Microsoft adds results from the web if you run a local search under Windows 11. These originate from Bing and are usually of little use. However, users cannot interactively disable this web search. Depending on the edition, specific group policies or registry keys can be used for this purpose.

It has been a long tradition for Microsoft to ship all sorts of add-ons with Windows to gain market share in certain applications or online services. One of these services is Bing, which is not only set as the default search engine in Edge but which Microsoft has also integrated into the local search when you call it from the taskbar or the Start menu.

By default the Windows 11 search engine displays the results from Bing

By default the Windows 11 search engine displays the results from Bing

It cannot be easily removed from there because Microsoft has not provided a related GUI option since Windows 10 1703. In the Settings app, you can find several options for configuring the local search in Windows 11 but none for disabling the web results.

The settings app does not provide an option to disable web search

The settings app does not provide an option to disable web search

Hide web search via GPO ^

Group policies have long offered a setting for precisely this purpose. It is called Don't search the web or display web results in Search. It can be found under Computer Configuration > Policies > Administrative Templates > Windows Components > Search.

Group policy to disable web search

Group policy to disable web search

However, it has two limitations: first, it only applies to the Enterprise and Education editions, and second, it only exists in the Computer Configuration section.

If you use the Pro edition, there is an alternative setting whose description does not indicate this purpose. It is Turn off display of recent search entries in the File Explorer search box and can be found under User Configuration > Policies > Administrative Templates > Windows Components > File Explorer.

This setting applies to all editions except Home and can only be found under User Configuration

This setting applies to all editions except Home and can only be found under User Configuration

It can be used to hide the web search results in the Enterprise and Education editions, as well as in Pro. Unlike the above setting, it affects users and not computers.

Web search successfully disabled on Windows 11 Pro

Web search successfully disabled on Windows 11 Pro

Set registry key directly ^

Since the Home edition does not support group policies, you have to create the appropriate registry key directly. We use the one that corresponds to the second group policy mentioned above.

While the GPO adds this key under the HKCU:\ hive, the following script creates it under HKLM:\. In this way, it hides the web search for all users on this machine:

if( -not (Test-Path -Path HKLM:\SOFTWARE\Policies\Microsoft\Windows\Explorer)){
    New-Item HKLM:\SOFTWARE\Policies\Microsoft\Windows\Explorer
}
Set-ItemProperty -Path HKLM:\SOFTWARE\Policies\Microsoft\Windows\Explorer `
    -Name "DisableSearchBoxSuggestions" -Value 1 -Type DWord

Running these commands requires a PowerShell session with elevated privileges.

Summary ^

Since Windows 11 does not offer a GUI option to disable web search, you have to use Group Policy to do so. If you are using the Enterprise or Education editions and want to disable this feature for all users on a machine, the Don't search the web and display web results in Search setting will do the job.

If you are using the Pro edition or if you want to disable the web search for certain users only, you can use the setting Turn off display of recent search entries in the File Explorer search box.

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If you set the registry key DisableSearchBoxSuggestions under HKLM:\ hive to the value 1, you can disable the web search for all users of a PC for all editions of Windows 11.

3 Comments
  1. jWoodson87 6 months ago

    Microsoft is making everything more difficult to manage in their OSes in the name of marketing and data gathering on their users. Trying to use some of their applications in an air-gapped environment has become a nightmare of custom xml files and offline syncs (I really miss plan old ISOs and msi installers with custom install options!). The only thing that keeps me on their OS is the games right now and with Wine/Proton making major strides on that side of the house, it’s looking more and more likely that I’ll finally make the full on jump to Linux in the next year or two (especially since I”m still the Admin of my Linux box unlike Windows now where the Admin on a system is restricted from doing quite a few things in the name of “security”).

  2. bgavin 6 months ago

    And here is yet another compelling reason to avoid Win11 unless you are a fan boy or a developer.

  3. Andre 6 months ago

    this is another sad state for Windows users

    Most home users won’t know what to-do, therefore they’ll leave it as, and will eventually get frustrated with useless results

    as it’s going Microsoft wants to control everything, and I thought Apple and Google were bad

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