Thanks to new controls and settings in Windows 10, you can finally disable Cortana completely without much effort.
Cortana is Microsoft’s personal assistant. When you ask your computer to play a song from Groove Music or turn off your Philips Hue lights, it’s Cortana that handles the request. Cortana also monitors your emails for custom reminders and lets you search things from the taskbar. The personal assistant offers deals and reminders in Microsoft Edge’s address bar.
Windows 10 collects a lot of information about you to keep these features working. Cortana needs to know your home address to get you to your appointments on time. She needs to see what you’re browsing to offer you discounts on Amazon. Your PC’s microphones are always listening if you turn on the “Hey Cortana” feature. All this isn’t new to Alexa, Siri and Google Home users, but it is creepy if you don’t have experience with personal assistants.
What if you don’t want Cortana scanning your emails or tracking what you’re working on? You need to turn off Cortana completely.
Here’s how to disable Cortana completely in Windows 10. Use these tricks to stop the personal assistant from listening for voice commands and collecting information about you to power her features.
How to Disable Cortana’s Always-Listening Feature
Start by turning off Cortana’s always-listening feature. This is the setting that lets Cortana use your PC’s microphones to listen for your voice commands. You have always-listening turned on if you can say “Hey Cortana” and your PC responds. You must do this on every Windows 10 PC you have.
Tap or click on the Start button in the bottom-left corner of your screen. This will open the Start Menu.
Tap or click on the Settings cog in the bottom-left corner of the Start Menu.
This is the Settings app. Tap or click on the circular Cortana icon in the bottom row of settings to open Cortana’s settings area.
Flip the switch under the Hey Cortana heading to off. Next, scroll down and flip the switch under the Lock Screen header to off.
Cortana can’t use your PC’s microphones to hear you now. It’s time to move on to the next step if you truly want to turn off Cortana. Don’t close the Settings app yet.
How to Disable Cortana Permissions
It’s time to take away Cortana’s permissions to gather more information about you from all her different sources. This isn’t required, but it’s definitely a good idea if you don’t plan on using the personal assistant. You must do this on every Windows 10 PC that you have.
Back in the Settings app, click on Permissions & History. It’s in the menu on the left side of your display.
Scroll down and flip the switches under the Windows Cloud Search, My device history and My search history headers to off.
After you’ve turned those switches off, scroll back to the top of this area. Click Manage the information Cortana can access from this device.
Flip all these switches off. This will take away the personal assistant’s permission to look at your browsing history, your text messages, your emails and your location. Press the back button in the top-left corner of the app once you’re done.
Click Manage the information Cortana can access from other services.
Click every service in this pop-up window to take away her ability to collect information from services you’ve linked to her, like Office 365 and Outlook.com. When you’re done, go back to the Settings app.
Finally, click on the Notifications option in the menu on the left side of your screen.
Flip the Send notifications between devices switch to off.
Don’t close the Settings app yet.
How to Delete Your Info from Cortana
Now it’s time to delete all the information that Cortana has already collected about you and left on Microsoft’s servers. Inside the Permissions & History page, select Change what Cortana knows about me in the cloud.
Select or tap on the Clear button at the bottom of this pop-up window.
Now go to Account.Microsoft.com to clear whatever data about you is left. Select Cortana’s Notebook in the Privacy Dashboard.
Click the Clear Cortana Data button near the center of your screen. While you’re here, be sure to click on the Active History area to look at all the rest of the data your Windows 10 PC has collected from you over the years.
How to Disable Cortana on Windows 10 Pro PCs
You need Group Policy to turn off Cortana on PCs with Windows 10 Pro installed. This is an enhanced option that’s only available to PCs with professional and enterprise versions of Windows 10. That’s why you can’t use it to disable Cortana on Windows 10 Home.
Click the Start button in the bottom-left corner of your screen.
Type Group Policy into the search box and select it from the search results.
Click Computer Configuration.
Click Administrative Templates.
Click Windows Components.
Double-click on Allow Cortana in the window.
Select Disabled from the pop-up. Click on Ok.
How to Disable Cortana on Windows 10 Home PCs
You must use the registry to turn off Cortana on Windows 10 Home PCs. This isn’t as easy to do as the Group Policy change for Windows 10 Pro and can mess up Windows if you aren’t careful. Gotta Be Mobile’s How to Create a Full Back Up of Windows 10 guide will teach you how to clone your copy of Windows and restore your files if your registry change goes wrong. Don’t use a registry change to disable Cortana without a back up of your photos, music, movies and documents.
Click on the Start button in the bottom-left corner of your screen.
Type Regedit into the search box. Click on the blue cubes icon when it appears in your search results.
Click on the arrow next to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE.
Click on the arrow next to SOFTWARE.
Click on the arrow next to Policies.
Click on the arrow next to Microsoft.
Use your mouse to right-click on the Windows folder.
Click on New, and click on Key.
Name this key Windows Search and click on it.
Click on the Windows Search key you just created. Now right-click anywhere in the large blank space that dominates the registry editor.
Select New. Now select DWORD 32-BIT from the pop-up menu. Name this key AllowCortana.
Right-click on the AllowCortana key you just created, and select Modify.
Change the Value Data to 0 and click Ok. Just restart your Windows 10 PC and the personal assistant is disabled.
How to Remove Cortana from the Taskbar
Now just remove Cortana from the Taskbar so that you aren’t tempted to use it.
Right-click on her search box and select Cortana in the menu. Select Hidden to remove the box entirely.
What You Need to Know After You Disable Cortana
After you turn off Cortana in Windows 10, keep these things in mind.
First, you need to disable Cortana on every Windows 10 PC or tablet you have. Microsoft doesn’t have a single button for disabling the personal assistant across devices.
Second, know that you may need to disable Cortana again in the future. Microsoft releases two big updates to Windows 10 every year, and these updates can break changes and hacks.
Why You Can’t Uninstall Cortana Completely
Microsoft hasn’t said why you can’t uninstall Cortana publicly, but it seems pretty clear why that is. The company wants to make Windows smarter and put itself in a better position to compete with Siri, Alexa and Google Home. Amazon, Apple and Google’s personal assistants gather the same information about you that Cortana does. They just do it on your smartphone or tablet.
Expect Microsoft to add even more features that depend on Cortana as new Windows 10 feature updates arrive.