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How to turn off Cortana and stop personal data gathering in Windows 10

Perhaps one of the biggest features in Windows 10 is the arrival of Cortana, Microsoft's answer to Apple's Siri and Google Now. Cortana is the "world's first" digital assistant capable of helping users on many tasks. The more it learns about you, the more it understands you and it'll be able to assist you more efficiently.

On Windows 10, you can simply say "Hey, Cortana" to have the service immediately answer questions about weather forecasts, set reminders, search the web, find virtually anything on your PC, keep track of flights, calendar, packages, and a lot more – Heck! Cortana can even tell you joke if you need a distraction after a long day of work.

As good as Cortana is there is the issue of privacy as Cortana as inevitably it has to collect various pieces of information and personal data to learn to assist you accordingly.

Some information collected by the Microsoft's digital assistant includes information about your contacts, calendar, location, internet history and favorites, speech, inking and typing, and more.

Although, I personally believe that Cortana is a great tool that will only get better with time, we have to understand that many users will find Microsoft collecting certain pieces information as an invasion of privacy. As such in this how-to guide, you'll learn the options Microsoft is offering to turn off Cortana and stop personal data gathering.

Follow these steps to turn off Cortana in Windows 10

It is actually pretty straightforward to disable Cortana, in fact, there are two ways to do this task. The first option is by launching Cortana from the search bar on the taskbar. Then, from the left pane click the settings button, and under "Cortana" (the first option) and slide the pill switch to the Off position.

The second option is by launching the Settings app and on Privacy, go to Speech, inking, & typing, and click Stop getting to know me.

Either action will turn off Cortana deleting everything the assistant knows about you on this devices. Previously collected data from Cortana's Notebook will not be deleted.

Deleting personalization data from the Microsoft servers

To delete any remaining type of Cortana's data and personal information, such as Notebook, Reminders, Places, from your account, go to the Bing Settings' page. Using the account you are using on your computer, click the Clear button for both "Clear personal info" and "Other Cortana Data and Personalized Speech, Inking, and Typing". In both cases, confirm the deletion and you'll be good to go.

Turning off additional data gathering options in Windows 10

If you want to stop Microsoft from collecting personal information, you can go to the Privacy settings page and disable Send Microsoft info about how I write to help improving typing and writing in the future.

In the same way, you can turn off data collection for location by going to the Privacy settings page and disabling Location globally. Please note that you can also disable location per app. You can even turn off location for Cortana, but at the time of this writing, this option cannot be configured just yet. Disabling location globally will also disable the feature for Cortana.

Things you need to know

While Microsoft is providing different ways to turn off Cortana in Windows 10, there are a few things you may want to know about this feature and data collection:

  • You can only disable Cortana per device. You cannot simply disable the digital assistant in one device and expect to be turned off on every Windows device you own
  • The name you set Cortana to call you is also set per device, not globally
  • You can clear data and personal information that Microsoft collects using Cortana, but there isn't a button to stop collecting information globally in your Microsoft account
  • If you do not want Microsoft to store personal information in the cloud, turn off Cortana on all your devices, then clear all your personal information from your Microsoft account
  • If you disable Cortana in one device, then you clear your information stored online, but if you have another device using Cortana, then that information will once again be uploaded and stored in your account
  • Turning off Cortana will make Windows 10 less efficient in trying to make better suggestions for you
  • Yes, the search bar on the taskbar will continue to work. It won't disappear because you disable Cortana. However, you will be limited to simple searches (locally and from the web)
  • You can always turn on Cortana by opening search on the taskbar, going to the Settings section of the left panel, and sliding the pill switch to the On position. You can also do it via the Settings app > Privacy > Speech, inking, & typing and clicking the Get to know me button

Wrapping things up

As you can see, Cortana's settings and how Microsoft collects information is very fragmented. Currently, you have to go to different locations to turn off Cortana and other features that will trigger data collection. Users have to access a web page to clear stored information in their Microsoft accounts, and the Bing Personalization page only offers options to clear users personal information. It does not provide an option to stop personal data gathering completely. In part, this is because, disabling data collection will also affect Bing search results -- after all the digital assistant is powered by the Microsoft's search engine.

Furthermore, the only way you can access Cortana's Notebook, Reminders, and Places is from the device itself, Microsoft does not provide access to such information on the web. So, if you have multiple Windows 10 devices and you did disable the assistant and other data gathering after clearing the data chances are some of your personal information will upload back-up to your account.

Of course, this is just the beginning, and the work is far from done. Like Google, Microsoft also offers a dashboard{.nofollow}, which is the home for users to control their accounts, devices, services, and subscriptions. I think it would be better if everything the software maker offers were located in a single location to simplify the user experience.

