HOW TO SET MY DEFAULT SEARCH PROVIDER VIA GPO?


In this blog, we share how you can use Group Policy Preferences / Registry to change your Default Search provider used in Internet Explorer 11.

What we will cover in this document:

  • SearchScope Registry and Default SearchScope location
  • Using GPP Registry Wizard
  • User Preferences Registry location
  • Renaming the GPO
  • Warning

REQUIREMENTS: To be familiar with Group Policy Console and Group Policy Preferences / Registry. To have your Clients configured with at least 2 Search Providers.

Make sure you have the Latest Windows Roll-up updates to address any known issues.

SEARCHSCOPE REGISTRY LOCATION

By Default, the SearchScopes registry key contains the default search provider information. This is the location in the registry that will help you identify, which GUID is being used to defined the default search provider.

Here is the location:

  • HKEY_CURRENT_USER\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\SearchScopes

SearchScopes registry

If more than one Search provided is defined by the user, you will first find a DEFAULTSCOPE string name with the REG_SZ GUID identifying the Search provider.

Search Provider

  • So, if you look at the {6aXXXX} value, it shows it is the Google GUID.
  • As you can see, under the SearchScopes key we have two providers: Google and Bing search. In this scenario, we will be configuring Bing as the default search provider.

USING GROUP POLICY PREFERECNES REGISTRY

In this example, we have two providers: Google and Bing.

Here are the steps I took to configure Bing as the default provider.

PART I – STAGING MY HOST MACHINE

  • First, I configure my local host machine that I will be setting the GPO from, with the settings to be configuring on the clients using GPP Registry. This is the easiest way you can configure this GPO and also helps reduce any mistake. So, simply open IE Manage Add-ons / Search Providers and add Google to the list it will take you to the IE gallery site: (https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/iegallery)
  • Second, Set the Google Provider as the Default provider from the Manage Add-ons window.
    • This is what it looks like:

Manage add-ons Search Providers

The Client machines, where we want to change the settings to Big(example), may look like this:

Manage add-ons Search Providers

PART II – GROUP POLICY

Now, that we have the IE settings on the host machine, we can configure our GPP Registry.

  • From GPMC.MSC navigate to your GPO / Preferences / Windows Settings / Registry
  • Right Click on Registry / New and Select Registry Wizard

GPP Registry Wizard

  • From the Registry Browser Window, select Local Computer and click on Next >

GPP Registry Wizard - Registry Browser

  • From the Registry Browser, navigate to: HKEY_CURRENT_USER\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\SearchScopes

  • From this key, make sure you select the DefaultScope name

Registry Browser

  • Next, check both Sub keys containing the GUIDS for the Search Providers: Bing and Google and every value under each keys except any path to user profiles! Also, remember to scroll down to select other items!!

Example:

Registry Browser  - path and configuration

In the Screen below, we can see the FavIconPath goes to a profile directory. DO NOT SELECT THIS OPTION!!

Registry Browser  - path and configuration

  • Click on finish to complete this GPO configuration.

PART III – ELIMINATING THE WARNING

  • NEXT, lets add the User Preferences We will use this to help eliminate a warning the user may get when we enforce the DefaultScope search. This warning is by Design and design to alert users of a program trying to modify their settings. If you do not care about this warning and your users are hands, you can skip this step.

Also, note that this warning may not show for a brand new users.

THE WARNING- EXAMPLE!

An unknown program would like to change your default search provider to 'Google' (www.google.com)

SCREENSHOT:

An unknown program would like to change your default search provider to 'Google' (www.google.com)

  • Start a new Registry Wizard and navigate to: HKEY_CURRENT_USER\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\User Preferences

NOTE: All you need to check is the top User Preference key. No need to select the sub names in the bottom pane!  We will be deleting this with the GPO, so no real use to check these out .

Registry Browser - User Preferences

  • Click on Finish
  • Now, we have all the setting we need to get the default provider configured on the clients. We need to perform some housekeeping to help others understand what we are doing and a small adjustment to the User Preferences setting to make sure, we eliminate the warning.
  • Configured this new GPO to delete the User Preferences. This can be done from the properties of the User Preferences policy. Double-click on the User Preferences object on the right side pane and change the Action to Delete and save it.

