Changing default search provider in Internet Explorer 11 using Group Policies

As we all know, Internet Explorer’s default search provider is Bing – which is not the best choice for most of us. It’s pretty easy to change this on a standalone computer – simple steps for popular browsers are described at Google help pages: https://support.google.com/websearch/answer/464?hl=en

Problem comes up when we need to change such thing in a domain environment with hundreds of computers / users. It’s obvious you won’t go to every single device and set it up manually. Googling for solution brought me few ideas, but in every single one – user was notified by IE that some program want’s to change default search provider and therefore user has to allow / disallow this action – in most cases user either will ignore / disallow or call IT – more a problem than solution actually. Two examples are shown below:

2015-04-22 09_04_31-a program on your computer has suggested a new default search provider internet

IE8AntiPhishingPopUp

We want to be sure that new settings are applied and user is not notified or asked to do anything. Okay, how do we do that?

As always, settings are stored in Windows registry and you can find them under following key: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\SearchScopes – there you can find default Bing search provider settings.

registry-bing-search-provider

But configuring / changing anything under this hive will show up IE’s notification to user. To avoid such things, we have to configure new default serach provider under following  registry hive: HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Policies\Microsoft\Internet Explorer

All registry keys should be prepared in GPO!

Step 1. Create new key named “SearchScopes” in HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Policies\Microsoft\Internet Explorer

Step 2.  Generate random GUID, for example using powershell:

generate-new-guid-powershell

Generated GUID is going to be used as your SearchProvider GUID. Back in registry, create new key under SearchScopes named by GUID:

searchscope-guid-policy

Step 3. Now, we have define some additional values under our new scope and there are few options (it’s up to you what’s needed or not):

  • DisplayName (REG_SZ) – Simply, display name for your search provider. For example: “Google”
  • FaviconURL (REG_SZ) – Favicon link
  • ShowSearchSuggestions (REG_DWORD) – Used to enable / disable suggestions while typing in the address bar
  • SuggestionsURL (REG_SZ) – URL responsible to suggestions on the searchprovider side.
  • URL (REG_SZ) – Search URL.

Values that I used for Google are:

DisplayName:  Google
FaviconURL:  http://www.google.com/favicon.ico
ShowSearchSuggestions:  1
SuggestionsURL:  http://clients5.google.com/complete/search?q={searchTerms}&client=ie8&mw={ie:maxWidth}&sh={ie:sectionHeight}&rh={ie:rowHeight}&inputencoding={inputEncoding}&outputencoding={outputEncoding}
URL:  http://www.google.com/search?q={searchTerms}&sourceid=ie7&rls=com.microsoft:{language}:{referrer:source}&ie={inputEncoding?}&oe={outputEncoding?}

And this is how it looks in the registry:

searchscope-settings

Step 4.  Now when our searchscope is configured we need to make it our default scope. And this is configured by following key:

HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Policies\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\SearchScopes\DefaultScope

All you need to do is to update / create “DefaultScope” (REG_SZ) key with your GUID value:

searchscope-guid

Step 5.  At this point we need to restrict users to use SearchScopes specified by policy. In your GPO enable following Setting: User Configuration -> Policies -> Administrative Templates -> Windows Components -> Internet Explorer -> Restrict search providers to a specific list.

At the end your policy should look like:

grouppolicy

grouppolicy2

We’re done!

Simply apply your policy and open up IE. In the address bar type in anything you want and you should see search results / suggestions from Google!

google-anything

 

I hope that you find this article helpful 😉

23 thoughts on “Changing default search provider in Internet Explorer 11 using Group Policies

  1. This has been working fine up until Windows 10. All of my windows 10 systems have reverted to Bing and are not changing despite the fact that these registry entries are all in place. Any suggestions?

  2. @Pete: It’s just because of browser change. In Win7/8 we were using IE, while Windows 10 is provided with “Edge” browser. There is new set of group policies provided by Microsoft, but it’s just a few of them so far. As I can see, some settings are stored in HKU\Local Settings\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\AppContainer\Storage\microsoft.microsoftedge_8wekyb3d8bbwe\MicrosoftEdge, but I’m not sure yet if it’s what we are looking for. Will check that deeper tomorrow 🙂

    1. That’s not entirely true. Most Windows 10 installs come with both IE11 and Edge whereas Windows 10 Enterprise 2015 LTSB does NOT come with Edge at all. It only comes with IE11. I can confirm that these settings do not work on Windows 10 with IE11. Adding search providers does not add them to the SearchScope key.

  3. Thanks. But the key “Internet Explorer” does not exist in HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Policies\Microsoft\Internet Explorer. We are using Windows 7 x64

  4. The “Internet Explorer” key does not exist in HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Policies\Microsoft\Internet Explorer. Do we need to create this manually?

  5. Having the same problem, the GPO created the Key HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Policies\Microsoft\Internet Explorer. but still on Bing

  6. Daft question, but does the GUID need to be created on the machine in question that is having its default search provider changed, or can it be done on any machine and the valued used to be pushed out to all other machines?

