How to set up Quiet Hours and Inner Circles on Windows Phone 8.1

There are so many new features in Windows Phone 8.1. Of course Cortana and the notification center will steal the headlines, but it’s the other features that help make this a momentous update. We’re going to highlight quiet hours and show you how to get the most out of it. Quiet hours is the new “do not disturb” feature in Windows Phone 8.1 that’s powered by Cortana.

What is it?

Quiet Hours is a new mode in Windows Phone 8.1 where you aren’t disturbed by notifications or other forms of incoming communication. Quiet hours can be set manually or automatically based on a few parameters that you control. Cortana also helps to power quiet hours and will allow select contacts, called your inner circle, to get through the quiet hour block.

When am I going to use this?

Any time you don’t want your phone to disturb you. Quiet hours is an appropriate feature for when you’re in an important meeting, giving a presentation, watching a movie or trying to sleep. Quiet hours can be trigger automatically based on specific times you control or for important calendar events. You’ll use this automatic mode probably for when you don’t want your phone to bug you late at night when you’re sleeping. Alternatively you can trigger quiet hours manually, which is very useful for spur of the moments activities like watching a movie.

What’s my inner circle?

Turning your phone completely off would be just as effective if quiet hours wasn’t an intelligent feature powered by Cortana. You can add important contacts to your inner circle. Those in your inner circle are individuals that you care about and can get to you no matter what. This is your spouse, your boss, your mother, your kids and anyone else that can reach you no matter what.

How do I add someone to my inner circles?

Inner Circle Windows Phone

Adding that special someone to your inner circle is as easy as pie. Just open Cortana and click the hamburger icon in the top right (three lines stacked on one another). This takes you to Cortana’s notebook where you can control all settings that she controls. Tap inner circle to add and delete folks. Cortana will suggest people based on your interaction and relation to them. You can also click the plus icon on the bottom to find and search for someone from your contact list. The option to add nicknames will also pop up. This gives you the ability to use voice commands using those nicknames and Cortana will know who you’re talking about.

Congrats. You’ve added someone to your inner circle. They’ll now be able to reach you when it matters most.

How do I set up quiet hours?

We’ve established that quiet hours are either automatic or manual. We’ll show you how to set up quiet hours both manually and automatically.

Manual Quiet Hours

Manual – The easiest way to get quiet hours whenever you need is to add it to as an option to your quick actions. To do that go to settings > notifications + actions > choose your quick actions > tap an icon slot > select quiet hours. Now you can trigger quiet hours just by pulling down on your notification center and tapping quiet hours (crescent moon icon). You’ll see that icon in your status bar whenever you’re currently in quiet hours mode. Bonus: You can also just tell Cortana to turn quiet hours on or off.

Automatic – While you certainly can toggle quiet hours on and off using the manual method above, there’s a more elegant solution to automatically trigger quiet hours. Cortana can automatically trigger quiet hours during specific times or when a calendar event has you marked as busy.

Automatic Quiet Hours

To set automatic rules for quiet hours launch go to settings > quiet hours > toggle on automatic rules. You’ll now see the option to select what specific days and hours you want quiet hours. Beneath that you can select whether or not you want quiet hours to automatically come on for calendar events marked as Busy. You can also specific and select which calendars on your phone these rules apply for. Like when you manually trigger quiet hours, you’ll see the crescent moon icon in the status bar anytime these automatically launched quiet hours are active.

Breakthrough rules

Quiet Hours Breakthrough

There’s one more level of control you as a user have over quiet hours on Windows Phone 8.1. You’re still looking at the quiet hours settings page, but now you’ve scrolled to the bottom to see edit and change the breakthrough rules. Here’s where you tell Cortana who and who can’t get through to you when you’re in quiet hours. Set it up so that someone can reach you if they call twice within three minutes, though they may not be in your inner circle. Or have Cortana automatically reply to text messages when you’re in quiet hours. Cortana can also ask those in your inner circle to breakthrough by starting off a text message with the phrase "knock knock". These are useful settings you control.

That’s a wrap

Quiet Hours Status Bar

Windows Phone 8.1 is a wonderful mobile operating system thanks to Cortana and features like quiet hours and inner circles. We’ll definitely be using quiet hours and hope you do too. If you have any questions feel free to ask bellow in the comments. Alternatively, head to the Windows Phone Central forums for help or reach out to me on Twitter (@samsabri).

