Yes, you can turn Cortana off in the Windows 10 Anniversary Update

Seeing as another major round of updates to Windows 10 is about to take place next week it only makes sense to see some fear-inducing articles. In fairness, the articles themselves aren't that bad (see PC World) as the content mostly explains away the so-called controversy.

Nonetheless in the age of "I only read the headline" things like "You can't turn off Cortana in the Windows 10 Anniversary Update" with the fine print "...but you can lessen her awareness" does a disservice to the community.

Normally, I ignore such articles as in June we wrote a detailed guide called "How to turn off Cortana and stop personal data gathering in Windows 10". That guide mostly applies to the current version of Cortana, but a lot of the privacy tips are relevant for the Windows 10 Anniversary Update.

How to sign into Cortana in Windows 10 AU

Now, in fairness, Microsoft did change some things around. The criticism that an "off switch" for Cortana is removed is technically correct and likely where much of the misinformation originates. But there is a reason for this too, which is a change in the structure of Cortana and it being a service on iOS and Android.

Cortana when not logged in with a Microsoft Account

Cortana when not logged in with a Microsoft Account

Here are the facts:

  1. To use Cortana on Windows 10 and Mobile you need to link your Microsoft Account to the service. Cortana asks you this during a clean install, and it should also ask you during an upgrade too when you first go to use Cortana.
  2. Microsoft renamed Bing web and local PC search as "Cortana" too. So there is the non-personalized generic Cortana and the one that does the personal stuff e.g. location, reminders, email, flight tracking, etc.
  3. At any time you can also log off Cortana. You can also wipe your web, Cortana, search and device history

With the Anniversary Update, anyone can use Cortana. Some of the benefits are still regionalized, but Microsoft is expanding the service and letting users choose regions so new users can opt-in. This is, after all, what people had asked for with feedback.

Here is how to log off Cortana if you already are using the Anniversary Update.

Logging out of Cortana in the Anniversary Update

How to sign out of Cortana in Windows 10 AU
  1. Click Cortana
  2. Choose Notebook
  3. Choose About me
  4. Select User Account
  5. Select Sign Out

Cortana will now revert to a generic search engine for your PC and web with no links to your Microsoft Account.

Going even further, Mary Jo Foley reminds me that non-Home users also have Group Policy options available too to turn things off.

Confusion? Maybe

Now, having put all of that out there, we can talk about how disabling Cortana for personalized information tracking is not as easy as throwing an off switch. There is a legit complaint that Microsoft may be obfuscating how to disable Cortana for personalization. Just two caveats:

  1. Users can opt-in to personalized Cortana during the upgrade or when setting up a new PC
  2. Opting out after opting is less likely (see Facebook and Google)

Having said that, I do think Microsoft could make un-enrolling in Cortana for personalized searches easier. That is an easy criticism to make, and it does have merit.

However, that conclusion is very different from the "you cannot turn it off" headline. Not only can you turn Cortana off for privacy, but you can also hide it from the Task Bar and shut down a lot of general telemetries that Microsoft collects. Moreover, users need to opt-in to use Cortana in the first place.

So why the change?

As to why Microsoft made Cortana this way my hunch is for parity with the version of Cortana on Android and iOS. Those versions both have 'Sign out' options and not a 'Turn off' switch (which would be weird to a user).

Don't forget, "turn off" sounds like you are completely disabling everything Cortana does, which is not the case. On iOS, Android, Windows 10 Mobile, and Windows 10 PC you can sign out of Cortana and still use Cortana for non-personalized searches. That's not turning it off.

How to sign out of Cortana on non-Windows devices

That is what has changed with Cortana, and it is worth pointing out to readers when covering what is new with the personalized assistant (or not so personalized, perhaps). The fact that Cortana on Windows 10 behaves now like on iOS and Android is interesting, I suppose. Nonetheless, you would not say "you cannot turn off Cortana on your iPhone". The same applies for PC. You don't turn off Cortana. You can (a) log out from it and (b) do not use it.

In the end, we will continue to see articles trying to worry people, which is a shame. There is a legitimate discussion to be had around Microsoft's data collection, privacy, and user control. In fact, I pointed one case in this article where things could be improved.

Questions are good, being skeptical is A-OK, but let's stick to the facts.

For further privacy tips see our previous guide "How to turn off Cortana and stop personal data gathering in Windows 10".

Daniel Rubino

Daniel Rubino is the Editor-in-chief of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft since 2007 when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, laptops, next-gen computing, and for some reason, watches. Before all this tech stuff, he worked on a Ph.D. in linguistics, watched people sleep (for medical purposes!), and ran the projectors at movie theaters because it was fun.

