Changing Your Default Search Engine in Firefox

Have you ever noticed that even if you change your search engine in the upper right search box, searches from the URL bar (using '?' or multiple words) still use Google? In older versions of Firefox, you had to mess with the keyword.URL preference to change this, but things are much easier now.

Go to about:config and search on browser.search.defaultenginename. This is the preference that controls your default search engine. Change it to the name of the engine you want to use and you've changed keyword search.

UPDATE: Bonus! This also changes the search engine used for about:home.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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20 thoughts on “Changing Your Default Search Engine in Firefox

  1. Shouldn't the preferences for the search bar provide a setting for the default search engine, so that you don't need to use about:config?

  2. Or, alternatively, if the experiment of searching with all search engines and showing the results in a tabbed-like manner becomes the norm, then the ordering of the search engines would determine the default: just move the search engine you want to the top.

    • I REALLY hope that "search all" would come with an off switch. I keep Google in my search engines list, but I only use them when DuckDuckGo comes up empty and I feel the search keywords are something I wouldn't mind being announced to the world.

      • "search all" won't send your search keywords to all search engines at once; it'll start with your default search engine, and only search another engine if you click the "tab" for that engine.

  3. If you're an extension, this is definitely one of the cases where you want to make the change by shipping a default prefs file (or equivalently changing the default prefs branch from code), instead of the normal thing that writes into the user's prefs.js. The benefits are 1) if the user made a custom selection, that will stick; 2) your change will go away if the user uninstalls your extension. See the various discussion on the new addon policy - it's possible that not doing things this way can get your addon blocked in the future :(

  4. > If you're an extension, this is definitely one of the cases where you want to make the change by shipping a default prefs file (or equivalently changing the default prefs branch from code), instead of the normal thing that writes into the user's prefs.js.

    The problem with doing it this way is that the user can't optout of the behavior.

    This is the catch-22 of these policies. They want setting to go away when you uninstall, but they want the user to be able to optout.

    I've chosen to go the route of setting everything on startup and unsetting on shutdown.

  5. For this to work, make sure that keyword.URL is at its default setting of being empty, though. If it isn't, the default engine won't be used by that custom setting will. In that case, right-click on the entry and reset it.

    • Good point. Some people might have an add-on that modifies it or a migrated setting.

      If right clicking and selectting reset doesn't work, you can just set it to blank.

  6. I am a newbie. I tried inputting your instructions into my Windows XP System, but I am not a programer and couldn't change the default setting. If you have the time and patience, could you give me step-by-step how-to? I would like to make Duckduckgo mt default search engine. Thanx. n.

    • Type about:config in the URL bar.
      Then type defaultEngine in the filter area.
      Double click on the preference named: browser.search.defaultenginename
      Then change the name to the EXACT name of the search engine you want to use (DuckDuckGo)
      Obviously you have to have installed duckduckgo

  7. My default is bing. I search in bing and the search is answered in google. If I search in bing, I want my answer in bing. How do I fix the search so it searches in bing and returns the answer in bing?

  8. I did as you suggested, but Zonealarm still kept coming up. I eventually found that I needed to edit 'Keyword.URL' (in about:config) and change 'search.Zonealarm...' to 'www.Google....' Problem solved. At least you got me pointed in the right direction. Thanks.