Silently change Firefox default search engine

Brock Bingham candid headshot
Brock Bingham|May 26, 2022
Silently change Firefox default search engine Image
Silently change Firefox default search engine Image

Everyone knows that Google Chrome dominates the browser market. Ever since it dethroned Internet Explorer in 2012, it's reigned over its browser siblings with an iron fist, consistently hovering around a 65% market share. But did you know that its search engine boasts even more impressive stats? That's right, Google's search engine dominates the market with 92% global usage. But just because it's popular doesn't mean it's the best search engine for you and your organization. As online privacy concerns escalate, it may be time to switch to a search engine that isn't owned by a company that generates 80% of its revenue ($147 billion in 2020) from ads.

If you've already kicked Google Chrome to the curb, transitioned to Firefox, and now you're looking for a new search engine, we'll show you how to change it using several different methods.

How to manually change your default search engine in Firefox

Changing the default search engine in Firefox using the settings page is quick and easy. I like to consider this the home user approach. If you only need to change Firefox's search engine on one or two devices, this method is all you need.

1. With Firefox open, click the menu (hamburger) button.

Firefox default search Image 1

2. Click Settings.

3. From the settings menu, click the Search menu option.

Firefox default search image 2

4. Under the Default Search Engine section, click the dropdown menu to select your search engine of choice.

Firefox search engine image 3

The dropdown menu will let you choose from Google, Amazon.com, Bing, DuckDuckGo, eBay, and Wikipedia.

Adding more search providers in Firefox

Fear not if your preferred search engine is a bit more eccentric and you don't see it in the dropdown menu as an option. Firefox lets you download additional search engines from its add-on browser. Here's how:

1. At the bottom of the Search settings page, click the Find more search engines link.

Firefox search engine image 4

2. At the add-ons window, enter the search engine you want to use in the search field and hit enter.

Firefox search engine image 5

3. Click on the resultant search engine, then click Add to Firefox.

Firefox search engine image 6

4. When the confirmation window opens, click Add.

Firefox search engine image 7

5. Return to the Search settings windows, and the Default Search Enginedropdown menu should now have an option for the search provider you just added.

Firefox search engine image 8

Just because the rest of the world doesn't use your preferred search engine doesn't mean you can't. Go ahead; it's okay to be different.

How to change Firefox's default search engine using Group Policy

If you're a system administrator, I know what you're thinking. There's not enough time in the day to go to every computer and change this setting one at a time. Thankfully, Firefox provides policy templates that we can use to manage Firefox through Group Policy. Here's how to change the default search engine in Firefox using Group Policy.

1. Download the Firefox policy templates from its Github page.

2. Extract the contents of the .ZIP file.

3. Open the policy_template folder, then open the windows subdirectory.

4. Copy the firefox.admx file, the mozilla.admx file, and the en-US folder and its contents.

Firefox search engine 9

5. Place the copied items in the PolicyDefinitions folder in SYSVOL. If the PolicyDefinitions folder doesn't exist, manually create it. Here is an example path:

\\domain-controller\SYSVOL\domain-name\Policies\PolicyDefinitions

Firefox search engine image 10

6. Open up Group Policy Management.

7. Right-click on the OU you want to link the new group policy to, then click Create a GPO in this domain, and Link it here… I'll be configuring this on the user level, so I'll link it to one of my user OUs.

Firefox search engine image 11

8. Enter a name for the group policy, then click OK.

Firefox search engine image 12

9. Right-click on your newly created group policy object and click Edit….

Firefox search engine image 13

10. Expand User Configuration > Policies > Administrative Templates > Mozilla > Firefox then click on the Search folder.

Firefox search engine image 14

11. Double-click on the Default Search Engine policy.

12. Select Enabled, then enter one of the included search engines into the empty field. For this example, I'll set my search engine to Bing.

Firefox search engine image 15

13. Click OK when you're finished.

With that policy in place, we can launch Firefox to make sure our default search engine has changed to Bing.

Firefox search engine image 16

When testing, make sure group policy has had a chance to propagate across the network. You can also force it by running gpudpate at the command prompt. Also, ensure you're using an account affected by the new policy. You can also set this policy at the computer level if that makes more sense for your organization.

Is it time to change your default search engine?

With online privacy becoming more of a concern and a challenge these days, it may be time to change your default search engine. Thankfully, changing your search engine in Firefox isn't complicated, even if you need to do it across your entire organization.

Have other changes or applications that need to be distributed across your network? Check out PDQ Deploy and Inventory, which make it easy to manage endpoints and deploy applications, files, scripts, and more across your entire organization in minutes. Try them out for yourself with a 14-day free trial.

Brock Bingham candid headshot
Brock Bingham

Born in the '80s and raised by his NES, Brock quickly fell in love with everything tech. With over 15 years of IT experience, Brock now enjoys the life of luxury as a renowned tech blogger and receiver of many Dundie Awards. In his free time, Brock enjoys adventuring with his wife, kids, and dogs, while dreaming of retirement.

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