Microsoft is working to include Cortana on most Windows 10 devices for the July 29th release, including PCs, tablets, laptops, and phones. However, at launch the digital assistant will be limited to certain regions, including United States, United Kingdom, China, France, Italy, Germany, and Spain.

And there are other big plans as well. Microsoft has already announced that the digital assistant won't be exclusive to Windows 10, and it will be releasing a standalone app for Android phones, iPhones, and iPads in the near future. However, the app will have limited functionality, because of the nature of the app unable to access part of the different operating systems.

Will you be turning off Cortana in Windows 10? How do you feel about Microsoft collecting this kind of information? Let us know your thought in comments below!

Mauro Huculak is technical writer for WindowsCentral.com. His primary focus is to write comprehensive how-tos to help users get the most out of Windows 10 and its many related technologies. He has an IT background with professional certifications from Microsoft, Cisco, and CompTIA, and he's a recognized member of the Microsoft MVP community.

97 Comments
  • Cortana is the best digital assistant anyone could have.
  • I'm concerned about privacy. Why is it an "all or nothing" issue ? Why cant we simply ask Cortana what we need to know with a F key press or something similar ?? Does MS need to know everything about us to answer search inquiries ??
  • Agree.  Literally the only reason to use a Windows Phone is becuase it isn't made by Google.  And the only reason not to use Google products is because Google are a spyware company. However, with Cortana, MS has definitely crossed into the same sketchy territory occupied by Google.  Apple has shown, with Siri, that you don't need to scrape people's personal information to have a useful voice-control system.  MS should take a page from that playbook.
  • Except Siri is neutered by the restrictions. Cortana is way more than a voice control system, she is a full blown assistant and as such needs much more personal info to be effective.
  • First of all, I am not sure how "neutered" Siri is, especially in iOS 9.  She seems to have all the major Cortana bases covered and she's doing it anonymously.  Apple made a big deal about how they don't need to know who you are for your phone to be able to offer you tips on when to leave work to make it home given the current traffic conditions. Second, I have several assistants and I assure you, even the worst of them is orders of magnitude more useful than Cortana.  Let's not go overboard with the "full blown assistant" nonsense.  Cortana is mostly useless in the "assitant" category and certainly doesn't need to know jack about me for her to do 99.5% of what I'd like her to (which is mostly search the Web, send texts in the car, and do voice dialing).
  • Siri is gonna be doing this like Cortana and google in IOS 9
  • Nope.  She will not harvest your personal data in an identifiable way.  Apple made a big deal out of this at their WWDC.
  • Ok well there's a way you can get round that to make cortanas data unidentifiable. Put a pin code on your phone and password on your pc. That's what I do. The thing is, I would rather have Cortana because you can delete any information Cortana has about you unlike google now. And you can control what Cortana knows about you. My personal opinion
  • Cortana will be available in the iPhone app store soon (:
  • Microsoft doesn't ask for much in terms of privacy. Microsoft has tons of security proofs. They have numerous security proofs including the Authentication measure.
  • if you start getting ads based on the personal info then MS crossed into google territory. As long as the data is used used just to make the service better and it isn't being sold to 3rd parties, MS will be nothing like google
  • Trust me they all do it! Data = Big $$$$. Everyday we sell our digital soul to every company. They may not all do it the same "Apple" but they will get it a different way believe that... I own Apple, M$, Sony, BMW, Samsung, LG, Dell, HP, and Google products. and if you dont think all of them are doing it your just kidding your self. Hell most of the time your just giving it away thur twitter, facebook or any other social media. We are our own worst problem.
  • They don't need to know much. Cortana on Windows Phone is extremely reliable and safe. I'm sure it's just as safe as any other platform release ( including betas ).
  • It's my understanding that the information collected by Cortana is stored locally and securely compartmentalized, not "harvested" by Microsoft to sell to advertisers like you'd find with Google Now.
  • We shoud all ask Google the same question!!  Does Google need to know everything about us to answer search inquiries ??
  • I'm just glad people other me are concerned about privacy. Sometimes I feel like I am the only one. Btw, I don't use Cortana.
  • You are most certainly not the only one. Businesses won't use Cortana. Nor do I. I use windows with a local account (so not logging in with a Microsoft account) and I'm assuming this means Cortana won't be active... Either way it's good all this indexing can be turned off.
  • Cortana is horribly underwhelming, it's just a glorified search engine.