  • Thanks Daniel :) Good to see someone use their brain. 
  • I'm so glad this article was made to call out the ignorance from other websites. Just because something is not where you're used to seeing it doesn't mean that it was removed.
  • Regardless of whether or not you think people are being ignorant, Microsoft is only driving consumers away by moving familiar things around and obfuscating paths that used to be obvious to them. Windows 10 can already be confusing for normal people, and Microsoft's trickery with changing the red x to click away the upgrade notification window has already made people angry. There's no getting around the fact that tricking your customers into installing Windows 10 was a shiity thing to do.
  • This isn't about the upgrade though and the people not smart enough to take advantage of getting the latest for free.  This is about Cortana and feature do and will change otherwise things can't get better.
  • 1.  You're' being way too disingenuous of people by assuming they even care about getting the "new stuff" and assuming that this "new stuff" is automatically better for them ("take advantage" of getting the latest for free).  There are applications which do not work properly in Windows 10.  These can be Win32 Applicaitons which are no longer in development, but people NEED personally or professionally.  There may not be any decent alternatives to these apps, or the current app may still function perfect and the alternatives are prohibitively expensive.  There may be devices and peripherals that do not work properly in Windows 10 as well.   Just because the Windows 10 "Upgrade" is free doesn't mean it's better.  It only means Microsoft wants as many people on Windows 10 as possible to serve their own personal agenda - not that of the user.  I know my Laptop lost the ability to be woken up from sleep via the a USB Device (KB/Mouse) or Built-In KB/Touchpad with the Windows 10 Upgrade, which is a usability regression straight back to the 90s for me.  Talk about "taking advantage."  I also had a week of driver update hell with Windows Update (Silently replacing newer drivers with old drivers that had regressions, and completely breaking driver package installs in some cases) after updating. In the real world, people have important things to do with their time than deal with computer issues on a machine that was working flawlessly before the update.  Even Microsoft *own* devices release with, or get regressed into major bugs and issues after OS updates.  It's not the user's fault, and this has been a consistent issue throughout the history of this OS.  Why do you think most people didn't upgrade their Windows OS and instead waited until they bought a new PC, while Apple users just ran out and bought the new upgrades fairly quickly (price is also a factor, but convenience is almost as big a factor, IMO). 2.  Article here is right, but the way things are constantly being renamed and tweaked, etc. makes it too easy for someone to "accidentally" turn something on or link an account with something.  It can also give you the impression that a Microsoft Account is required for even the most basic functionality of the OS because Microsoft words everything in a way to almost scare the average user into creating or using one. I can't even count how many times I had unintentionally "Linked" my Microsoft Account with my Skype Account, for example.  A lot fo these things happen automatically just by opening an app or pressing a button, without confirmation.  Clearly, this isn't the case with Cortana, but it is an issue that has fueled this attitude of "guess you have to have an account for everything." Microsoft makes it extremely easy to Link Accounts and turn features off, and much harder to undo the action.  You can link your Skype Account to your Microsoft Account simply by opening up an app on the PC.  You can't unlink it except by going to a Web Site (last time I had to).  You can turn on all sorts of features when you enable Cortana, but you have to jump across different settings panes and web sites to disable them if you turn her off. The whole design of this system is so blatantly anti-user, that it isn't even funny anymore.
  • The trouble with 'free' is that it is often associated either with poor quality or with there being a catch. I certainly would not class Windows 10 as a quality product - it's software that remains in beta, riddled with inconsistencies, and is one of the worst Windows versions I've ever used. It is, in fact, the last Windows version I will ever use. And there IS a catch... the data harvesting. To be fair, it's not the harvesting of data that's the issue, it's that Micrsoft is willing to give that data to unnamed third parties, as publically stated in their privacy policy. Must dash... I have a Microsoft account to close down.
  • Great said. Windows 10, sadly eats on peoples privacy like never before. It is sad. Cause i like my pc to be clean. The ****** part is that after ever yupdate they turn on something that you would not want to be turned on. Settings should always remain as they was, not always change.... It is sad cause the OS is good. But i always have a strange fealling something turned on in the settings and i don't know. Or something linked and i don't know, and so on and so on.
  • Yes, I was growing weary of seeing theis nonsense all over the internet and the inane reponses to the articles
  • Seen this on Business Insider's website yesterday and gave the very same [how to] sign out of Cortana info -- and of course they down voted me.
  • You gave them incorrect information. You can't turn Cortana off. Signing out is NOT the same as turning off. Read this article again - Your great Windows God, Daniel, agrees that Cortana can't be turned off. Just because the headline says it can, does not make the headline correct.
