Manage Or Change Default Search Engine In Firefox

How to change the default search engine in Firefox from Google to something else, add a new one or delete an existing one. When you first install Firefox, a default search engine is set for searches from the search bar. Another engine is set by default for searches from the address bar.

In both cases this default search engine in Firefox is Google because, Mozilla have just sealed a new 3 year revenue deal to use Google as the default search engine in Firefox. But what if you want to change it? It’s easy to change the default search bar engine in Firefox but it is harder to change the address bar engine. I’ll cover the various options in turn:

Add A New Search Engine In The Search Bar

  • Click on the icon for the current search engine in the search bar (by default this will be the ‘g’ of Google) as shown below:


  • Click ‘Manage Search Engines’ to show the Manage Search Engine List window
  • Click the ‘Get more search engines link’ – this opens a new Firefox window
  • Find new search providers from the Category list in the left panel or in the ‘search for add-ons’ box at the top right e.g. Bing or the excellent Startpage
  • Click on the new search provider then click the ‘Add to firefox’ button and the ‘Add’ button to add the new search engine to the Search bar as shown below:


  • Close the Firefox window.

In your original Firefox window, click on the icon for the current search engine in the search bar and you should see your new one has been added to the list.

Change The Default Used in The Search Bar

  • Click on the icon for the current search engine in the search bar
  • In the drop down list, your current default engine is highlighted in bold
  • Select a different one from the list and you will see its icon appear in the search bar

Firefox remembers your choice and will use this newly selected search engine as the default in future (or until you change it again).

Delete A Search Engine In The Search Bar

  • Click on the icon for the current search engine in the search bar
  • Click ‘Manage Search Engines’ to show the Manage Search Engine List window
  • Select the one you want to remove and click the ‘Remove’ button then OK to finish

It will no longer appear in the drop down list of search engines.

Change The Order Of Search Engines

In the Manage Search Engine List window, all are listed in order from top to bottom. The order does not affect the default search engine which can be anywhere in the list (highlighted in bold). The only need to change the order is if you frequently swap between different engines and want your most common choices to be at the top of the drop down list to make selection easier:

  • Click on the icon for the current search engine in the search bar
  • Click ‘Manage Search Engines’ to show the Manage Search Engine List window
  • Select an engine you want to move up or down the list and click ‘Move Up’ or ‘Move Down’ until it is in the desired position – repeat for each one you want to move then OK to finish

Change The Address Bar Search Engine – Medium

When you search directly in the address bar, Google is used by default. To change this you need to edit Firefox’s advanced configuration:

  • Type   about:config   into the address bar and hit Enter (accept the warning that you need to be careful) to open the advanced configuration tab
  • Type   keyword.url   into the ‘Filter’ search box – the preference entry ‘keyword.URL’ should appear below it
  • Double click on this entry to open a dialog box where you can edit the ‘keyword.url’ text string
  • Replace the current string value text with the web address for the new search engine’s search page (see Tip below), either by typing it in or by copy/pasting into the text box
  • Click OK to finish then close the about:config tab

Searches in the address bar will now use your new engine instead.

Tip: To find out a search engine’s search page address (not just the address of the search engine itself) see the rules and examples in the ‘Add A New Search Engine’ section of my article here but note that you do not need to add ‘%s’ at the end. ‘%s’ is for Chrome and is not needed for Firefox.

Force Address Bar Searches To Go Straight To A Matching Website

By default, searches in the address bar use Google and display a list of the results. However, it can be much quicker to force it to go straight to the right website if the search finds an exact match e.g. a search for NewYorkTimes in the address bar would go straight to the website instead of just spewing out a list of standard Google search results.

To achieve this, change the keyword.url text string in about:config to the following value:

This is for – you may want to change it to your own country version e.g. for UK just replace the part with

Address bar searches will now go straight to a matching website if one is found, else the standard list of Google search results will be displayed.

10 thoughts on “Manage Or Change Default Search Engine In Firefox”

  1. What do i need to force DDG to go directly to matching site
    I’ve tried variations of the one above without any succes
    I don’t know where the string starts
    or does it not work in DDG
    or firefox 14

  2. Hmm, try disabling all addons and all plugins (you can enable again later) then see if keyword ‘sticks’.

    If yes, re-enable them one at a time until you find the one causing the problem and disable/remove it.
    If not, either you have a security prog which prevents the search changing (e.g. antivirus or search/toolbar such as AVG, McAfee etc) or a search assistant type prog resets search defaults whenever you open it.

    Or your Firefox profile is corrupt…

    Worst case, you could press the nuclear Reset Firefox button – read details carefully as you will lose customizations and addons etc –

  3. At first I was encouraged because it did change the search window to Google but the KeywordURL Search is still stuck on Yahoo. I change the about:config to a Google string but as soon as I turn off my PC and back on again it changes back to Yahoo for the keyword URL Search.

  4. Well I would love to say your fix worked but the only tool bar I had loaded was an Alexa tool bar and a Web development toolbar. (which I’ve had for a while). I removed the Alexa tool bar just in case, restarted Firefox and it looked like it worked. However today when I came in (after shut down and restart) it reverted right back to Yahoo. I’m getting ready to trash Firefox and use Chrome. Any ideas?
    Could there be something in my registry that is telling Firefox to use Yahoo?

    • Hi Mike, close Firefox then go to the Firefox program directory (usually C:\Program Files\Mozilla Firefox)

      Go into the “searchplugins” subfolder and delete the file “yahoo.xml” if it is there – hopefully it is because that is likely causing the problem

      [you could take a backup copy of it first if you want, just in case]

      Then restart your PC – hopefully Yahoo is now gone for good and you can set keyword.url etc to what you like – please comment back if this fixes it for you

  5. I have attempted to change the Keyword URL search engine back to Google many times but it always reverts back to Yahoo in both the Keyword URL and the search window. What am I missing. Why does the setting not stick?

    • Sounds like you may have the Yahoo toolbar installed? Go to Tools then Add-ons then Extensions.

      Find the Yahoo Toolbar then click “remove” – you will have to restart Firefox after but then can set google as search etc

    • You’re on FF 14.0.1 and absolutely sure it’s not present? It should be because it’s a default field – have you tried just scrolling down the full list of preferences rather than search?

      If it’s not there and you didn’t delete it yourself there is something very odd about your FF profile…

      You could add it back in but can’t guarantee it will work if your profile is corrupt.

      To add it – right click empty space in about:config and choose New \ String. Call it keyword.URL and give it a value such as my example above (or see for the default values)

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