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How to setup and use Cortana on Windows 10 PC

Cortana is Microsoft's digital assistant and if you want, she can always be at your fingertips, ready to help you find anything on your Windows 10 PC, give you the weather forecast, and make sure you don't miss any important dates.

By default, Cortana is not enabled on your Windows 10 PC, but it doesn't take long to get her up and running!

How to set up Cortana on Windows 10 PC

Cortana "lives" in the taskbar, but before you can get her into her home you have to launch her for the first time.

  1. Click on the Start Menu button. It's the Windows icon in the bottom left corner of your screen.
  2. Click All apps.

  1. Click Cortana.
  2. Click on the Cortana button. It's the circle icon above the Windows icon.

  1. Click Use Cortana.
  2. Click Yes if you want speech, inking, and typing personalization turned on. This helps Cortana get to know you better and can help her complete various tasks. You can also choose No thanks if you don't want this feature turned on.

Now Cortana is all set up and ready for you to use. Simply type something into the search bar, and watch her do her magic.

How to pin Cortana to your taskbar on Windows 10 PC

Although Cortana "lives" in your taskbar, she might not appear there by default. If you don't feel like opening the Cortana app every time you need her, pinning her to your taskbar will save you a little extra time.

  1. Right-click on the taskbar
  2. Click on Cortana.

Right click on the taskbar and then click on Cortana

  1. Click on the option you want:
    • Hidden: This will hide Cortana from your taskbar.
    • Show Cortana icon: This will show Cortana's circle icon in the taskbar.
    • Show Search box: This will enable Cortana's search bar in your taskbar.

How to turn on Hey Cortana on Windows 10 PC

  1. Press the Windows key + S simultaneously to open Cortana.
  2. Click the Notebook button. It's the little notebook icon underneath the house icon on the left side of your screen.
  3. Click on Settings.

  1. Click on the On/Off switch underneath the Hey Cortana heading.

Now anytime you want to search the web, know the weather forecast, or get the baseball scores from last night, all you have to do is say "Hey, Cortana," and ask your question.

How to train Cortana to respond to your voice only on Windows 10

You can train Cortana to only respond to your voice, that way not just anyone passing by can shout out Hey Cortana in passing and accidentally her (or maliciously) on. To do this you need to train Cortana to listen to your voice. Make sure you are in a quiet place before you start these steps.

  1. Press the Windows key + S together to open Cortana.
  2. Click the Notebook button. It's the little notebook icon underneath the house icon on the left side of your screen.
  3. Click on Settings.

  1. Click on Learn my voice.
  2. Click on Start.

From here, Cortana will instruct you say six sentences out loud, so make sure you say them loudly and clearly. Once you're done, Cortana will know your voice and respond only to your commands.

