Five Startpage Tips to improve your search experience

Martin Brinkmann
Jan 3, 2017
Internet, Search

The private search engine Startpage is my search engine of choice. If you are a long-time reader, you know that I made the switch from using Google first to DuckDuckGo, and then to Startpage, back when news about Prism and other government surveillance and privacy-invading activities hit the world.

Startpage works considerably well out of the box. Open the site, enter your search query, and browse the results. It features web, image, and video searches, and ships with a couple of extras that make the experience even better.

I mentioned the Startpage proxy in 2014 already that enables you to load results anonymously, and posted a list of ten tips to improve Startpage search back in 2014 as well.

This guide will focus on tips that are new and have not been mentioned yet.

Startpage Tips

The following tips let you customize your Startpage search experience. All options are accessible on the preferences page.

Only connect to servers

Startpage will connect you to the closest (of their) servers when you connect to the site and run searches on it. This ensures quick response times.

You can change that default option in the settings. Basically, what it allows you to do is set a server that you want to be connected to.

So, if you don't want your search queries to be processed by a server in the US for instance, you could set this option to EU or Asian servers instead to avoid that.

The four options provided are a) closest, b) EU servers, c) US servers, or d) Asian servers.

Homepage Search Mode

If you happen to use the advanced search interface regularly, or maybe even exclusively, then you may find this option useful.

It allows you to switch from the basic search interface to the advanced search interface by default. So, whenever you open Startpage, the advanced search interface is loaded directly.

Homepage Theme

Startpage supports several themes that you can switch between. The default theme is called Air, and it is a light theme. You can switch to night for a darker theme, or white or black, which are like Air and Night, but without the background image for the most part.

Last but not least, you may also switch to classic themes if you prefer those. The classic themes change link placements on the Startpage homepage though, so keep that in mind.

The main use here is for users who prefer a dark theme instead of a light one, and for users who prefer a basic design when it comes to search (by removing the background images).

Search Suggestions

Startpage displays no search suggestions by default. You can enable those in the preferences. Startpage's suggestions system is different from many others as it puts privacy first and foremost.

The search engine displays general suggestions and won't display user queries as suggestions. Startpage shows "generally relevant suggestions" for queries only. Suggestions honor family filter settings.

Switch the "search suggestions" option in the Startpage preferences to "on" to enable suggestions.

Automatic highlighting

This is another interesting option. It highlights the search term on the web page that you open when you click on results.

But that is not the only thing that happens. Startpage opens the result using its proxy as well. If you enable the option, all results are automatically loaded using the proxy.

So, if you always want to use the proxy, this is one option to automate this.

Now You: Which search engine do you use primarily?

Five Startpage Tips to improve your search experience
Article Name
Five Startpage Tips to improve your search experience
Five tips to get the most out of the privacy focused Internet search engine Startpage that include themes, server selection, and more.
Ghacks Technology News

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  1. chesscanoe said on January 7, 2017 at 10:40 pm

    The Peekier browser also claims good privacy. It uses Bing under the covers, rather than Google using Startpage. It has a thumbnail presentation of results rather than a list, and uBlock Origin catches a lower count on its base page. A detailed objective analysis of the two would be interesting and useful, even though potentially difficult to do.

    1. chesscanoe said on January 7, 2017 at 11:01 pm

      Clarification: Peekier and Startpage are privacy search engines, not browsers.

  2. chesscanoe said on January 4, 2017 at 2:11 pm

    I use Chrome under Windows 10, with as one of the tabs that automatically open at startup. Using that tab allows me to search in vanilla Google even though I have startpage defined as my default Chrome browser search engine. Clicking on the Chrome new tab and searching from there lets me use my customized startpage choices very easily. This seems to be the simplest way to search what I want how I want.

  3. Belga said on January 3, 2017 at 5:01 pm

    I’m using StartPage with satisfaction, but the highlight option prevents to view the entire content of certain web pages.
    Here, for example, the TV guide is not displayed :

    1. Hy said on January 5, 2017 at 10:44 am

      Dag Belga! I think what is happening is that when you use the highlight option, Startpage displays the page through its proxy (Ixquick proxy), and because of how the proxy works sometimes that prevents viewing the entire content of certain web pages. I’m familiar with some of those TV guide pages–probably the javascript and/or frames are not running/loading when you try viewing them using the highlight option, and that’s why some content is not displayed. I know, bv., if I don’t allow javascript to run on Een’s TV-gids page, it won’t display the entire content. Someone who knows more than me can tell you in detail what’s happening. But unfortunately, it won’t be possible to view those types of pages (Een TV-gids, and any pages requiring javascript to display full content) entirely if you are using the highlight option.

