How to use DuckDuckGo: Everything you need to know

The DuckDuckGo app page on a smartphone and the DuckDuckGo web page.
(Image credit: Ascannio/Shutterstock)

If privacy is what you're after and you want to get away from using Google, DuckDuckGo is a great alternative. The service focuses on putting privacy first, from internet browsing to email forwarding. However, the results aren't as relevant or robust, so you may not always find exactly what you're looking for. 

Thousands of privacy-conscious users have already made the switch from messaging platforms like WhatsApp to more secure-seeming options such as Signal and Telegram

At the same time, many people may be opting to use DuckDuckGo instead of Google or Bing for web searches, likely because the lesser-known search engine does not collect user data or track what you search. 

DuckDuckGo has seen more than 4 million users install its apps and browser extensions, making it their default search engine, and you can too.

Here's how to switch to — and use — DuckDuckGo. 

How to add DuckDuckGo to your browser

If you simply want to try out DuckDuckGo, type into your browser's address bar and enter your search query. Use it for a while and see if you like it. Once you're ready to make the switch, you can either select DuckDuckGo as your default search engine or add the appropriate app or extension to your browser. 

Adding DuckDuckGo to Chrome

Chrome users have two options for using DuckDuckGo on the desktop. The simplest option, if you're looking only for the private search function, is to make DuckDuckGo the default search engine.

Go to Settings (the three vertical dots at the top right of your browser bar) > Search engine > Manage search engine. Click the vertical dots next to DuckDuckGo and select Make default. This will make DuckDuckGo the default search engine in your address search bar as well. 

The setting to make DuckDuckGo the default search engine in Google Chrome. Click to enlarge. (Image credit: Google/Screenshot by Tom's Guide)

An alternative for extra privacy is to install the DuckDuckGo Chrome extension. This will block hidden trackers and connect you to encrypted versions of websites if available. 

If you change your mind about DuckDuckGo, both the default setting and the browser extension can be disabled in Chrome's settings. 

Adding DuckDuckGo to Firefox

To make DuckDuckGo your default search engine in Firefox, toggle open the Settings options with the three horizontal lines to the far right of your address bar. Click Preferences and open the Default Search Engine drop-down menu to select DuckDuckGo. This will change the settings for search in your address bar.

The setting to make DuckDuckGo the default search engine in Firefox. Click to enlarge. (Image credit: Mozilla Foundation/Screenshot by Tom's Guide)

To make DuckDuckGo your homepage in Firefox, drag this link to the Home icon and select Yes in the pop-up window. 

(Image credit: Mozilla Foundation/DuckDuckGo/Screenshot by Tom's Guide)

Like Chrome, Firefox has an add-on called DuckDuckGo Privacy Essentials that has extra privacy features. 

Adding DuckDuckGo to other browsers

Safari users can simply tap the magnifying glass in the search bar, which will bring up a drop-down to select the default search engine. You can also add the DuckDuckGo extension from the App Store. 

The setting to make DuckDuckGo the default search engine in Apple Safari. Click to enlarge. (Image credit: Apple/Screenshot by Tom's Guide)

With Brave, open the hamburger menu at the top right and go to Settings > Search Engine. Open the dropdown menu at the top of the page and select DuckDuckGo as your default. 

The setting to make DuckDuckGo the default search engine in the Brave browser. Click to enlarge. (Image credit: Brave/Screenshot by Tom's Guide)

In Edge, click the three horizontal dots (they look like " … ") in the top right and select Settings. On the next page, click the three stacked lines in the top left and select > Privacy, Search and Services. 

The setting to make DuckDuckGo the default search engine in Microsoft Edge. Click to enlarge. (Image credit: Microsoft/Screenshot by Tom's Guide)

Scroll all the way down the page and, under the Services heading, click Address Bar and Search. Open the dropdown menu next to Search Engine Used in the Address Bar and select DuckDuckGo. You can also get the Privacy Essentials add-on

Adding DuckDuckGo on mobile

DuckDuckGo has browsing apps for both iOS and Android. If you prefer to use DuckDuckGo as your default search engine within Safari, Firefox, or Brave, follow the steps on DuckDuckGo's help pages. 

How to use DuckDuckGo

DuckDuckGo isn't all that different from any other search engine. Type your query into the search bar and get your results. As with Google, you can narrow your search to images, videos, news, maps and shopping.

DuckDuckGo's results pages look fairly similar to Google's, with knowledge panels, news carousels and related searches. However, you'll get more with Google search results, such as recent tweets, People Also Ask and videos, than you'll get with DuckDuckGo. 

Google's search results, including frequently asked questions, news, tweets and related topics. Click to enlarge. (Image credit: Google/Screenshot by Tom's Guide)

Google also returns different, and perhaps more relevant, results, depending on your perspective. When we searched for "Sundance Film Festival," Google's first four results (punctuated by People Also Ask and tweets from @SundanceFest) were from different pages on 

DuckDuckGo adds news and images to search results, but that's about it. Click to enlarge. (Image credit: DuckDuckGo/Screenshot by Tom's Guide)

With DuckDuckGo, we got only one link, to the main festival page. The second result was from Wikipedia. 

Bing adds blog postings, a map and even trivia questions to the news, frequently asked questions and related topics. Click to enlarge. (Image credit: Microsoft/Screenshot by Tom's Guide)

Microsoft's Bing splits the difference between the two, with results similar to DuckDuckGo but more robust knowledge panels. 

It's also worth noting that DuckDuckGo uses Apple Maps (with pretty mediocre results) and Yelp reviews. Google obviously shows Google Maps and Google reviews. Bing runs on OpenStreetMap and TripAdvisor. 

DuckDuckGo's mapping search results aren't very informative. Click for larger image. (Image credit: DuckDuckGo/Screenshot by Tom's Guide)

Google Maps' results are great if you want to go skiing, but maybe not so much if you want to see a movie. Click to enlarge. (Image credit: Google/Screenshot by Tom's Guide)

Bing has the most useful map, plus tips on what to do and where to eat. Click for larger image. (Image credit: Microsoft/Screenshot by Tom's Guide)

All that is to say, DuckDuckGo isn't anything special once you get beyond the privacy features. However, it can be a useful alternative if you're looking for a new search engine.

Anthony Spadafora
Senior Editor Security and Networking

Anthony Spadafora is the security and networking editor at Tom’s Guide where he covers everything from data breaches and ransomware gangs to password managers and the best way to cover your whole home or business with Wi-Fi. Before joining the team, he wrote for ITProPortal while living in Korea and later for TechRadar Pro after moving back to the US. Based in Houston, Texas, when he’s not writing Anthony can be found tinkering with PCs and game consoles, managing cables and upgrading his smart home. 

With contributions from
  • dkuncio
    admin said:
    DuckDuckGo is a famously privacy-conscious search engine. Here's how to set it up and use it.

    How to use DuckDuckGo: Everything you need to know : Read more

    Hello. If I use DuckDuckGo and search for something, that search doesn't get tracked. But if I click on the website I searched, that does get tracked unless I add the "duckduckgo extension" to my browser. Is that correct? What if I'm only concerned about being tracked occasionally- it seems like a hassle to add and remove the DuckDuckGo extension. Any tips? Thank you.
  • bobc4012
    This site needs to do a better job for posting comments. It keeps sending me to this comment for my own comment.

    This article is generally about you can have DuckGoas an add-on for some browsers. It does not discuss how to use DuckGo to do searching, At least I can find the various search techniques for Google, but not for DuckGo, which I was expecting to find in this article, instead of making it an add-on. Either rename the article or include how to various types of searching using DuckGo