35 Comments
  • Nothing but a battery hog, I use Todoist for Tasks and they will have Cortana integration soon so no reminders required, weather is on lockscreen via app, not really sure what else it can do for me.
  • Cortana is Quite ok., but Hey Cortana is a battery drainer.
  • Any info about supporting more regions?
  • Like I said many times before: Cortana is only for the happy few. Rather useless for most users. Therefore a big mistake.
  • Agreed, seems to have gone backwards on WM10 and a gimmick on W10.
    Commands are hopeless, she doesn't understand most of the time and her verbal responses are very limited, she just does lame web searches.
    Only thing she good at is setting appointments and reminders, other than that she's pretty much worthless.
  • Seriously guys, do you really think that Cortana is available globally? It seems so, as you haven't even spared a sentence to inform that it's available only in selected countries. Maybe you need to refresh you geographical knowledge a bit? Here, take a look at this map, and try to find as many grayed out countries as you can: https://www.amcharts.com/visited_countries/#DE,ES,FR,GB,IT,CA,MX,US,BR,C... And you didn't even bother to put a small disclaimer in the article. For some articles you do, but when you don't care, such as here, your article reads as a big "screw you" to me, your reader. "We don't care, either you're in our fancy club, or you're an inferior reader. There's nothing for you to do here, we won't acknowledge that there are market differences". Seriously, this attitude is getting tiresome. As much as I like getting fresh info from Windows Central, I'm starting to look around for another portal that's more respectful to readers from around the globe. Or change the name from "Windows Central" to "Windows Central. America-centric".
  • Windows Central America. It would tell clearly what the site is about.
  • I wish.
  • Thanks for your post, just feel the same here, That's why we see many features being removed because they are said to have gone obsolete yet they are a deal breaker for some of us in other countries. that's is why Windows 10 Mobile is not performing well,  On Android it doesn't matter where you are (Country), they treat their customers equally.
  • It's easier to manually control the PC to get exactly what I want than to remember the right phrase to say and then sift through the results. Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • Whenever I installed a fresh Windows...Cortana was on by default. From the first run. No setup, just a toggle on first boot.
  • Yeah, we had to go make sure that got axed hardcore at work. No thanks, sending our business information to MS whenever a file or setting needs found.
  • Microsoft must wake up. World is more than USA.
  • World must wake up. World is not going to get everything at the same time as everywhere else. Crybaby posta like this, where you ignore that Cortana is WELL beyond US-only in your complaint, is ridiculous hyperbole.
  • Why can't they just open Cortana for me to use in English while keeping my native language on my phone, tablet or pc!? Missing out on Quiet Hours is a real pain. Shouldn't be that hard :-/
  • I suppose you need Android phone to accomplish that.
  • IDK, why can't they let me turn Cortana off on my phone?
  • Haha, good question ;)
  • Any thoughts on using Cortana to type by voice in other programs such as email or documents.? This is what I love about Windows 10 on my phone, that I can create messages like this by voice.
  • i find cortana alot better to siri imo, really enjoying using her
  • Does anyone on the planet Earth talk to his computer and doesn't he feel awkward as hell when there are other ppl in the room? Srs?
  • In the business world its useless, in public its useless unless you want to annoy people around you.  Its a gimick, keyboard, mouse and shortcuts are the best way to get things done.
  • But you CAN type to Cortana, you don't *have* to speak to her out loud... this is honestly one of the things I like about Cortana over others like Alexa or Siri. So use whichever input works best for your setting... if you're at your desk, then typing is probably easier and quicker, but if you're a few feet away, voice is incredibly useful... and in the car? Cortana rocks! But again, it's your choice.
  • Very well said. I actually find this type of article very useful. Keep them coming, Windows Central!!!
  • I recently got Amazon Echo, bit over priced but surprised by Alexa!!!! She so responsive and more than 90% times she could understand me very well even though I am English is not my native language... I tested same phrases on both - Alexa and Cortana... Alexa was able to understand me 82/100 while the same phrases with Cortana were 26/100. Cortana has a long way to catch up... 
  • This is information for some native English speaking regions mainly only and only a few other regions. For most other regions you have to go to the settings language and region settings and the control panel (double check) to change the region that supports cortana. After that you can do the steps mentioned in the article. For non-English regions and the exception of only a few other coutries Cortana can be used as described, but for most other regions you'll have to do with half an English system half native language preference of your windows device. And there are several limitations of what Cortana can do for your region and how well it understands you as a native non-english speaking person at this point in time.
  • I have never seen or heard anyone use cortana in real life. May have something to do with the fact that it does not work with most cars (android and ios only) and with the fact that its not available for my language. But still, i have never heard android or apple users talk to their pc or phone either. How many people actually use this? Maybe MS should use their resources on getting the basics right rather than focusing on these high profile gadgets used only by a limited group. My 735 and 640 still crash randomly every day and even on my 1520 ms apps sometimes crash or freeze my phone. Cortana is a good concept, launch it again once it works flawless, covers more languages and windows 10 is more stable.
  • Cortana works in my Honda CRV 2014. Integrates nicely.
  • So I just read that Cortana is required for all search in the Anniversary Update. I saw no mention of that on this site, any confirmation? If that is what MS is about, inserting non-optional data mining software into every W10 PC and phone, I'm out. No Surface Phone, no Scorpio. No more recommending MS products to people at all. Cortana is the spybot I tried to avoid when I stopped using any Google products, including switching from Android to WP. I am still mad Cortana is non-optional via the search button on my Lumia 950. Doing that to my PC might be the one and only thing MS could EVER do to chase me off. I've literally played on Xbox LIVE for more than half my life now. I've loved Windows Phones. I was all good with jumping to W10. I've been in the Xbox and W10M previews for a long time now. However, there is no defense to forcing users to subject themselves to data mining for a task as simple as searching for a locally stored file. I no longer trust Microsoft. What I spent the last four years trying to avoid by dumping Google is the privacy invasion trash MS is making into the core of its platform now? Congrats, MS, on doing something so abhorrent that I'm ACTUALLY considering a lag-filled Android experience for my next phone and PlayStation as my next console. I didn't think MS could do it.
  • Who cares man you have the power of choice just sell your stuff. Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • The most useful feature of Cortana is still missing: voice typing. This has been avialable with Siri in iOS since day 1. I would love to talk to my suface or laptop and have it capture what I'm typing. Since Cortana is great at recognizing speech, this should be a logical implementaiton.
  • Personally, I dig Cortana, but she refuses to tell me how big her honkers are!
  • As much I am a fan of this site I feel this article is dis-Informative. It has been written by someone who has initially customised their system, and not used what the everyday joe would have out of the box. Cortana is on the Taskbar by default on an everyday system. you do NOT need to go through the start menu and all apps list to locate the feature. you can just click "Ask Me Anything" on the taskbar (if it is visible) or click start and then begin typing which then automatically invokes search/Cortana (a feature that has been in place since Windows 7 launched 6 years ago). My other complaint is that this guide has clearly been written using the "Threshold" 10240/10586 builds. Surely, with 6 days until the launch of "Redstone" or the Anniversary update, it would make more sense to be writing this guide with that version along with all the changes implemented included? Otherwise a lot of this guide will become obsolete within the week. Poor articles like this click bait only serve to lower the bar on a site that IMO has much a higher standard and quality of work.
  • I was expecting region settings here
  • I wanna know how to turn OFF Cortana. I can't seem to get the damned thing to stop running in the background. Task Manager? Nope, comes right back on after disabling it...