SafeSearch is a valuable tool for filtering out explicit content from Google’s search results, providing a safer online environment. While enabling SafeSearch is generally easy, ensuring that it remains permanently activated can be more challenging. This becomes especially crucial if you have children using the same device, as SafeSearch can help to shield them from inappropriate material. Additionally, maintaining a SafeSearch lock can serve as a form of personal discipline, helping you focus on more productive tasks while using the internet. In this article, we will guide you through various methods to lock SafeSearch settings permanently, to create a more secure browsing experience for yourself and your family.
Modifying the “hosts” file to lock SafeSearch permanently
Locking SafeSearch across various browsers on a Windows computer can be done effectively by modifying the
hosts file. This method redirects Google’s DNS queries, thereby forcing SafeSearch to stay enabled. This technique works across multiple browsers, including Chrome, Firefox, and Microsoft Edge.
- Administrative access to the computer
- A text editor (Notepad, for example)
- Basic understanding of file directories in Windows
Step-by-step guide to modify the “hosts” file
- Ping for SafeSearch IP address: Open Command Prompt and type
ping forcesafesearch.google.com. Note down the IP address that appears. This IP address is used by Google to enforce SafeSearch and may vary depending on your region.
- Open Notepad as an administrator: Before opening the
hostsfile, search for Notepad in the Start menu, right-click on it, and select “Run as administrator.”
- Open the hosts file in Notepad: In Notepad, go to File > Open, navigate to
C:\Windows\System32\drivers\etc, and then select the
hostsfile. If you can’t see the hosts file in the “Open” window, click on the dropdown next to “File name” and select “All files.“”
- Edit the hosts file: At the end of the document, add the following lines using the IP address you obtained from the ping command:
[SafeSearch IP address] www.google.com
For example, if the IP address is
22.214.171.124, you would add:
This will force Windows to redirect any requests to www.google.com to 126.96.36.199, which is the IP address for forcesafesearch.google.com, forcing Google search to enable SafeSearch.
- Add additional Google domains: If you or other users may use Google from different country or region domains, copy the lines you just added, replacing
www.google.comwith the relevant domain, like
188.8.131.52 www.google.co.uk 184.108.40.206 www.google.ca
- Save the changes: Save the file and exit Notepad. If you encounter issues while saving, ensure you have administrative privileges and try again.
- Flush DNS cache: Open Command Prompt as an administrator and type
ipconfig /flushdns, then press Enter. This action will refresh the DNS cache, ensuring that your changes take effect.
- Confirm SafeSearch is enabled: To ensure that SafeSearch filtering is indeed activated, navigate to
google.com/safesearch. Verify that SafeSearch is set to “on” by default and that you’re unable to turn it off.
- Test the changes: Open any browser and check if SafeSearch is locked. It should be enabled by default, and attempts to disable it should not succeed.
Note: Exercise caution while editing the
hostsfile, as incorrect modifications can result in network issues.
Using the Web Filter for Chrome extension
If your primary browser is Google Chrome and you’re looking for a comprehensive solution, the “Web Filter for Chrome” extension serves as an all-in-one parental control and adult content filtering tool. Not only does it force-enable SafeSearch on Google across all types of searches—including images and videos—it also locks SafeSearch settings for other major search engines like Bing and Yahoo. Additionally, it blocks direct access to adult sites via URL, adding an extra layer of security.
Step-by-step guide to set up Web Filter for Chrome
- Install the extension: Open Google Chrome and navigate to the Chrome Web Store. Search for “Web Filter for Chrome” and click “Add to Chrome” to initiate the installation process.
- Restart Chrome: Once the extension is installed, restart Chrome to activate the features. There’s no need to configure any settings; the extension works automatically upon restarting the browser.
- Test the features: To make sure everything is working as expected, perform some test searches on Google, Bing, and Yahoo to verify that SafeSearch is enforced. You can also try accessing adult sites directly via URL to confirm they are effectively blocked.
Note: Extensions can be disabled or removed, so this method might not be as foolproof as modifying the
hostsfile. For additional security, you may set up admin restrictions on the Chrome browser to prevent unauthorized changes to extensions.
Using parental control software for a comprehensive solution
If you’re looking for a more comprehensive way to enforce SafeSearch across multiple browsers and devices, using third-party parental control software can be an effective option. These software suites often provide an array of features including but not limited to enabling SafeSearch, tracking browsing history, and limiting screen time.
- A compatible device (Windows/Mac/Android/iOS)
- Internet connection for software installation and updates
Step-by-step guide to use a parental control software
- Choose a software: Research and select a parental control software that suits your needs. Popular options include Qustodio, Norton Family, and Net Nanny.
- Install the software: Follow the installation instructions to download and install the software on your device.
- Set up an account: You’ll likely need to create an account to manage the settings and view reports.
- Enable SafeSearch: Look for the SafeSearch or web filtering option within the software settings and enable it. This will often automatically enforce SafeSearch on popular search engines like Google.
- Configure additional settings: Most of these software suites offer additional features like app blocking, screen time management, and activity reports. Configure these as you see fit.
- Apply to multiple devices: If you have more than one device you wish to control, you’ll usually have the option to install the software on multiple devices and manage them from a central dashboard.
Note: Parental control software often requires a subscription, so be sure to consider this in your decision.
By employing parental control software, you can ensure a safe browsing environment not just by enabling SafeSearch but also through a host of other features that allow you greater control and peace of mind.
We’ve explored several methods to lock SafeSearch permanently on Google, each with its own set of advantages and limitations. Modifying the
hosts file is a robust method for Windows computers that works across multiple browsers, but requires administrative access and some technical know-how. The “Web Filter for Chrome” extension is easier to set up but is specific to Google Chrome. Parental control software offers a comprehensive solution but often at a subscription cost.
Your choice will depend on a variety of factors including the browsers you use, the level of control you want to have, and whether you’re willing to incur any costs. No matter the method you choose, the end goal is to create a safer browsing experience, especially for younger users or in shared computing environments.