When Windows 10 first released, turning off Cortana was as simple as flipping a switch in the digital assistantâ€™s settings, but Microsoft removed the option in the Windows 10 Anniversary Update. Now thereâ€™s no obvious way to disable Cortanaâ€”but itÂ isÂ possible using not-so-obvious methods.
Completely eradicating Cortana requires a quick and easy registry edit, which weâ€™ll detail here. If you donâ€™t want Cortana spying on you but also detest the idea of mucking with your PCâ€™s deepest software innards, PCWorldâ€™s guide toÂ privacy-boosting Cortana tweaksÂ can show you how to limit the personal information it sends Microsoft. Cortana will still run in the background with limited functionality if you donâ€™t perform the registry edit, though.
How to turn off Cortana in Windows 10
Hold your horses! As simple as this is, itâ€™s always a good idea toÂ create a system restore pointÂ before editing the Windows registryâ€”so go ahead and do that now. It only takes a minute. (Ironically, the easiest way to do so is to search for â€śrestore pointâ€ť with Cortana.)
With that out of the way, letâ€™s start registry hacking.
PressÂ Windows KeyÂ +Â RÂ simultaneously on your keyboard to bring up the Run interface, then typeÂ regeditÂ into the box and pressÂ Enter. Depending on your security settings you may be prompted to give Windows permission to run the Registry Editor. If so, do so.
Once the Registry Editor is open, navigate to the following folder in the left-hand navigation pane:Â HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE > Software > Policies > Microsoft > Windows > Windows Search.
Hereâ€™s the only potentially tricky part: You might not see a Windows Search folder. If it isnâ€™t there, right-click the Windows folder, selectÂ New > Key, and name itÂ Windows Search.
With the Windows Search folder selected in the left-hand navigation pane, right-click in the main portion of the window and selectÂ New > DWORD (32-bit) Value. A new listing will appear in the main pane, ready to be named; christen itÂ AllowCortana. Afterward, double-click it and in the box that appears, ensure that the Value Data is set to ‘0’â€”minus the quotation marks.
Thatâ€™s it! Close the Registry Editor, then sign out of Windows 10. When you sign back in, Cortana will be long gone. The digital assistantâ€™s former field remains in the Windows 10 task bar, but it now reads â€śSearch Windowsâ€ť and tellingly lacks Cortanaâ€™s all-seeing eye icon.
You wonâ€™t be able to use any Cortana-enabled features in the dumbed-down search field, like setting reminders, getting personalized news, receiving up-to-date travel info, orÂ asking goofy questions. YouÂ willÂ be able to search for files, system settings, and terms as before. That said, you wonâ€™t be able to tap Cortanaâ€™s smarts to perform natural language queries like â€śFind pictures from Juneâ€ť either, so narrowing down file search results may take a bit more work.
Speaking of which, wiping Cortanaâ€™s previous memories of you from Microsoftâ€™s servers takes an extra step. Head toÂ Microsoftâ€™s privacy dashboard website, sign into your Microsoft account, and clear whatever personal data you want Microsoft to forget. Be warned: Your choices may also affect other Microsoft services, like Bing, Edge, and Maps.
Cortana isnâ€™t totally dead, though. Youâ€™ll still see the process lurking in Task Manager if you pay attention. Kill it and itâ€™ll immediately spring back to life. Your search queries nevertheless stay strictly local.
If you ever decide resummon Cortana, simply retrace your steps in the Registry Editor and either delete the AllowCortana value, or simply set it to â€ś1â€ť instead of â€ś0.â€ť
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