  • I always thought that Cortana was off by default anyway. If people think she's an NSA backdoor (lol) they shouldn't even need to get involved.
  • I think some of the NSA B.S. is FUD, but I don't think you're actually thinking this through. 1.  People use Social Media a lot.  You have no idea what you might say that may tip off authorities and make you "interesting" to them.  You may be discussing recent activities in Nice, France, Turkey, Gemany, etc. and htey may find something you say (or an opinion you hold) "interesting."  This can be on Twitter or Facebook, or another forum that is fairly public. 2.  At that point, they can request information from Private companies.  Secret Courts, etc.  If they have the capability they can try to get it themselves, as they have been shown to do in the past.  It isn't about being "paranoid" thinking Microsoft is in cahoots wiht the NSA.  It's about personal responsibility, and decreasing your digital footprint as much as possible.  What you do on the internet is not the same as the personal conversations we used to have at the dinner table or in the living room.  It is there, forever. 3.  I think "Anonymized" data is a scam when you factor in Cookies, Advertising IDs, and other vectors that companies use to track and target you.  If information was truly anonymized, then it would be hard to reliably target people with Ads and the the products you searched for last week wouldn't get thrust in your face across the WWW for the next 3 weeks. A company like Microsoft isn't helping their own case when they turn much of those features on by default.  It feeds into the paranoia that's some people are perpetuating across the internet.  It looks bad, it feels terrible, and it makes the claims look credible. 
  • I disabled her through registry
  • Lol. That's paranoia.
  • If you did that in Win 10 version 1511 or earlier, you are in for a rude awakening. In the Annniversary Update, these registry settings are Protected and cannnot be changed by hacking or Group Policies (gpe).
  • Thanks for the article! I was talking about this yesterday with Jez and Richard. I'm not in the Insider preview for PC and this did rang some alarms, specially as it may rub the European Commission the wrong way. European privacy laws are a lot more though than American ones and this sort of data collection may eventually lead to some action on the Commission's behalf. Specially if Microsoft doesn't make it very obvious how to disable the data collection.  Maybe they should add some tutorials for when people log in for the first time unto Windows 10. Just to cover the basis.
    We'll see what happens.
  • SO I need to reply here... in a good way...
    So why cant you reply like this... you're not attacking, saying "Its gonna fail. Its dead..." This was a good post... and helps others note about the laws in other parts of the world that we should all be aware of when trying to understand the points of views of other people..
    Lets for a moment say Windows Phone is DOA, who really cares... if people LIKE using it, the use it (such as myself) and if MS decides to stop development, we move on... does not hurt you, yes I need to go buy a new phone, but meh, I do that every two or so years anyway... This is what I fail to understand with some, WHY the attacks? How does the choice of others create such a reaction from some... In the words of a once great poet... "Cant we just all get along?" Ok he was not that great and that's not even poetry... but funny... :D And assuming you ARE Portuguese guess I need to the stop the ass hat comments... :)
  • I have 10.5k comments written here since 2012. Not all of them are regarding WP's death. You just notice those because they go against the normal opinion of WP fans. And where WP is concerned, it's just exacerbated by the fact that pretty much all that has happened to WP I said would happen in 2013 when the sale of Nokia's D&S division to Microsoft was announced. That irritated a lot of people around here. I also am not a fan of The Church of Microsoft Praising (you can replace Microsoft with Google, Apple etc). I don't like blind fanboyism. Never liked it. So it's normal that often comment wars arise.   And yes, I am Portuguese ;)
  • Well the false media had spoken and the vast majority of the world will believe them.
  • You mean like how the referenced articles actually state how to limit Cortana, but the commenters here only gobble up "someone doesn't like Cortana," and spit out that they didn't tell the whole story, even though many did?
  • False media in the sense of the click-bait headlines.
  • Well its cortana but a small version like it just do searches like search did can do all teh basic things search did and just tells you she is cortana not search does some easy commands too that dont need account and like this they show you what she can do nothing changes... if you dont login people thats what he says!
  • Then you can go further, hide Cortana completely and use a third-party desktop search utility like Everything.
  • So if it's like on iOS and Android, we can uninstall Cortana completely?
  • False equivalency. Then there would be no way to search on your computer. Can you uninstall Spotlight from mac OS? You could just, you know, not use it. Never search for anything anywhere. Might as well unplug from the internet too.
  • Sure, cause we could never search anything on a PC before Cortana / Bing ;)
  • That's the point, though. "Cortana" when not logged in is just (a) local search like every version of Windows and (b) Bing search for the web. There is no difference, it's just the name that has changed. When you log into Cortana now it becomes real Cortana with the data collection stuff.
  • But Daniel, can you turn Cortana off? Yes or No. There's no 'Yes, but...'  
