How to Disable Cortana in Windows 10

If voice assistance annoys you, turn it off!

A young woman turns Cortana off on her Windows PC

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Cortana is Microsoft's virtual assistant that is integrated right into every installation of Windows 10. Like other virtual assistants, the point of Cortana is to make your life easier. When that doesn't happen, and Cortana becomes a nuisance, you may notice that Microsoft makes it very difficult to disable it.

Prior to the Windows 10 Anniversary Update, users could disable Cortana with the flip of a toggle switch. The toggle was removed in that update, but there are still a handful of ways to disable Cortana. Disabling voice and keyboard shortcut activation is easy, and Microsoft also allows users to disable Cortana's ability to record and store personal information.

Completely disabling Cortana is more difficult, but that is possible as well. Users of Windows 10: Home Edition can disable Cortana with the Registry Editor tool, and users of Windows 10: Pro and Enterprise can use either the Registry Editor or the Group Policy Manager.

Important: Cortana is heavily integrated into the Windows 10 search functionality, and fully disabling it may impact your user experience. Before using the Registry Editor or Group Policy Editor methods, consider setting up a system restore point just in case you change your mind.

How to Disable Cortana Temporarily

If Cortana sometimes activates when you don't want it to, but you still want to be able to activate it manually, then the best way to disable it is to simply change some settings. This leaves Cortana in place, and allows you to use it if you want, while preventing it from becoming a nuisance.

step by step instructions showing how to turn off cortana
Cortana is easy to turn off, but it may still record information about your search habits.

The first step is to make sure that Cortana won't respond to your voice:

  1. Click on the search box on your taskbar, or use the keyboard shortcut Windows + S.
  2. Type Cortana in the search box.
  3. Click Cortana & Search Settings.
  4. Click Talk to Cortana.
  5. Turn the Hey Cortana toggle off.
  6. Turn the Keyboard shortcut toggle off.

For most users, disabling Cortana's ability to automatically respond to a voice command or a keyboard shortcut is enough. This will prevent Cortana from ever activating accidentally, but it won't affect your search experience, and everything will continue to operate the way that it should.

How to Prevent Cortana From Recording and Storing Your Search Habits and History

In addition to the annoyance of Cortana activating accidentally, some users have privacy concerns about Cortana and Microsoft keeping track of their search histories and habits. Completely disabling Cortana is one way to deal with this concern, or you can simply turn off each setting that allows Cortana to record and store information about you.

step by step instructions to turn off cortana search information history
Cortana keeps track of a lot of information about your habits, and you can turn that function off if you want.

If you are concerned about Microsoft using Cortana to gather and store personal information about you and your search history, here's how you can cut off Cortana's data gathering and storage abilities:

  1. Click on the search box on your taskbar, or use the keyboard shortcut Windows + S.
  2. Type Cortana in the search box.
  3. Click Cortana & Search Settings.
  4. Click Permissions & History.
  5. Turn all of the toggles off.
  6. Click Cortana across all my devices.
  7. Turn all the toggles off.
  8. Scroll back to the top of the page, and click Manage the information Cortana can access from this device.
  9. Turn all the toggles off.
  10. Click Speech, inking, & typing privacy settings.
  11. Click Turn off speech services and typing suggestions.
  12. Click the back arrow at the top left of the window two times to return to the Cortana settings page.
  13. Click Change what Cortana knows about me in the cloud.
  14. Your Personal Information page will load in the Start panel. Scroll to the bottom of this page and click Clear.

This will leave Cortana on your computer, but it will not be able to gather information on you, report information to Microsoft, or interact with you in any way.

If you ever decide that you do want to use Cortana, then this process can be reversed very easily by flipping each toggle back to the on position and reenabling speech services and typing suggestions.

How to Disable Cortana Permanently in Windows 10 Home Edition, Pro and Enterprise

Turning off Cortana's ability to respond to voice commands and keyboard shortcuts is pretty easy, but permanently disabling the feature is a little more complicated. If you want to prevent Cortana from running at all, and turn the Cortana box into a basic search box, then you will need to use one of the following methods depending on the version of Windows you have.

