Google has long monopolized the search engine market, so it’s no surprise that it comes as Safari’s default search engine. If Google isn’t for you, Safari comes pre-set with three alternatives: Yahoo, Bing, and DuckDuckGo.
Some users like to spread their searches through different engines so that companies don’t have all their data. DuckDuckGo is particularly attractive to people who want to keep their online presence private, and while Yahoo is also powered by Bing there are some variations between the two search engines’ results.
How to change the search engine on Safari
If you’d rather use one of the other search engines on Safari, or if you’ve tried an alternative and want to return to Google, it’s easy enough to swap.
1. Open the Safari application. If it’s not pinned to your desktop, select the magnifying glass icon on the top right menu bar to open Spotlight and type ‘Safari’ to find it.
2. In Safari, click on the ‘Safari’ tab on the top left menu bar.
3. Select the ‘Preferences’ option, typically the third option on the drop-down list.
4. This will open another window that displays your Safari settings. In the top menu, select the ‘Search’ icon.
5. The first field in this window is ‘Search engine.’ Click on the drop-down menu to select from one of the three other search engines (Yahoo, Bing, DuckDuckGo, or back to Google if you have previously changed it).
6. Close the window and your settings are automatically saved.
If you’d like to test that your search engine has changed over, simply run a search in your Safari browser. If your search engine hasn’t changed, try running through the steps again and, once you’ve completed the change, closing down Safari and then re-opening it to search.
Using more than one search engine
Because it’s so easy to change your search engine, there’s no harm in trying out all four options before settling on which one you prefer. As mentioned above, some users like to use more than one search engine so that their search history isn’t concentrated in one particular place.
It might be that you swap between Google for work, Bing for casual searches (especially if Microsoft extends its Reward Points program to Mac devices), and DuckDuckGo for when you want more privacy in your browsing.
If you don’t feel like swapping and changing in your settings, an easier way might be to go to the homepage of the search engine you want to use and type in your query directly from there.
How to add another search engine to Safari
At the moment, there is no way of adding another search engine to your Safari Preferences, meaning that if you want to use an alternative you’re going to have to find another way of searching instead of directly from the URL bar.
1. You can use another browser, such as Chrome or Firefox, for your searches. These are more easily configured to support additional search engines.
2. Install the search engine’s extension on Safari. This might be a bit of a hassle to implement, but once it’s set up it makes it a lot easier to search with other search engines.
3. Navigate to the search engine’s homepage and search directly from there. The extra step of entering the URL and then searching may feel like wasted time, but one way to shorten it is to have your homepage set as the search engine’s homepage, so it’s ready for you as soon as you open Safari.
1. Open your Safari browser.
2. If you’re not sure of the URL for the search engine you want to use, navigate directly to the homepage.
2. Click on the ‘Safari’ tab to the far left of the top menu.
3. Select ‘Preferences.’
4. The window will open to display your ‘General’ preferences for using Safari. Instead of navigating to the ‘Search’ tab as we did to change the search engine, stay on the ‘General’ page.
5. At the ‘Homepage’ field, enter the URL for the site you want to use as your search engine (for example, www.ecosia.org or duckduckgo.com). If you navigated to its homepage earlier, you can simply click ‘Set to current page.’
6. You can also toggle additional settings in the field above, such as choosing whether you want this page to only appear when you open a window or whenever you open a new tab.
7. Your changes are saved automatically when you close the window. Try opening a new window or a new tab to see how it opens with your search engine of choice.
Why has my Safari search engine changed on its own?
Safari should never automatically change your search engine preferences. If it has, the most likely explanation is that you’ve downloaded a plug-in or extension that’s changed the search engine you use.
You can remove the extension manually through Safari:
1. Open Safari and navigate to the ‘Preferences’ menu, from the ‘Safari’ tab.
2. Select the ‘Extensions’ tab from the top menu at the far right.
3. This will display a list of any extensions you have installed, either accidentally or deliberately. If you see any extensions you don’t recognize, or any that you no longer need, simply click ‘Uninstall.’
4. Quit Safari and restart your Mac.
5. You may need to update your search engine and homepage preferences again once the extension has been removed. Type a trial search to see which search engine is currently in use once your Mac boots up or go to Safari Preferences directly to check.
Check all of the extensions and browser plugins you have in one go. Many people don’t realize how many of these plugins they have. Often they’re either downloaded and used once, then forgotten, or were useful for a while but aren’t needed now. These little extras all take up space and some could run in the background even when you’ve not used them in ages.
Remove them using CleanMyMac X with only one click. Its Smart Cleanup identifies the clutter and deletes it totally — no leftover files floating around to clog up your Mac.