Don’t forget to check out these other how-tos on Windows Phone 8.1:

Sam Sabri
  • This is one of my favorite features!
  • Anyone notice that there are 5 icons in Sam's "notification + action settings? I can only seem to get 4 max. Lumia Icon. Would love the extra actionable item in notification center.
  • Only for 1520 & 1320 I heard.
  • Big screen is the reason but think they should keep mobile data option too.
  • +920
  • What? There is only space for 4 of tools aviabale for my 920.
  • He's one of those weird people that type the number of a nokia phone as a 'like' or '+1.' The 920 isn't a 1080p and large screen device, so it only has 4 quick action items like the majority of us.
  • Thanks for calling me weird! Really appreciate. My weird +920 like wasn't for the 5th toggle in the Action Centre, but for a mobile date toggle. Cheers.
  • It was the hair that confirmed it. Or were you drinking shots in a wind tunnel? ;)
  • Agree! I would love to see that, too! Is there a voice command for cortana to turn it on / off? If tried a lot, but I only get her to do an internet search :/
  • Agreed, the mobile data is essential for me.
  • For me too...   Plus... so sad the fact that we need to tap a button and then switch a toggle to deactivate WiFi ¬¬
  • MS really needs to understand indian customers a bit !! We here dont have super fast WiFi so streaming online music is bad choice for us (complaining about the lacklustre offline sync). We here have very slow 2g and that too, we like to switch on and off very often (complaining about the cell data missing in action center). Someone really needs to get Joe to meet Indians so that he at least gives us some options.
  • Dude, WTF has this got to do with India. Seriously. You can stream where you have Wi-Fi, including your own home broadband. Some Indian cities not only have 3G but also LTe, like Bangalore. Syncing works fine with the app + windows, or your Xbox Music collection. I really have no idea what your little rant is about, but it doesn't bare any relation to reality.
  • They Should Keep Mobile Data on Notification Center
  • Ahh, bummer. Apparently 5" isn't big enough? TWHS
  • Pretty much
  • Its also nice to know that you can use Notification Center even while playing a game without it pausing the game.
  • Only 4 is not enough, we need an innovate idea on how to make it work with 10 or more.
  • They could make that row scrollable, or swipe to show the next 4 or 5 options.
  • Good point!!
  • 4 is more than enough for most people. 3 is enough for me. Its supposed to be for a handful of quick settings. FLight mode cant be used _that_ often, even as a frequent flyer. Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and Data. Maybe rotation lock. I'd be surprised watching real usage patterns if people use more than 1 or 2 frequently. This just seems like never ending whining.
  • Why does cortana always give me web results instead of speaking?? Even happens when I repeat what people say in videos. Any setting for this guys?
  • Set your region to US, and make sure Location is ON, try again. HTH.
  • Yes brother, have had all of that turned on since day one and nothing. Don't know why :(
  • Try asking "who is your father?" and "what do you think of Siri?"
  • Did...still web results. But works with questions like track united airline 250, how old is oprah Winfrey, how tall is hugh Jackman and a few. Can say works for me 1% of the time. Better than none I guess.
  • Many people reported this on the forums. Most of them got this issue (and myriads others) solved when they did a hard reset.
  • Agreed, but it doesn't alwasy work.  For instance, I have cortana monitor all 3 of my calendars (Outlook, Family Room and Exchange for work.). Cortana never puts my phone into Quiet Hours, even though calendar items are marked as Busy.  I have to manually enable Quiet Hours.  I also have the automatic Quiet Hours enabled.  It will be enabled, but never disable when the time is up.  I know this is beta, but does anyone else have this?  I'm going to create a thread in the forums to further discuss this.
  • My automatic quite hours stopped working after the June developer update. I found a work around that works on my unlocked 1020 European version. I have to set the time to start at 1200am to 0600am. If I set it for 1159pm to 0600am then it wont turn on quite hours. Another example I had before was 1030pm to 0600am failed to turn on quite hours as well. Hope this helps you figure out what exactly is causing your quite hours to not turn off... My settings are USA location American English as language and US vpn connection when needed
  • replace quite with quiet
  • Love it. Makes you sleep faster.
  • I wanna be mad at you, but I can't. lol
  • Nailed it
  • Bravo sir!
  • No quiet hours for me! As i am from uk!!
