How much control does Microsoft have over my surfing?

I’m using Windows 98 and Internet Explorer 5.50.

Ofttimes, when I’m typing a non-existent URL into the Explorer address line, the browser will, after searching for the URL for a few seconds, get me to an address on “”, obviously part of the Microsoft network. This page tells me that the URL I requested couldn’t be found; it sometimes also gives me alternative suggestions, especially if there’s an obvious typo in my URL.

Not that I’m paranoid or whatever, and I certainly don’t suspect Microsoft is spying my surfing all the time, but the fact that a Microsoft page tells me when a URL couldn’t be found (this could the browser do as well, no?) seems a bit strange to me. What makes me stumble even more is that today, when I tried to hop onto, this page appeared again and guess what the first alternative suggestion was: Encarta. Apparently, Redmond wants to divert users who cannot access an encyclopedia to its own product.

Even if is down, I don’t think this practice is 100 % kosher. This makes me ask the question in the subject and what the antitrust laws say about that.

I’m not sure where it’s located in Version 5.5, but I’ll take a guess. Look under Tools/Internet Options, and then click the advanced tab. There should be a section titled Searching or something like that. Select the option that’s closest to “Do not search from the address bar”, and invalid URLs won’t cause searches to take place.

You can change which page is used for searches instead, but that’s a registry issue. If you really want to go that route, let me know and I’ll try and find the proper instructions.

I would be interested in hearing how one might be able to do this, I am very much interested in switching this page to something more useful. Say, Google, for instance.

Here is a link to the MS Knowledge base article that describes the process. It doesn’t say that it works for all versions, so make sure that the registry entry matches before making any changes. As always, back up your registry before modifying it.