Cannot Turn Off Search Suggestions in Firefox

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  1. Posts : 485
    Windows 10 Build 1809
       #1

    Cannot Turn Off Search Suggestions in Firefox


    I have Firefox 76.0.1 running on 4 different W10 pro machines. One 1909, the rest 2004. On any of these, I cannot turn off 'Search Suggestions' by unchecking the appropriate box in Options. I think they are distracting and don't want them.

    I know if I use Private Browsing they don't exist but why doesn't the switch in Options do the job it is supposed to do? Is this a bug in 76.0.1?

    I think this is the first time in all the years of using Firefox that I have been disappointed.

    Thank you.
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  2. Callender's Avatar
    Posts : 2,900
    Windows 10 Home 1903 64-bit
       #2

    Works fine for me. Just updated to 77.0

    Cannot Turn Off Search Suggestions in Firefox-options.jpg

    Suggest:

    On one machine only - backup Firefox profile:

    Download Hekasoft Backup & Restore - MajorGeeks

    Uninstall Firefox including all leftovers and profile leftovers then reboot and double check that they've gone:

    Firefox Failed Downloads

    Then install a fresh copy of firefox and test it before doing anything else like restoring your profile.
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  3. Callender's Avatar
    Posts : 2,900
    Windows 10 Home 1903 64-bit
       #3

    Research suggests that you need to temporarily uncheck "Always us private browsing mode" to access those search suggestion options.

    Cannot Turn Off Search Suggestions in Firefox-ff-options.jpg
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  4. Posts : 147
    Windows 10
       #4

    It's not a bug. Search suggestions are considered a potential privacy threat due to the nature of how they work.
    When you search something with search suggestions enabled you are basically getting real-time feedback back from the search engine provider. What you type is instantly sent over to the servers of whatever default search engine provider you use ie DuckDuckGo or Google for example. What you receive is how the search engine interprets what you typed and returns matches for things that are similiar, or maybe identical to, the search query. For example;

    "Do" could be similiar to dog, door, dongle, do not disturb etc.


    This sounds like nothing in and of itself but...

    Whose to say you want EVERY letter you input from your keyboard into the address bar being sent to a search engine provider? Even if you type 192.168.0.1 (your router address) until your browser figures out it's an address that translates to an actual destination (like in this case, your router, a real destination you can visit by typing in an address) the search engine provider gets everything you type. So you could type in "Hello my name is Joe Bloggs" and every letter (or character to be technically specific) is sent to the search engine, regardless of whether you want to commit to a search or not.

    This isn't an issue until say, you accidentally type a password in, or you use the address bar as a quick notepad for a phone call you're having where you need to write something down but don't have a pen and paper. That information could be anything, something potentially sensitive and private to you. Well, now it's in the hands of the search engine provider because the second you start typing you're agreeing to have everything you type go through your search engine provider, whether it's a search engine query or not.

    All that being said. How to disable?
    It's pretty simple. Firefox is a really easy method of configuring the browser built right into it. By typing in about:config into the address bar you can change endless amount of settings regarding Firefox from the seemingly trivial to critical settings that which affect how it works. You might get a warning when you visit about:config if it's the first time. You can tick the box and you'll be provided with a text bar to type into.

    Type this in:
    browser.search.suggest enabled - false

    Now you'll have to type in a boolean. A boolean is a value that can either be true or false. By default the value is 'true' but you want to change this to 'false'. As soon as you do this search suggestions should be disabled. Give it a try and see if it works for you. When you type into the address bar you should only see the text you type and not a predictive match returned by your default search engine provider. If you haven't made any other changes to how Firefox works you will still be able to perform a search by simply typing in the search query into the address bar followed by pressing 'Enter' and the search query will be sent to the default search provider and returns returned. The good news is, at least in terms of search suggestions, no information was sent until you chose to commit to the search. And this, like everything I said at the start, is what privacy advocates are concerned with hence why in private browsing it is disabled by default because hey, you're in private browsing mode, right? It's not very private when everything you type into the address bar is actually being shared with a search engine provider! Especially if that search engine provider is not privacy focused like Google for example that feeds off the data it receives endlessly from people who use technology connected to Google services continuously relaying data back to them, most of the time without the knowledge of the user. This can be anything from benign stuff to addresses, names, phone numbers, hobbies, work location, gender, occupation, fave places to shop online and offline, sexual orientation etc. The big question is whether people REALLY want this stuff to be freely shared with people they have never met nor have any idea what is happening with this information. You wouldn't shout out personal information from your front door to strangers passing by and so why do it online?

    Hence, the big debate on privacy. Hence, the settings baked into Firefox to disable search suggestions in Private Browsing mode. You can go one step further like outlined above and disable this even when you're not browsing in private/incognito mode. Also you can customize how the address bar works in other ways by doing something like this for example...