  • Yeah this is annoying. Was really looking forward to this feature
  • CORTANA->Quiet Hours
    Without Cortana there is no option to set up quiet hours :-(
  • Yeah, same in Canada - can't even fake it because I have an HTC 8X - sigh
  • Yeah, me too and I have the same phone too! What do you mean by "can't even fake it"? Is this phone unable to trick into putting US as language because of the model? I got mine from Telus by the way.
  • Non-US (unbranded) HTC's cannot set US English for phone language. And Cortana refuses to turn on. You could try search in Bing "Cortana settings" and it will open the settings page but the switch is disabled. Also you could search for "Quiet hours settings" but Cortana will open and say that she cannot help in this region or something like that.
  • Were both have the same problem sigh canada rules!
  • My 8X has the option to change region to US. Cortana works great. Unlocked, Indonesia.
  • Ditto, bah! Could at least have had the auto time set functionality, i.e. no Cortana...
  • I'm from the UK.. Just change your region and language to U.S. and you'll get Cortana asked all the other perks your missing?
  • And be blessed with an American dictionary, Fahrenheit for temperature and backwards dates. Not worth it for me.
  • You don't need to be bledded with backwards dates etc. You can set the current region to UK but change the R Format to USA still works :) I am from the UK and the dates etc are perfectly fine :D
  • No quiet hours for me as well, as English is not my main language... :( Kinda stupid MS restricted this feature to a certain region - an application can do that ('Volume'), but MS needs to lock it to a certain region? This is absurd...
  • I agree with you, but I can't use the volume app in Windows phone 8.1
  • Isn't it restricted because Cortana isn't actually finished yet? I think it even says BETA when using Cortana. From what I can remember reading, majority of major countries will have it by the end of the year.
  • Does anyone know if Cortana can work offline? I thought it could..
  • it won't
  • Nope
  • Yes, she can. But some funcion like forecast,bing etc. needs Wi-Fi or Cellular
  • Okay all :) To be honest I dont know, but I have noticed somewhere or I was dreaming or something, but I think I saw that she will be able to work offline for phone functions, like turn on/off this or that, take a note, send message, and so on.. with downloadable voice recognition or something.. Im not sure :D but it would be Awesome-Like useful :)
  • Nah.. Voice recognition is too complex to be downloaded to phone.. It needs constant internt connection to make accurate guesses.
    Instead you can type in your queries in cortana, and get search results in cortana offline. Just like in PC.
  • Love this! :)
  • cortana is beautiful! Im using in India and it gets 90% of the things I say.. Badly waiting for Final version release worldwide spl in India ofcourse
  • It will take time the reason that a personal assitant is not a big feature like ok other phones. Its an optinal feature. We now just want official apps on WP. I really feel bad as fb integration has been removed from WP. It was so easy to use and clean. Now lets hope we get official fb app and update for twitter applications as well.
  • If you install the official facebook app, it integrates with the people hub.
  • Hey buddy.. How did u got cortana in India?? I am too using the preview release, but didn't got the cortana.. Kindly will u help?
  • change language to 'English (US)' Restart (you will see restart option there only) Change region to 'United States' Restart same way again Done! Cortana will appear now. BUT keep in mind u will get all US settings and app updates and store currency format will change to $ from ₹. Some settings may change too which may cause you inconvenience. Last, try to speak more in the US accent.
    Enjoy Cortana its awesome!
  • Thanx buddy.. Cortana did appeared... Currently its downloading english(us) speech for cortana to work... Btw which r using?
  • Won't be using quite hours as much for now but setting up nicks for the people I contact is a must for using Cortana. No way to nick people without adding them to inner circle?
  • Just give Cortana a command withthe nickname and she'll ask you who it is.
  • I believe in the people hub when you edit contacts, nickname is one of the fields you can edit. Not sure if it is the same nickname field that Cortana uses.
  • I can confirm that it isn't.
  • I am not in US....however already have Cortana.....but disabled my 1520 lacks QH
    Hey Sam, Can you help me on how to project Screen ??
  • From what I understand we need to wait for firmware from OEMs to enable that feature. So devices like the Lumia 1520/Icon will get it when they get the Lumia Cyan firmware update. We'll round up all the info out there and get a post out on it soon.