  • Yes. For some the added seconds are convenient. For those organised, using professional workflows, businesses with specific software and requirements and for anyone needing privacy Cortana is a superfluous feature. I have a real pa, I don't need a virtual one. But that's just me and choice is good. For me Cortana is what it is, a glorified index. I don't need that. Great if someone does.
  • Well I'm not sold on just how great Cortana is .. Like I see I see the ads on TV for windows 10  and Cortena being used and typed into the search box . .The ad shows -  type in a question like " will I need an umbrella today? "  It  comes back 'nope  sunny and warm .. 78 degress'   etc etc ..  well I tried that question and Cortena just took me to a Bing search engine for me to pick an appropriate site to find my answer ..     same thing with -  ' Give me a good joke '  again Bing  desktop 'search engine'  area ..    I mean  Google can do al lthis for me already  .. Now if we are concerned about privacy  is Cortana  going to rat me out for searching for legal porn?? .. or downloaded bit torrents ..?     not that would be an invasion of privacy  wouldn't it now ..  
  • I wish we could see which data is actually being saved.
  • I would like to selectively disable the collection of "internet history and favorites". I hope they add some more granular settings to limit what info is used. 
  • Agreed. Am I right in saying that if one only uses a local account and doesn't create a Microsoft account Cortana is off by default? Anyone know about this?
  • She just functions like a bing search toolbar if not connected to a Microsoft account. However you may want to double check all the privacy settings and Cortana's settings. The preview is not very clear cut as it is still rather buggy.
  • Aye, that's what I'm experiencing. I wish it were more modular so Cortana, as a feature in windows settings could be uninstalled in one click. I'm going to be picking up Enterprise licenses and I imagine there will be an easier way to disable Cortana, compared to what this article describes... We'll see. Thanks for the response!
  • I just spotted chrome on windows 10..... Hope that spotting this shitty google thing after win10 RTM would be like spotting a UFO.....
  • I see Cortana is getting rude ;)
  • Disable Cortana and use Chrome. Isn't that the same data mining as Cortana? Chrome doesn't even need Administrative rights to install. Google bypasses that.
  • Good to know! She will be the first thing I will turn OFF when I use Windows10. I don't want that bitch... ;-)
  • Good to know the option exists, but the fragmentation is not ideal in any way.
  • Not everyone wants or needs Cortana on their desktop. I certainly don't.
  • Nope, I think one of the biggest thing from Windows 10 is Cortana so I'd like to use her
  • What about first enabling it to more locales so that more people can turn it off!
  • did they enable using voice to launch apps. I would like to say play music now and it would launch the default Music player.
  • Foilhats on.. *sigh*
  • Unfortunately there is no tinfoil hat thick enough to protect people from all the spying going on. It's out of control, and here to stay. Tinfoil hats off, carry on, but warily. 
  • Hmmm Tails Linux? Google it, get flagged by NSA, enjoy ;))))
  • Yes, "Hey, Cortana" can be enabled via Cortana's Settings. Thanks,
  • Cortana is useless in India..because it can't understand Region & Language of India..
  • I can't usually understand Indian English either.
  • No American can haha. Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • I disabled Cortana on my Windows Phone (it was so terrible in my country that it pissed me off), but according to MS own battery saver app, Cortana is still using power in background. nice that you have a possibility to disable, but not so nice that it is not really disabled. Now, if MS could care to explain why a user disabled program is still running, that would be interesting.
  • You can disallow Cortana from running in the background quite easily.
  • How?
  • Personally, I think she's great. I use her on my phone and having all my devices linked and searchable will be a great convenience. What I really am waiting for is her arrival on my XBox One, will probably get me to spring for the Kinect.
  • Ask Cortana to locate 2444 Four Mile Ford, Forty Fort, Florida. My address is similar. "She's" never gotten it yet despite it being entered in numerous apps on my phone. And, I'll rely on being on time, not Cortana, to make my flight.
  • Didn't Microsoft make a big deal with Windows Phone that Cortana's Notebook is locally stored and not available for anyone else?
  • Some people should stay of the Internet and boycott banks and avoid driving or walking where there are cameras. The privacy hit of helping me track packages or flights or my commute time, are all acceptable to me. Even when given the tools to shut it down and satisfy paranoia, the whining continues.
  • Just because it's good for you doesn't mean everyone wants it. That's the beauty of having a choice. So one loses an indexing assistant; w10 brings far more than that.
  • finally ... a sane person in the windowscentral comment section
  • I totally agree. Go live in a forest if you're concerned with digital privacy.
  • Have a digital "cookie"
  • And Cortana just sent everyone a pic of you in your underpants.  Ewwww........