  7. I’m afraid this doesn’t make sense to me, and doesn’t work the way I’ve tried it. You talk about creating the keys “in registry” but also say “All registry keys should be prepared in GPO!” without explaining this. I’ve created the keys using regedit.exe, exported them to the default registry hive for my OU and added the matching GUID as the default scope. I can’t see how to tie this in with the “Registry” section in the Group Policy editor, which doesn’t seem to let me add and amend keys in the way that regedit.exe does. What action should I perform in the Registry section of the Group Policy editor?

  8. Hi John

    As mentioned above, the keys should be created in Group Policy Editor under whatever Group Policy you wish to apply for computers/users to get the settings.
    For myself I did this under the User Configuration rather than the Computer Configuration

    1. Edit your Group policy
    2. Expand User Configuration > Preferences > Windows Settings
    3. Select Registry

    Here is where you want to create the new registry items as outlined above.

    So, in here, right click and select New > Registry Item. A “New Registry Properties” window will appear.

    I created the following keys in the following order to get mine to work. I have 6 in total.

    Action – Create
    Hive – HKEY_CURRENT_USER
    Key Path – Software\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\SearchScopes
    Value Name – DefaultScope
    Value Type – REG_SZ
    Value Data – {c57d4eab-89c2-47cb-b05d-56b26f6f1baf} – This is the GUID that you create when you follow step 2 at the top of this page.
    *Note – The GUID can be created on any machine.*

    Action – Create
    Hive – HKEY_CURRENT_USER
    Key Path – Software\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\SearchScopes\{c57d4eab-89c2-47cb-b05d-56b26f6f1baf}
    Value Name – DisplayName
    Value Type – REG_SZ
    Value Data – Google
    *Note – Again ensure the Key Path has the GUID you created and not the one I have used above. This will be the same for all the following keys*

    Action – Create
    Hive – HKEY_CURRENT_USER
    Key Path – Software\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\SearchScopes\{c57d4eab-89c2-47cb-b05d-56b26f6f1baf}
    Value Name – FaviconURL
    Value Type – REG_SZ
    Value Data – http://www.google.com/favicon.ico

    Action – Create
    Hive – HKEY_CURRENT_USER
    Key Path – Software\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\SearchScopes\{c57d4eab-89c2-47cb-b05d-56b26f6f1baf}
    Value Name – ShowSearchSuggestions
    Value Type – REG_DWORD
    Value Data – 1
    Base – Decimal

    Action – Create
    Hive – HKEY_CURRENT_USER
    Key Path – Software\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\SearchScopes\{c57d4eab-89c2-47cb-b05d-56b26f6f1baf}
    Value Name – SuggestionsURL
    Value Type – REG_SZ
    Value Data – http://clients5.google.com/complete/search?q={searchTerms}&client=ie8&mw={ie:maxWidth}&sh={ie:sectionHeight}&rh={ie:rowHeight}

    Action – Create
    Hive – HKEY_CURRENT_USER
    Key Path – Software\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\SearchScopes\{c57d4eab-89c2-47cb-b05d-56b26f6f1baf}
    Value Name – URL
    Value Type – REG_SZ
    Value Data – http://www.google.com/search?q={searchTerms}&sourceid=ie7&rls=com.microsoft:{language}:{referrer:source}&ie={inputEncoding?}&oe={outputEncoding?}

  9. In the Top-Section the Keys are set here:
    “HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Policies\Microsoft\Internet Explorer”
    The keys were set by GPO, but did not affect anything…
    I set the keys here: “HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Internet Explorer”
    ==>without “Policies” and it worked like a charm…
    Is that a mistake in this documentation or what’s wrong? 🙂

    1. Dear Kai Sch,
      Changing anything directly in HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Internet Explorer will pop-up user to allow / disallow this change. That’s why you should use HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Policies\Microsoft\Internet Explorer hive if you want to apply your changes in the background & without user interaction.

  10. Hi all,
    I still have the problem on Windows 10 with IE 11 , did someone found a solution ?
    It’s working on Windows 7 with Internet explorer 11.
    Best Regards,

  11. Hi, Thanks for this article. I have followed the instructions but i only red the comments after seing that it does’nt work anyone with Windows 10. 🙁
    Does anyone find a solution ?

  12. Under Windows 10, registry key has changed to Software\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\SearchScopes\{5f670e75-80aa-47dd-8321-98310dc3c50b}
    Without policies

  13. Hi Lukasz, it would be much clearer if you could specify each registry key that you need to add separately as Doug have done but with your suggested path.

    Your printscreen also shows registry settings configured under guid beginning with 233 but your generated guid begin with 751 which confuses.

  14. Hi I have followed mentioned setps means created 6 key but it is not working on windows 7 with IE 11 if i see IE-add-on–Bing–defult

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