How to disable Cortana on Windows 10

One of the big changes Windows 10 brought with it when it launched in 2015 was the integration of its digital voice-controlled personal assistant, Cortana. Three years on, and the technology is now firmly esconced, woven into the fabric of the operating system, and it’s pretty useful.

In Windows 10, Cortana is capable of composing emails, setting reminders, finding apps and performing web searches. You can use it to find files stored on your computer and if you’re using a different Windows 10 machine, a Windows Mobile device or even an Xbox One, you can get it to look into OneDrive and access your shared files.

If you don’t want Microsoft’s persona dipping its fingers into your computer and files, though – and many don’t as it sends search information back to Microsoft for analysis – you can switch it off. Not only that, but it’s also possible to purge Cortana’s memory so all the information it knows about you disappears forever.

First things first though, what is Cortana?

Microsoft calls Cortana a “digital agent.” It can give you reminders, track packages, send emails and texts, create lists and find facts, and Microsoft will prompt you to install Cortana during the Windows 10 setup process. If you know you’re never going to use it, don’t set it up. 

Alternatively, once installed, to get started with Cortana, type a question in the search box on Windows 10, or press the microphone icon and talk to Cortana. You will need to allow Cortana permission to access your microphone and speakers in order for you to hear any vocal replies. 

When you first open it, you’ll see suggestions on the lock screen on getting started, and in Cortana home when you select the search box on the taskbar. The more you use Cortana, the better its suggestions. 

However, if it’s just an annoying addition, or you don’t find it all that useful, here’s how to disable Cortana in Windows 10 after setup. 

Disabling Cortana in Windows 10 after setup

If you’ve already set up Cortana but have had enough of its witty quips and addressing you by name, you can disable it and erase yourself from its memory.

  1. Step 1

    To disable Cortana fully you need to switch it off first. Do this by opening Cortana from the Taskbar and clicking on the Notebook button in the left-hand menu. From there, click Settings.
  2. Step 2

    In Window Settings, click Cortana.
  3. Step 3

    To clear everything, Cortana knows about you, click Permissions then Change what Cortana knows about me in the cloud.
  4. Step 4

    To clear the information Cortana has gathered, scroll down to the bottom of the Personal Information screen then click Clear.

Disabling Cortana in Windows 10 on setup

There simplest way to disable Cortana, however, is the most straightforward: don’t activate it in the first place.

  1. How to Disable Cortana in Windows 10 - Cortana Setup

    When you boot up Windows 10 for the first time, clicking in the “Search the web and Windows” box on the Taskbar prompts Cortana setup to start.

  2. How to Disable Cortana in Windows 10 - Cortana not interested

    To ensure Cortana doesn’t activate, click “Not interested”, and then confirm your decision by selecting “I’m sure”.

  3. Cortana will now remain inactive.

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