      This is from the Startpage/Ixquick proxy help page:

      “Additional Notes and Restrictions:

      For security reasons, you cannot use the proxy to fill out forms with text input.
      The proxy removes the “javascript” code of visited sites, so some features may not work.
      The proxy will not load frames that reside on a different external domain than the referrer.
      The proxy service currently doesn’t extend to full image or video searches yet.”

      Of course, you could also always just display the page (or any web page you are having trouble viewing the entire content with the highlight option) directly in your browser via the URL bar, and then use the “Find”or “Find in page” command in your browser to locate specific words on that page.

      Hope this helps.

      1. Belga said on January 5, 2017 at 11:31 am

        @ Hy
        Thanks for the explanation. I can live without the option anyway.

  4. earthling said on January 3, 2017 at 4:50 pm

    Unfortunately all the nice settings mentioned in the article require cookies or a customized url, both allow for easy tracking.
    Because of that I use the default options with Startpage and when it doesn’t find what I’m looking for, I go for ixquick which always does the job.

    1. Richard Allen said on January 4, 2017 at 8:28 am

      I don’t know about the ‘generated url’ as an option that StartPage uses to track you. “StartPage does not collect or share personal information. We don’t track or profile you.” That said… I’m also skeptical about claims made online. I’ve always used the generated url and I just checked on two different computers and using two browsers on both, after wiping cache and cookies, and the generated url was the same everywhere when using the identical StartPage configuration. So… something to think about.

      1. earthling said on January 5, 2017 at 11:59 pm


        Yes I know that and it makes no difference at all. TomAtoes – TOmatoes.
        Lets say you’ve been using Web of Trust. And you happen to use a very specific SP url, encoded or not doesn’t matter. Now sometimes you may use a different browser and let it run through a VPN. Also with WoT installed, so with a different unique identifier. And because you like SP in black you use the same SP url in that browser. All the WoT customers who have access to that data would immediately be able to identify you most likely if the SP url is pretty unique in the data set. If you accessed a number of pages in both browsers, they could almost 100% make the correlation that you are the same person using 2 browsers.
        The CCC annual event in Germany had a talk from the people who uncovered the WoT fiasco that illustrates the problem a bit more, if you’re interested:
        It’s available in german, english and french.
        I used WoT in this example but the data could just as easily have been obtained with any other tracking methods. The data wouldn’t have a unique WoT user-id but would still make it easy to attribute different ip addresses to the same user behind them.

        And because you thought it mattered if you used an encoded or plaintext url, there are a limited amount of settings and as Richard Allen noted the resulting url is always the same for every person with the same settings, I could just parse every combination of settings and if you give me a specific encoded URL I could tell you what settings you used. But it’s almost irrelevant for the tracking problem.
        “almost” irrelevant because I would assume that most people that even change anything from the SP settings would probably do so using a cookie. If you happen to be one of the already very limited group of people who change SP settings AND then not use a cookie for it, depending on what settings you change you’ll end up in pretty damn small group. Since the encoded url is the default one shown, if you choose to use the plaintext url instead – now that just makes you even more unique.

      2. Hy said on January 5, 2017 at 5:11 am

        @earthling: “I wasn’t worried that SP would track users that way, rather anyone seeing the meta data could identify certain users based on the generated URL.”

        FWIW, from the Startpage URL-Generator page, the URL “can be generated in readable or obfuscated form.”

      3. earthling said on January 4, 2017 at 5:06 pm

        I wasn’t worried that SP would track users that way, rather anyone seeing the meta data could identify certain users based on the generated URL. But that’s not the case, or at least there are limited ‘generated urls’ for everyone with the same settings. There are around 25 settings or so, which still allows for quite a lot of unique combinations but it’s much less worrying than I had thought.

      4. earthling said on January 4, 2017 at 5:02 pm

        Oh, okay, thanks, I didn’t know that. Thanks mate!

  5. MonkeyMan281 said on January 3, 2017 at 4:07 pm

    Anyone know of a search site which offers advanced queries like Google?
    i.e. my favourite “intitle:”index.of./” query to find file shares.

  6. Richard Allen said on January 3, 2017 at 3:48 pm

    Thanks Martin! Long time user of StartPage and it is the one tab I have open up when starting any of my browsers. Never knew that enabling the ‘Automatic highlighting’ would also enable the proxy at the same time. They don’t explain that in the settings. One thing I did notice on my end is that enabling the highlight w/proxy setting makes the link open up much faster versus using the proxy from the results link. Weird!