  • How about making an option to opt out of Microsoft's data mining to "improve the service" and allow us to use Cortana without having to give all our personal data to Microsoft. It can be stored on MS servers but MS should have no legal right to access it to improve their service. If they don't implement an out out option they are just as bad as Google, since you can't use any Cortana features without gifting all your data to Microsoft.    
  • Well if your concerned about data mining, don't use the preview on your main pc.
  • Who said I am? But this data mining requirement exists on WP normal full release as well if you want to use Cortana. You can't even dictate messages on WP without agreeing to send all your data to Microsoft and also turning on your GPS and giving them all you movement data, etc. Using Cortana on WP or W10 preview is just as bad as Google, and in certain ways even worse because Microsoft is not ussually known for data mining so lot of people overlook it as a good alternative to Google, which it is not when you want to use Cortana.  
  • I agree with you. I can't believe a simple option like quiet hours requires Cortana to be enabled. Android has priority interrupts that don't require anything - it's baked in. One doesn't have to log in to google or whatever - especially good if you're using forked android and there is no Google in the os at all. Courtesans is an indexing agent and, as such, should be modular and be able to be disabled.
  • LOL
    In all Mauro Huculak desktops there is google icon on the desktops
    An hidden sponsorship? :D
  • Not at all.
  • Mauro, disabling is one step, but can Cortana be totally uninstalled? And if so, how does one do this?  I personally want to cut off the blood supply completely to this invasive cancer cell.
  • Thanks for this article. I didn't know that Cortana was such a busybody woman! LOL!
  • Great article
  • Tin foil hats, you're fighting a losing battle.
  • Unfortunately, the "Hey, Cortana" thing doesn't work half the time.  I have it toggled on, but it randomly goes silent and I have to turn it off, BACK on, then have it learn my voice again.  Stupidly annoying bug.  And why would someone NOT want Cortana to work? 
  • Business.
  • Turned her off on the laptop as soon as I found the button. I'd turn her off on my phone, too, if Quiet Hours didn't depend on her.
  • I've never understood why Cortana has to be connected to quiet hours. Android has a priority calling system that can restrict calls and notifications tho those you designate. That system is a feature of the os and doesn't rely on google now or whatever other google logged in nonsense. It just works. I hope w10 mobile pinches that feature. It simply does what is required.
  • Never understood that either, turning on the GPS / location rinses my battery on my L920 pretty sharpish.
  • It does that on the 1520 tester I have too. That's just one of the reasons I turn off these always on polling indexing systems. Same with ios and android and bb10.
  • Why would I ever think of deactivating my Cortana, she goes everywhere with me
  • There needs to be a one button privacy setting
  • That would be most useful.
  • I feel this article is dealing with something very positive, practical and useful in quite a sad, narrow-minded and unconstructive way. To me, it would be like deliberately snapping the kickstand on a Surface.
  • They're are plenty of instances where using Cortana would be an issue of privacy being breached. If you can't see that then your way of thinking is rather narrow minded and unconstructive ;)
  • * there
  • How to remove Cortana: Live outside the USofA. Problem solved!
  • Sad but true.
  • Why can't you just say "hey Cortana, shut down, I don't want to use your services anymore" ?
    Instead of having to click through the options posted in the article.
  • I'm surprised it's not just a simple toggle in the windows features, in the uninstall program section of settings, like how win7 and 8 would handle it. It should be as simple as disabling a module. I'm picking up Enterprise licenses so I assume the option to disable will be easier - it would be crazy otherwise.
  • First thing I turned off in Windows 10 Preview... If the RTM version doesn't allow turning off Internet search for everything, and allowing another search engine besides Bing, it will stay disabled permanently if I actually do update any of my computers to Win10... Can't say that what I've seen from the previews so far is enough to convince me yet...
  • I'm in agreement. I just want a one click option for disabling Cortana. It's completely superfluous, to me, as I'd only upgrade for the speed and stability and improved memory management w10 brings. Cortana isn't on my radar and there is no way it would improve my workflow as I use professional services and software anyway. Am then there's the staff. I'm guessing things will change before rollout - at least for Enterprise anyway. MSFT say they're going for a service approach for w10 - so that should mean services can be removed and Cortana is a service so...
  • "Not available in your region"
  • Really informative; you did a lot of research. Thank you!
  • I was ok with it until they said she gets my "speech, inking* and typing"... WTF Microsoft, I don't even know if I want to upgrade now if she has the ability to send that data home. Call me paranoid, but what in the world could everything I type help you with? That's like a super keylogger. Fire the person who suggested the last two at least...