  • Thnx man....will wait for the update
  • We need to wait for OEM firmware for wireless projection. For wired projection, the onus is on Microsoft to get the USB Projection Client out.
  • When will firmware update arrive?
  • Projecting screen can be done one of two ways (neither are functional yet) New hardware (1520, 930, Icon) will support wireless projection through Miracast, but this requires Nokia Cyan update which isn't out yet. 8.1 also supports screen projection through USB, but that will require a special PC companion app that is not out yet
  • Quite an explanation brother
  • Couldn't you just enable Cortana back and just not use it? That way, you have the ability to use QH?
  • No man.....i gotta use many local services a lot... That needs location services to be realistic
  • I am happy with all these features
  • Except fb integration removal. I hate facebook
  • If you hate facebook shouldn't you be happy the integration is gone?
  • You need the official app to enable a level of integration.
  • Off Topic: Sam, have you heard of any issues with people not being able to log I to their Microsoft account after the 8.1 update? My Microsoft account has an error on it now "80c805e2". And won't sync correctly. Do you know how to fix this issue without a hard reset?
  • My issue was bulk deleting my text messages. I also changed to no longer send SMS acknowledgements and download messages from "anytime." In order to fix this, i reverted my settings back to what they previously were. I hope this helps!
  • Thanks! Found that disabling text message backup has resolved this issue. Text message back up isn't a big to me anyway.
  • We want UK Cortana ASAP! :) why put off a fantastic feature?
  • When does Cortana come to the UK?
  • Can anyone tell me if you can attached documents yet or upload documents since the wp8.1 update? Ie11 says saved in documents folder. Can that folder be accessed? Thanks
  • I read that msft will release an official file explore sometime in June I hope this gives us easier access to our files.
  • You can also use Cortana and tell her to turn on quiet hours manually
  • Loving these in depth tutorials.
  • Took me a few try's to get her to work she finally automatically did it
  • Out of topic! Did anyone with HTC got Cortana? Please help! I have set everything to USA and I don't have her on my phone. Duck it!
  • Can the Automatic feature turn of the Manually activated quiet hours? Has anyone tested that? Let say I turn on manual and forgot to turn it off, then my Automatic kicks in or no?
  • Well it does. The scheduled quiet hours can turn off a manual quiet hours.
  • Are you trying to make us jealous of being able to use dear Cortana? Don't try to explain me "you can use it via changing your region and language" cuz I DON'T WANT TO DO THAT!!
  • +1
  • +1
  • So only working with Cortana?
    Ducking shirt!
  • Anyone know what the little ticket indicator is for in the symbols list at top of screen?
  • That is for notifications.
  • Thank you!
  • Ticket indicator?  
  • Yes, looks like a little rectangular ticket. Was just answered though by alienhead, its when notifications are present, hadn't noticed that.
  • Does anyone know why setting quiet hours is not available in the Netherlands and why certain things only can be set using Cortona? Can't guess the reason, and more important when do we get it?
    Big disappointment that it is not available. Also because the app "volume" is not working in wp 8.1
  • Because it hooks into a lot of your phones systems such as text, calls, and apps, and keeps a notebook of privacy options and rules to block, remind and change settings based on what you specify.
  • I understand this when you are talking about cortona. But why suddenly there are things implemented which only can be configured using cortona and not also via the typing.
    And also in the article it is mentioned that quiet hours can be set manually via settings. Why is that not available in my country.
  • i hate it when you try to turn off wifi from action takes to wifi settings...
  • You could try telling Cortana to turn it off for you, turn WiFi off works for me. Unless you're not in the US.....:)
  • Ya...kinda lame. Should act like Bluetooth...just turn off/on. Although you can just ask Cortana to do it and she does.
  • +1520.3
  • Alarm works in Quiet hour ?
  • Yes they do.
  • this is not for us outside us. this is tragical at least.
  • Wow! I set this up and now my phone is smoking fast!!!! Seems faster
  • Sorry unrelated...  But how does one access locally stored video files in 8.1, since this split video and music. Video hub doesn't seem to have this option.
  • Its in the video hub. Then swipe to the right. Its in Personal Videos. There is a See All option there as well.