    Talking about search engines I have to bring up the addon ‘Quick Context Search.’ I’m always doing a lot of research online and being able to highlight a word or group of words and then quickly and easily being able to choose one of 14 different search engines that I have installed has me spoiled big time. The addon is one of three that is keeping me from being able to use multiprocess. I’ve been using the addon for a few years and unless the addon gets updated to work with multiprocess I will have to give it up at some point and I will then be forced to curse you Martin for getting my hooked! JK ;)

    Please tell me you’ve cleaned up some of the elements in StartPage when using your primary browser! The Horror! I had almost forgotten what it normally looks like.

    1. Anonymous said on January 3, 2017 at 4:01 pm

      For NoScript Photobucket seems to be an horror too :)

      1. Richard Allen said on January 5, 2017 at 10:53 am

        Thanks for the link, it is bookmarked and I’ll give it a try next time I want to share an image.

      2. Anonymous said on January 4, 2017 at 9:21 am

        @ Richard Allen
        …or to post on forums/blogs just use

      3. Richard Allen said on January 4, 2017 at 2:14 am

        Sorry about that. I hadn’t logged into Photobucket in a long time, the only thing I saw was a single popup on my end, logged in or not. I’ll probably use Dropbox or Drive in the future.

        For a minute there I was wondering why you would have to click on the link, then I remembered that I use a Greasemonkey/Tampermonkey script (Mouseover Popup Image Viewer) that allows me to see the image when I put my mouse over the link. The script works on a lot of images to enlarge them and some links, Photobucket being one of them. The script works in FF and chromium based browsers. Pale Moon, for me, has an issue with Greasemonkey or maybe just that userscript and some video playback issues so I’ve mostly gone back to using FF.

  7. MarkB said on January 3, 2017 at 2:29 pm

    I use DuckDuckGo. If you want google results just use !g

    Bangs are pretty awesome, not sure I can change now.

    1. Trebuchette said on January 3, 2017 at 5:16 pm

      I know. I bang-search accidentally even from google (when I’ve !g to google, then used google’s search bar to alter my search).

  8. Hy said on January 3, 2017 at 1:44 pm

    Thanks very much for this article! I’ve been a Startpage devotee for several years now since I cut ties with all things Google. I liked the Startpage outfit enough to also get a StartMail email account recently. I’m really happy I did. Would love to see an article about StartMail, too!

    Never heard of searx until now–that’s why I read ghacks’ articles and comments! :) I’ll give searx a test for awhile as a second-opinion search engine. It seems to give some different results, similar to Unbubble, etc… I don’t like the look and layout of searx as much as Startpage classic, but these things are entirely down to individual preference. Couldn’t find a way to save searx prefs without a cookie but as a URL, like the option Startpage gives. Also, I was surprised that sometimes on searx I saw my search terms in the URL, sometimes I didn’t–not sure why…

    1. Anonymous said on January 3, 2017 at 2:42 pm

      [Offtopic] On StartMail’s home page we can read “What’s wrong with free email services?”. Sorry but using myself I can’t approve from a paid service the following critics.

  9. Yuliya said on January 3, 2017 at 1:43 pm

    The ability to disable search suggestions (or the lack of those suggestions) is a welcome feature imo ;)

    For web search I use: Google or Yandex (I used to use Yandex only for RU/UA searches, but Google started to filter too much lately)
    For images: Yandex
    With Tor: Yandex

    1. Trebuchette said on January 3, 2017 at 5:11 pm

      Yandex is lovely for current event searches in US, too. You get results that DDG alone (which uses Yandex and Google and others) doesn’t give you, so the variety of sources impresses me.

      Google filters way too much for me to trust the results, but its other conveniences for non-searches, like “days before Christmas” = [instant answer], and “directions to X from Y” = [instant map], is still sort of unbeatable. Translations aren’t bad, either. But DDG has come a long way. (Oscobo) — impressive with videos (“tab” at the top of oscobo page), and gives other decent results like Bing (but with the privacy).

  10. trek100 said on January 3, 2017 at 12:48 pm

    Tried StartPage and liked it.

    It DOES hilite keywords once you display a specific site result web page.

    BUT…I wish it would ALSO display my query keywords in the StartPage Search Results page itself,
    (right after you run the StartPage query…).

    Any way to do that?

    Q) Do [searX] and [Qwant] also allow
    highlighting query keywords
    in the results pages?


  11. Ray said on January 3, 2017 at 12:46 pm

    If you use StartPage, set search results per page to 100.