    *Assuming this means handwriting Edit: per reddit comment, seems they just mean she's collecting data entered in to her search. My concern was with her being baked in to Spartan/Edge, that she'd be getting URL's from it, might not be a major concern if it's just what I ask her.
  • It does. And this is how this sort of indexing and predictive system works. It's extremely invasive because it has to be in order to create an accurate profile of you, an accurate model so that it can predict your needs, intentionally guide you to things you want, from what it knows about you etc. All that is handled Microsoft server side.
    -
    The beauty is that you can turn out of and still benefit from all the best of w10. I'm personally buying an Enterprise license as Cortana has no place in a business environment. Just my opinion. Cortana is a consumer facing feature. It should be ready to turn off.
  • Right, but I want to still be able to ask Cortana things like nearby pizza, I'd imagine she still works for that? A keylogger that reports everything I do home has no place anywhere. I don't see how it'd have anything useful to me as I still can't see AI as "being there" yet. She sees I typed something like "I hate that you don't like Taylor Swift" to a friend. I see this as spying really, because I highly doubt Cortana/a server will know my quote means I like Taylor Swift (I don't really but yeah). Further, even if I did, I don't want to see pop-ups suggesting her music anywhere. I don't want Cortana, Google Now, YouTube, Siri, Netflix, or any computer to recommend anything, as they are always wrong, and I didn't ask for their wrong suggestions anyways. I'm sure if they say this plainly during install/upgrade, no one would opt-in, hence them backdooring this in. Sorry, just venting. I hope Microsoft figures a way to scrap this, or make it not a baby with the bathwater thing. As seeing my contacts is one thing, but favorites and what I type on their servers? Even more likely unencrypted as they can't churn on it to make a profile/recommendation with encrypted data. I really hope it's explicitly opt-in, not opt-out.
  • Interesting the article is about turning off Cortana to stop information gathering, yet the Chrome icon is in the background. One of the single biggest spyware around.
  • Only if you log in otherwise it's doing out the same Intel as Bing.
  • My experience with Windows 10 10130 is that Cortana won't work 99% of the time. I constantly get the "something wrong".
  • Someone can make a universal app to disable things like this, but it would be a shame if a critical mass of folks don't start using this technology and therefore allow it to mature, because it does have the potential to become a very useful interface given a large enough databased of pattern probibilities or whatever sorcery goes on in 'expert systems'. Let's go out with a bang! Also Cortana is hot.
  • I plan on shutting it off, not out of security concerns, but because I don't have any use for it. I'm installing Win10 on the laptop I use when I go out for coffee, have almost no software on it besides what was delivered, and don't use either of Microsoft's browsers, Microsoft Office, or Bing. The only reason I'm installing 10 is for the upgrades to the operating system, because I know I'll have to do it anyway because I'm certain they're going to drop support on Win7 shortly after 10 is released, and because I can get the upgrade free. I don't need a digital assistant telling me the weather, movie times, bad jokes, or making a nuisance of itself trying to "help" me.
  • Personally I disabled all of the options shown when I was installing Windows 10.    My problem with cortana, is that the process still runs while disabled. You can kill it in task manager, but it will restart immediately.    No worries though, I will find a way to smite her permanently. Now if I could only get rid of all these ugly tiles.
  • I was able to do this by taking ownership of
    C:\Windows\SystemApps\Microsoft.Windows.Cortana_cw5n1h2txyewy
    then repeatedly terminating the Cortana process (you could use KILL in a BAT file loop, but I didn't need to)
    then in another window, delete that folder. We'll see how long it takes Microsoft to re-install it in the next update.        
  • You can turn off Cortana all you want but it still resides in memory, taking upwards of 50MB of memory. I haven't yet found a way to get it out of memory, i.e. uninstall it.
  • Sorry, but after reading the permissions required to enable Cortana, I decided to dismiss the app altogether.  It is just way, way, way too intrusive.  Cortana literally tracks your every keystroke, website visited, picture taken, word spoken... you get the idea.  And if you think MS isn't keeping, and using, and selling your info, well go for it.  I'm just not ready.  It's not paranoia if Big Brother is really listening!
  • Cortana continues to run like an old tsr app.  When I call for the Task Manager, and click on stop task, it goes away and comes right back.  Telling it to stop sending things is good, but it should stop collecting them and be removable.  period.
  • You're not even telling us how to turn off Cortana, just stopping her from gathering so much info
    Although I find it a little creepy, what bothers me is that it's making chome lag due to taking up so much disk space
    I'm using Windows 10 Pro, isn't it a little cheap to not give us the option to switch off cortana and use a windows 7/8 style search?