    As per your question, this one below prevents Firefox from suggesting recent searches made in the address bar from appearing there if you type something similiar to the previous search query....
    Code:
    browser.urlbar.suggest.searches = false
    This one below prevents Firefox from syncing search suggestions with Firefox Sync. The idea behind this is backed up by privacy advocates who believe disabling this prevents Mozilla from being able to sync search suggestions to it's cloud storage for your particular account and therefore potentially being there for however long they deem necessary...
    Code:
    services.sync.prefs.sync.browser.urlbar.suggest.searches = false
    Another one. This one enables search suggestions in Private Browsing. Not that you would want to but it's simply showing the process of how you can change settings for different areas of Firefox..
    Code:
    browser.search.suggest.enabled.private = true
    Also, this one enables Private Browsing by default as available by pressing "Options" in Firefox...
    Code:
    browser.privatebrowsing.autostart = true
    There are many areas of Firefox unavailable or hidden to the user that can be configured using about:config. I guess it's another feather in the cap when/if you want to take you knowledge that little bit further and learn which individual preference affects how Firefox works. Either way, this should answer your question!

    Oh and this one disables automated searching in the address bar. You know when you type something in it displays a "Search with Google" or whatever you search provider is? If you configure this preference to 'false' this feature will become unavailable and so you would have to manually search. This is another recommendation which granted makes life that little bit more harder but also prevents potentially private and potentially sensitive information being relayed across the internet.
    Code:
    keyword.enabled = false
    Why not another one...
    This one changes which search engine your query will go through upon pressing 'Enter' to DuckDuckGo. Make sure to specify a search engine provider that exists in your available search engine list
    Code:
    browser.urlbar.placeholderName.private = DuckDuckGo
    - - - Updated - - -

    Callender said:
    Works fine for me. Just updated to 77.0

    Then install a fresh copy of firefox and test it before doing anything else like restoring your profile.
    Firefox is currently at version 76.0.1, as per the official release notes here;
    Mozilla Firefox Release Notes

    Also, you don't need to install a fresh copy of Firefox to restore profiles or anything you just mentioned. You can navigate to about:profiles in Firefox and simply create a new profile, set the new profile as default and then remove the old one. It's also a good idea to know where all this resides on your drive. It resides at %APPDATA%/Mozilla/Firefox/Profiles followed by the one which ends in 'default-release'. This is by default the profile given to everyone when they install Firefox before a user creates his/her own.

    You also don't need to change anything to disable search suggestions. You're also looking in the wrong area. The menu you want in 'Options' is 'Search' followed by Search Suggestions. Search history and Search suggestions are two different things. There you will find several tickboxes. It is easier though to navigate to about:config like mentioned in my post and disable it there.
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  5. Callender's Avatar
    Posts : 2,900
    Windows 10 Home 1903 64-bit
       #5

    supermammalego said:
    Firefox is currently at version 76.0.1, as per the official release notes here;
    Mozilla Firefox Release Notes
    Thanks for that. There must be a problem with my updater's definitions:

    Cannot Turn Off Search Suggestions in Firefox-patch-my-pc-updater.jpg
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  6. Callender's Avatar
    Posts : 2,900
    Windows 10 Home 1903 64-bit
       #6

    RE: Last post above. It seems that 77.0 is in fact the latest version:

    Latest Firefox released for Windows [2]

    Firefox Release Version: 77.0
    Release Date: June 1, 2020 (FTP only for now)
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  7. Posts : 147
    Windows 10
       #7

    77 is a BETA release. Was released back at the start of May for BETA channel users. There's 78 as well but that's nightly. There is no sign of 77 being a stable official release yet as per the official website. BETA releases for a production environment are not recommended and nightly definetly not.

    I'm also curious as to why your update software recognises 77 as a stable release? I'm certain it's still in BETA and judging by all the release notes I'm right. It's a bit risky to offer BETA software to people when they might not be aware of the implications using it. Seems like a fairly sketchy practice to employ into software that has a lot of trust. Did you choose to allow the software to install versions of other than official stable releases?
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  8. Posts : 485
    Windows 10 Build 1809
    Thread Starter
       #8

    Thanks.

    Well, after doing all the stuff you suggested I still get those bloomin' sugestions even though I took the steps to not do them.

    As a last resort, I updated to 77.0 with the same results.

    Thanks again.

    [QUOTE=Callender;1926329]Works fine for me. Just updated to 77.0
    .[/QUOTE
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  9. Berton's Avatar
    Posts : 8,243
    Win10 Home and Pro, Win10 Insider Preview, WinXP Home Premium, Linux Mint, Win7 Pro
       #9

    I just got Version 77.0 (64-bit), not a BETA/Test version.
      My Computer

  10. jrolson's Avatar
    Posts : 95
    Win 10
       #10

    Is there no longer a way to revert to the old urlbar in 77.0?
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