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I have a top-level team site at http://sharepoint and an enterprise search center site at http://sharepoint/sites/search. There is an alternative access mapping for the web application -

I'm finding that using the normal search field of the team site results in the site sending the user to http://sharepoint/sites/search/Pages/results.aspx?k=marketing&cs=This%20Site&u=http%3A%2F%2Fsharepoint. This page doesn't return any results. If I manually change the URL so that 'u=sharepoint', or the 'u' parameter is completely removed, and I refresh the page, then the search page returns results.

How can I update the team site so that is doesn't pass the 'u' parameter across to the search center?

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You will need to configure the search box from the Site Collection > Site Settings > Search Settings page. Enable Custom Scopes and select the dropdown mode Do not show scopes dropdown, and default to target results page. These settings are, however, only available with SharePoint Server search features enabled on the site collection.

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If sharepoint the name of your application pool you could try to add the url to access mappings.

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