the fix. It didn't occur to me that anyone would "research" the matter -- I had already spent quite a bit of time and effort doing that myself.
First: what I wanted to do, actually, was to disable Windows search indexing to prevent Windows from "tagging" each and every file stored on the new Solid State Drive (SSD) on which I had installed Win7 Pro afresh. Regardless of what I did, Windows continued to build an index file, although it eventually became very, very small.
What I had forgotten is that indexing can be disabled via Control Panel > Programs and Features > Turn Windows features on or off.
So, yes, Windows search was disabled. If I did not disable it while attempting to stop Windows from building an index, then perhaps I disabled it in the course of following a "guide" (offered by another website) to configuring Windows for use with a Solid State Drive (SSD), which included using the Control Panel feature above.
And, yes, enabling Windows Search via Control Panel > Programs and Features > Turn Windows features on or off does restore the "Search programs and files" field to the bottom of the main Start Menu panel, and it has found msconfig.sys and regedit.exe.
Is that "the answer"? So far, so good. In my years of experience with Windows, it has never had any feature that is 100% reliable. It has often been impossible to determine exactly why something broke, even if we have discovered how to fix it.
Ironically, I don't use the Start Menu search feature very often. As I mentioned in my OP, I began using Agent Ransack after I disabled Windows indexing because it was so obviously broken (in the previous installation). I don't know whether indexing still has the same problems, but I am disabling it for a different reason.
If indexing is disabled, though, every time you use Windows search, it will display a yellow "info bar" just to let you know that the search will be faster if indexing is enabled. In my experience, Agent Ransack returns results faster than Windows search returns them without indexing available, and that is why I have used it.
Not that it probably matters to anyone posting to this forum, but I've certainly contributed considerable time and effort, on and off over the span of two decades, assisting other people on other websites and in other contexts. Although, I've usually refrained from aiding people with Windows issues per se. Instead, I've mostly offered advice and help for resolving problems that occur when using various applications with Windows. Since I retired, I don't use most of those apps now and don't know anything about issues in the most recent versions.
For a long time, I was expert in systems security and helped people recover systems from malware. But I became rather burned out doing that, and I don't keep up with it any more. At least I never got to the point of replying with boilerplate, although I can understand why some contributors do that and only that. It is just another way of saying RTFM. ....
Thanks for your time and attention to this issue. TTYSOT
Edited by StarGator, 03 December 2014 - 05:09 AM.