  • Thanks.  Interesting, my MV4 video files became unrecognized following the upgrade.  They worked fine on version 8.  I will remove them and try copying them back.
  • All set up. This is a great feature. Who's working on the "Project my screen" story?
  • I hope as many as possible give this a three votes.
  • I'll give it a vote, stupid to tie lots of good features to software only available to a market that doesn't use WP. Europe should be prioritized. (hope it gains traction in Norway too...)
  • thanks. yeah. i love windows phone, and microsoft. but this is just sad. they would increase marked really if they opened up bing and cortana to other languages.
  • Brilliant article, thanks!
  • Sam, love the ste-by-step. Does QH take any more battery juice to support it? I mean it has to check the time, your calendar and then reply back to people if they are not part of the Inner Circle or allow them to break through. Is it a wash since you don't have the tones and vibrations and etc of them being on? Thanks!
  • I'm actually disappointed there are no location based rules for quiet hours, though there are for reminders.
  • Nokia please work on a new situations application. Thankyou
  • I certainly wish there was a location base for quiet hours as that would make total sense. Hopefully MS will realize this and add it.
  • I have updated amber. But it is not fully successful. Yet i didn't get notification for black update. It shows like your phone is upto date. How to solve this?
  • After you type the word shit, then hit the spacebar, you will see a little pic of a steaming pile in the suggestion bar to use for extra emphasis. 
  • I thought it was funny that if you type in "At Work"  it shows a Building and a sad face Emoticon.  HAHA! Found that out when I was texting my Brother-in-law. Loving the Emoticons in Predictive text.
  • I think it's funny that I meant to put this in the "how to swear like a champ" article but got sidetracked with work and put it here instead.  FAIL!
  • I'm sorry but I still don't understand what those 3 options do under 'texts'. You can pick one of the 3, but how do they differ? What does exactly happen with each of those options?
  • "Inner circle breaks through" - Allows anyone within your inner circle to pass through for text messages "Ask inner circle: break through?" - Will auto reply to text messages from your inner circle contacts letting them know you're busy and will let them know they can text "knock knock" to you in order to pass the previous message through "No one can break through" - no exceptions for texts during quiet hours
  • I already setup Quiet Time and was wondering if the Notifications in the slide down where changeable.  Looks like they are!  Thanks for answering a question I had that wasn't the topic of you article.
  • I find it amusing that its demoed by a Brit but its not for Brits yet:)
  • Cortana isn't British, she's from Seattle :P
  • When quiet time is on, does that mean that you still get notifications in the action centre, just not a audio/visual alert? 
  • What i want to know is how did you get facebook settings to show on the action center? (pictured)   I've tried everything from reinstalling, hard rest (not factory) deleting the fb beta to get it on there and cant.    I read that it will start showing once you start receiving notifications, but i've received over 10 yesterday and it never showed up.  Probably would be easier if you can add manually?  who knows, but instagram/fb doesn't show for me, yet anyway. 
  • Same thing is happening to me, no FB in action center.
  • *off topic" but last time I charged my phone I could only get less than four hours. Sad
  • is there a way to have quiet hours without Cortana, i prefer not to use voice activated search ?  
  • No, but you can still use text searches with Cortana, it's not limited to voice only.
  • Quiet Hours & Inner Circle were the features I was looking forward to the most :(
    Couldn't get Cortana in my 8X.
  • Is it true that Cortana can only remember one QH moment per day? If this is true, it's a serious limitation.
  • At the moment yes, it only has the ability to turn on for one specified time during the days you choose. You cannot choose different times for different days. HOWEVER, you can set it to go to quiet hours during 'busy' calendar events, which is the saving grace.
  • Does anyone know if quiet hours would quiet the Alarm Clock?  I would like to have my alarm clock active to wake me, but no txt or emails.
  • Yeah your alarm will still work
  • Am I missing something here or is QH tied to having Cortana??? If that is the case, I am more than disappointed :/
  • Quiet hour rules are tied to Cortana's notebook, which is used to make decisions about your phone (mute all volumes, reject calls, allow texts from inner circle). So yes, it is tied to the personal assistant.