Set the Action to Delete

PART IV – CLEANING UP THE GPO

We will now, label the GPO settings and make small adjustments that any admin will appreciate when all done.

As you may have noticed, when using the Wizard, you will end up with a full registry tree view to the path of the settings and not very intuitive. We however, can modify the GPO and make it look a lot cleaner without affecting anything.

First, expand the GPO keys:

full registry tree view

  • Grab the SearchScopes Folder Search folder and drag and drop it on the Registry Registry object object:
  • Do the same for the User Preferences folder, drag it and drop it on the Registry
  • Now, delete the empty tree objects. From Registry Wizard Values folder to Internet explorer Here is a screenshot of what you want to delete and what you want to keep: Red Goes and Blue KEEP

full registry tree view  - What to keep and what to delete

 

Here is what it looks after the clean-up:

Clean up results

Let’s rename the GUIDS to represent the Search Provider. Just click on the GUID and on the right side pane, you can figure out which GUID is for Bing and Google.

It will end up looking like this:

Renamed GUID to represent search scope

PART V - TESTING THE GPO

In this screenshot, we can see the warning as the GPO was applied without the User Preferences GPP (I had disabled this GPO to better illustrate how this works).

IE loading after SearchScope GPO and Warning

  • I enabled the User Preferences GPO, which I have configured to delete the User Preferences registry “key HKEY_CURRENT_USER\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\User Preferences” and ran the GPUPDATE /FORCE command to reapply the GPO.
  • Relaunch IExplore and no Warnings. Checked my settings Manage Add-ons Search Provider configuration and Bing shows as my Default.

Manage Add-ons configuration on client after GPO

 

With these steps, you should successfully set your prefer search provider on your manage environment. We suggest that you be running the latest IE cumulative updates and Windows Roll-ups to assure you are fully patch and free of any known issues.

 

This blog has been provided to you by the IE Support team!

 

 

 

 


Comments (5)

  1. Rune U says:

    Yep, seems to work.
    But why is there not a proper GPO setting that doesn't rely on specific registry values.

    1. AxelRMSFT says:

      @Rune U
      Glad it worked for you.
      The prescribed solution is the best we have found thus far today.

  2. Data10 says:

    Thanks that's worked great, although it would be nice if yo could delete what is already in there before you apply the Registry GPO?? Do you know of a way to achieve this? Cheers

    1. AxelRMSFT says:

      @Data10
      The GPP Registry should allow to do both.
      First delete and then Add.
      During my test, the solution I posted worked and did the job just fine.

  3. Karl B says:

    This works great as long as you do not use the "Restrict search providers to a specific list" GPO under Policies > Admin Templates > Windows Components > Internet Explorer. If you enable this GPO setting, the DefaultScope entry will immediately revert back to Bing no matter what you set it to in the registry. I tried for an hour to set Google as the default and verified the registry changes were made correctly. IE would change the registry back to Bing every time. Removing the above setting fixed it.

    Here is the description of the setting from the template:
    "This policy setting allows you to restrict the search providers that appear in the Search box in Internet Explorer to those defined in the list of policy keys for search providers (found under [HKCU or HKLM\Software\policies\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\SearchScopes]). Normally, search providers can be added from third-party toolbars or in Setup, but the user can also add them from a search provider's website.

    If you enable this policy setting, the user cannot configure the list of search providers on his or her computer, and any default providers installed do not appear (including providers installed from other applications). The only providers that appear are those in the list of policy keys for search providers. Note: This list can be created through a custom administrative template file. For information about creating this custom administrative template file, see the Internet Explorer documentation on search providers."

    This sounds ideal because it would limit the user to the search providers created in the registry by the steps in this article. It would be nice to get some explanation from Microsoft why this doesn't work as designed.

    Testing was done on a VM:
    Microsoft Windows 10 Pro Version 10.0.14393 Build 14393
    Internet Explorer Version 11.576.14393.0 Update Versions 11.0.38

Skip to main content