  • Windows 10 Home edition: Can only disable Cortana via the Windows Registry.
  • Windows 10 Pro and Enterprise: Can disable Cortana via the Windows Registry or Group Policy Editor.
Important: The Windows Registry Editor is a very powerful tool that can result in undesired effects if you change the wrong setting. Your system may become unstable, or even fail to boot, if you make a mistake. If you are unfamiliar with Registry Editor, create a System Restore Point before you proceed.

How to Disable Cortana in the Windows Registry

step by step instructions to disable cortana in regedit
Cortana can be permanently disabled via Regedit, but this powerful tool is dangerous if you aren't careful.

After you have created a system restore point, and you're absolutely sure you want to permanently disable Cortana, then you will need to open the Registry Editor:

  1. Right click the Start Menu icon and click Run, or press Windows + R on your keyboard.
  2. Type regedit and hit enter.
  3. If a User Account Control (UAC) window appears, click Yes.
  4. Navigate to HKEY_Local_Machine > SOFTWARE > Policies > Microsoft > Windows.
  5. Right click the Windows directory, and select New > Key, and name it Windows Search.
  6. Right click Windows Search, and select New > DWORD (32-bit) Value, and name it AllowCortana.
  7. Double click on AllowCortana and set the value to 0.
  8. Close the Registry Editor and restart your computer.
Warning: Disabling Cortana via the Windows Registry Editor is irreversible, in some cases, without performing a clean install of Windows 10. Keep this in mind before fully disabling Cortana via this method.

How to Disable Cortana Permanently in Group Policy Editor

step by step instructions to disable cortana in windows 10 pro and enterprise
The Group Policy Editor allows you to disable Cortana in Windows 10 Pro and Enterprise.

Windows 10 Pro and Windows 10 Enterprise users can disable Cortana through with the Registry Editor, but if you have one of those versions of Windows you also have another option that's a little easier and safer.

The alternate method of permanently turning off Cortana in Windows 10 Pro and Enterprise makes use of the Group Policy Editor. This is how you do it:

  1. Right click the Start Menu icon and click Run, or press Windows + R on your keyboard.
  2. Type gpedit.msc and hit enter.
  3. If a User Account Control (UAC) window appears, click Yes.
  4. Navigate to Computer Configuration > Administrative Templates > Windows Components > Search.
  5. In the pane on the right side of the window, look for the Allow Cortana setting and double click it.
  6. Select the Disabled radial, and click OK.
  7. Close the Group Policy Editor and restart your computer.

Turning Cortana Back On if You Change Your Mind

Cortana can be useful, so there is always a chance that you may change your mind after you have disabled it. If you change your mind immediately, or if something goes wrong, then the easiest way to turn Cortana back on is to use a system restore point.

If more time has passed, then it's usually still possible to turn Cortana back on regardless of the method you used to turn it off. To accomplish this, you will need to essentially reverse the procedure you used to turn it off in the first place.

To Turn Cortana Back on If You Disabled It via Settings

  1. Click on the search box on your taskbar, or use the keyboard shortcut Windows + S.
  2. Type Cortana in the search box.
  3. Click Cortana & Search Settings.
  4. Go through each settings page and turn every toggle back on.
    1. Note: You can leave off settings that pertain to information gathering and cloud storage of your settings and history, but doing so may prevent Cortana from working properly.

To Turn Cortana Back on If You Disabled It via Regedit

Important: Disabling Cortana via the Registry Editor may result in an irreversible disabling of this feature. If the following instructions do not work, you may not be able to get Cortana back without performing a clean installation of Windows 10.
  1. Right click the Start Menu icon and click Run, or press Windows + R on your keyboard.
  2. Type regedit and hit enter.
  3. If a User Account Control (UAC) window appears, click Yes.
  4. Navigate to HKEY_Local_Machine > SOFTWARE > Policies > Microsoft > Windows.
  5. Delete the AllowCortana key that you created.
  6. Restart your computer.

To Turn Cortana Back on If You Disabled It via Group Policy Editor

  1. Right click the Start Menu icon and click Run, or press Windows + R on your keyboard.
  2. Type gpedit.msc and hit enter.
  3. If a User Account Control (UAC) window appears, click Yes.
  4. Navigate to Computer Configuration > Administrative Templates > Windows Components > Search.
  5. In the pane on the right side of the window, look for the Allow Cortana setting and double click it.
  6. Select the Enabled radial, and click OK.
  7. Close the Group Policy Editor and restart your computer.