Search highlights display a colorful icon in the Windows 10 search bar. If you hover the mouse over the icon, a news overview of a selected topic opens. In Windows 11 22H2, this is integrated directly into the search field. However, the feature can be deactivated using a GPO.

Search highlights are another attempt by Microsoft to push Bing's services on Windows users. They line up with other such features, such as the desktop search enriched with results from the web, News and Interests in Windows 10, or the widgets in Windows 11.

In addition to current topics, search highlights also show popular search queries on Bing

In addition to current topics, search highlights also show popular search queries on Bing

Microsoft's search highlights obviously mimic Google's icon for current topics on the start page of its search engine. Like its role model, Windows displays information about certain anniversaries, current sporting events, or which topic a day is dedicated to (Earth Day, etc.).

Customize search highlights interactively ^

If you want to configure the feature interactively, you will find two options in the context menu of the Windows 10 taskbar under Search: Show search highlights and Open on hover.

Configuration of search highlights on Windows 10.

Configuration of search highlights on Windows 10.

With the first one, you can switch off this feature. If you want to keep it, but stop it from opening automatically as soon as you move the mouse pointer over the icon, then disable the second setting.

In Windows 11 22H2, the Settings app only offers the option to disable the search highlights, since the option Open on hover is not relevant due to the feature's integration into the search field.

The corresponding setting can be found under Privacy and Security > Search Permissions in the More Settings section.

Disable search highlights in Windows using the Settings app

Disable search highlights in Windows using the Settings app

Disable search highlights via group policies ^

If you want to deactivate this search feature, the group policies provide a separate setting to do so. Unfortunately, the search highlights will not disappear as you might expect when News and Interests is deactivated.

Disable search highlights via group policies.

Disable search highlights via group policies.

The relevant option can be found under Computer Configuration > Policies > Administrative Templates > Windows Components > Search and is called Allow search highlights. If you disable it, then the search highlights should disappear after the next reboot or upon executing the command:

gpupdate /force

Conclusion ^

With search highlights, Microsoft is giving users of Windows 10 and 11 another function of dubious benefit, the purpose of which is primarily to market its Bing services. In professional contexts, this might be considered a distraction.

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In centrally managed environments, the feature can be disabled via group policies. These already contain several settings just for the search to disable such questionable innovations.

1 Comment
  1. Erik 3 weeks ago

    I’m not seeing this setting when I create a new GPO and look for it in the location you mentioned.

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