    I also use searx as mentioned by justakiwi and Tom. If you set the search engine to Google, it has even more accurate Google results than StartPage.

  12. jjc said on January 3, 2017 at 12:23 pm

    I use

  13. Rocky said on January 3, 2017 at 10:49 am

    When I tried DuckDuckGo a while back I found the results to not be as good as Google. However I recently tried it again and found that paradoxically I got better results with the locality slider at the top off rather than set to my location ( Ireland). Startpage is nice too but I still feel uncomfortable using Google effectively surreptitiously – why does Google permit Startpage to use its search ?

    1. Hy said on January 5, 2017 at 7:01 am

      @Rocky: “Startpage is nice too but I still feel uncomfortable using Google effectively surreptitiously – why does Google permit Startpage to use its search ?”

      This is from a Startpage support page:

      “Why does Google let StartPage access their search results?
      Last modified on 08 December 2016 05:34 PM

      StartPage has a contract with Google that allows us to use their official “Syndicated Web Search” feed, so we have to pay them to get those results. Sometimes we get slightly different results, but in general, they are the same high quality.

      Our sister search engine,, uses multiple search engines and web sources [Hy: excluding Google] to power its results.

      The beauty is that you can be sure we never share your personal details with any third party, including Google. Your privacy is absolutely secured. You can read more about this in our Privacy Policy.”

    2. Xi said on January 3, 2017 at 2:31 pm

      It is mainly bcoz the search results was provided by Yahoo(Bing) and now it is switched back to Yandex partnership. Hence, better search results.

  14. sphinx said on January 3, 2017 at 10:46 am
    Reply don’t use google for the search but use Chrome logged for browsing? What the difference?

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on January 3, 2017 at 11:06 am

      I use Chrome for tests. Firefox is my main browser.

      1. sphinx said on January 3, 2017 at 11:57 am


  15. Tom Hawack said on January 3, 2017 at 10:23 am

    After having tried all the major search engines, after having switched to DuckDuckGo, I discovered, “a metasearch engine, aggregating the results of other search engines while not storing information about its users.”, really well done, the user chooses the search engine(s) to be included, all are available, even DuckDuckGo and Startpage themselves, not to mention Qwant, Google, Bing, Yahoo etc etc. A diversity of search engines’ results. SearX has been my default search engine for over a month now.

  16. justakiwi said on January 3, 2017 at 10:08 am

    I use as my home page and search engine of choice. cheers

    1. Xircal said on January 7, 2017 at 1:29 pm

      Me too. The interesting thing about SearX is that it also allows you to add or remove the search engines you want to use such as for example. That particular search engine can do all sorts of wonderful searches all on its own!

    2. IPnomous said on January 4, 2017 at 9:40 pm

      Searx is awesome, like having your own personal search engine. Like having a totally customizable google but since you have the option to install locally on your computer making it completely private too. Having been using for a couple of years, just installed recently.

      In preferences you choose where the results come from, it even has a duckduckgo !bang like option called shortcuts which you can customize. Too many options to list but might be worth your time especially for privacy and those who like absolute control.

    3. Anonymous said on January 3, 2017 at 1:19 pm

      Using Pale Moon with a dark theme (FT DeepDark) the icon is very nice, contrary to the white non transparent startpage’s icon so ugly. I will probably adopt it, thanks.

      1. Anonymous said on January 3, 2017 at 2:01 pm

        I will never use PM 27.0.3 but thanks for your remark. Anyway I just tested and unfortunately we can’t generate an url to save preferences. As I perpetually delete all cookies this search engine is not adapted to my habitudes.

      2. ad said on January 3, 2017 at 1:53 pm

        Incompatible with Pale Moon 27.0.3

  17. wybo said on January 3, 2017 at 9:31 am

    I have been using for quite a while now. I also use Startpage as my secondary search engine. Very happy with both of them.

    PS Thanks Martin for all your great articles last year. looking forward to another year of them.

  18. Nel said on January 3, 2017 at 9:17 am

    I love you, Martin! :) Happy New 2016 Cyber Year!

    1. Mientras said on January 3, 2017 at 12:07 pm

      Being a day or two off is one thing, but a whole year, I have to pay my respects.

      1. Mientras said on January 3, 2017 at 10:55 pm

        Netscape Navigator. I’m closer to 20 years off, Nel is a like a little brother to me, an amateur with potential to greatness.

      2. MdN said on January 3, 2017 at 4:32 pm

        Are you using Internet Explorer? :-D

    2. Ricky said on January 3, 2017 at 11:37 am

      @ Nel: It’s 2017, mate.

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