  • So the network display bar at the top will appear always?
  • this feature is not showing up in my phone (Lumia 620)
  • Should this feature be avaiable also without using Cortana?
  • I dont see Facebook on my notification setting. I have notifications enabled on it. Any help?
  • This is pretty much timed airplane mode right?
  • It doesn't cut off your cellular or Wi-Fi connection, just disables audible alerts - basically a do-not-disturb mode
  • While using quiet hours through Cortana it is only working if GPS is on. Not working otherwise
  • Is there an option to add 'Private Number' option to inner circle... 
  • Extremely unhappy with Quiet Hours :( All I wanted was something silencing my phone automatically, all I got is some kind of lousy airplane mode where you don't get any notification at all (unless you add inner circle, but then nothing prevents your mum from calling you during important meeting to ask what you want for dinner, which kind of defeats the point...) Give me back Nokia Situations! It was way smarter than this!
  • Easy fix remove your mother from your inner circle or change the setting to nobody breaks through.
  • That doesn't work for us. I don't want my phone ringing in the middle of a meeting but if it is an important call I still want to see who is calling and be able to step out and take it if needed. This is stupidity at its highest. MS just needed to turn off sound during quiet hours. It doesn't make sense to turn off all notifications completely. What they have implemented is 'black out hours' instead of 'quiet hours'
  • I guess Quiet Hours in only available in the US. I could always change my region, sure, but I prefer it to be set in my own country.
  • No quiet hours without Cortana? Why? :-/
  • Have this problem in the UK. They must be intergrated.
  • I just can’t understand why such useful feature as “Quiet Hours” is part of Cortana app… Crazy move from MS side. I hope they will decouple that in near future.
  • How can i fix Quiet Hours on Lumia720, region UK ?
  • I'm in the UK, change your region to US and I think you have to change the language to match and cortana will work! It's pretty awesome to be fair
  • No quiet hours here in uk, prob because we have no Cortana..
  • Can I tell cortana to turn on quiet hours for 2 hours for example? I mean just speaking to her. Would be cool if I can say 'Cortana, don't disturb me for 8 hours' before I go to bed, just as a one off situation so that it goes back to normal after the set time.
  • Only available in US I supose =(... at least not in México =( you can keep Cortana but give me Quiet Hours
  • Does anyone know if you can change the auto-reply messages Cortana replies with when QH is on? Also, does this cover emails and phone calls as well or just texts?
  • Quite Hours is not available if your Country is set to Canada. You have to set it to USA.
  • I am located in the UK and have a Nokia 925 but my WIndows Phone 8.1 upgrade does not have the "quiet hours" option. Do you know if this is a US centric feature? Ignore this, I just looked at the rest of the thread and see that it is US centric  
  • I can't get Cortana to do the Auto Reply even though it's turned on.
  • Quiet hours should have been standard without Cortana, we all need quiet time!
  • Quiet Hours dont seem to work on my Lumia 520. Although i ahve my phone leeting all the criteria - I get a message saying:
    "To use quet hours, you'll need to make sure Cortana is turned on, Battery saver isn't conserving power at the moment, and Driving Mode isn't active. Go to settings and make any needed changes."
    What could be the problem? 
  • When it comes to the UK ???
  • I just got my Cortana set up on my cell phone. I noticed that the Quiet Hours can only silence my phone when it's activated. But I want switch my phone automatically to vibrate instead of totally silent, because even in my meetings, I still keep my phone in my pocket so that when it vibrates, I know someone is calling me and I will check my phone and call back as soon as I can. Also, I hope that I can have a choice to swith my phone to airplane mode instead of totally silence my phone when the Quiet Hours is activated. These are the features that I used to have on Windows Mobile 6.0 through some third-party apps. And it's the most important thing that I want from my cell phone. But I CAN'T believe it will take so long to develop the same app on Windows Phone 8.1. So I hope this issue can be fixed ASAP.
  • Anyone else having the problem that audio doesn't come back on after the quiet hours have expired? Three mornings in a row now, my alarm is vibrate-only even though the quiet hours have expired and the only way to get ANY audio back is to reboot the phone. On Lumia 1520. 
  • Using windows 10 and i cant get quiet hours to turn off