  • But I think that's kind of the point we're trying to make--we want Cortana optional. The only reason taking out Cortana removes all search is because Microsoft is stripping the other form of search in the first place. The point being made is to leave what we've always had there. The guy made a reasonable conclusion based on your statement of parity, and you throw a thinly veiled insult calling people against Cortana paranoid. I don't know why you can't be respectful in your answer to a legitimate question. It's pretty odd that the face of the site is so condescending and rude on such a consistent basis.
  • The problem is that you, and many others, are conflating the name with the functionality. In Threshold, Cortana and regular search were two different things. Were you saying that you wanted regular search to be optional then? I didn't hear anyone say so. In Redstone, regular search has been renamed so that it falls under Cortana but it's still the same functionality. Now, for no apparent reason, you want that functionality to be optional. Why? Because you aren't prepared to think deeply enough to separate the name from the functionality.
  • No, the problem is you're putting words in my mouth, like, a year late. I didn't like Cortana from the start. I didn't like Kinect from the start, either. Once Cortana was shoved into W10M search, I stopped using it. I made that known LONG ago, that I opted to go to the Bing site (not the end-all resolution to my issue), as I wanted less data mining and faster search results. I stopped using my Kinect for voice commands on Xbox because I want no part of having everything I say parsed by a MS algorithm. What's more, I've said A LOT of Microsoft's forced things should be optional on devices. This goes for several W10M apps. I don't have any use for a Podcasts app, so letting me uninstall it would be nice. I don't want the Contact Support app. I don't want the MS Weather app that struggles to update properly during a given day. I don't want the Outlook Calendar that spent last Friday repeatedly alerting me to the birthday of a person I don't know and who isn't in my contacts. I've said FOR MONTHS that Microsoft should err on the side of making things optional. Forcing apps people dont' want onto them isn't a way to make people happy. Heck, I just had it happen today that a coworker called me in because OneNote wasn't working without a MS account. Why was this? There's a permanently embedded Store app called OneNote, and that was mistaken for the OneNote that's included with Office Professional. So, the wonderful reality now is that because a worplace pays Microsoft both for Windows 10 AND for Microsoft Office, there are two copies of OneNote to confuse the non-IT staff. All of that said, I can't be bothered by someone who wants to tell me what I thought and think without any ounce of proof of my past statements. I know how I reacted to this stuff, and how I continue to. You're making things up that simply aren't true, and it's why this isn't worth discussing further. That you essentially end your comment by insulting the other person's intelligence after making random stuff up about that person from the start is pretty indicative of the kind of discussions you engage in, and I'm not interested in any further discussions with a mix of someone who wants to lie to make points and call names to seem superior.
  • Very well put, Keith. I agree with everything you've said.
  • He said them all. Microsoft? Here this????
  • Well said.
  • It's not all or nothing. Third parties like Everything have desktop search utilities which are great for non-snooping searches. They don't "get to know you" like Cortana, but isn't that the whole point of these articles?
  • I don't think so, but that would solve a lot of peoples worries.
  • I'm certain they'd find something else to worry about.
  • You could hide Cortana from the Task Bar, which effectively removes it. How else will it do stuff/run?
  • Correct, provided you take out the stuff Cortanan already knows, and disconnect her from the Microsoft Account she feeds from. Same with Bing Search. You can hide the whoole MS Search Box and go with third-party desktop search tools.
  • That's the total opposite of what Microsoft should be doing, which is trying to get Cortana to everyone.
  • You mean force it up on them, of course.
  • Yes, exactly.
  • Though the average user will never know, it is still possible to shut Cortana completely off, no signing out of anything required -- and she's no longer lurking in the background: Windows 10 Pro Group Policy Editor 1. Click Start, type gpedit.msc and hit enter.
    2. Navigate to Computer Configuration > Administrative Templates > Windows Components > Search.
    3. Locate Allow Cortana and double-click on it to open the relevant policy.
    4. Select Disabled.
    5. Click Apply and OK to turn off Cortana. Windows 10 Home Registry Edit 1. Go to Start, type regedit and hit enter.
    2. Navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Policies\Microsoft\Windows\Windows Search
    3. Right-click on Windows Search and select New > Dword (32-bit) Value.
    4. Call it AllowCortana.
    5. Double-click on this and set its value to 0 to disable Cortana.
  • Nice to have, but always risky sending people who can't tell you which browser they use to hit up the Registry Edit.
  • Those users aren't likely to wind up in the comment section of a tech blog.  It also provides more accurate info than the blog post, which has a subject line that incorrectly promises to explain how to 'shut off Cortana". Thanks though for stopping by... ;-)
  • Strange, I don't have "Windows Search"
    WcmSvc to WorkplaceJoin Would creating Windows Search and adding the AllowCortana key have the same effect?
  • Both of those techniques are impossible in the Anniversary Update. The GPE settings are gone, and the Registry locations are Protected.
  • Works fine for me, at least with the Windows 10 Pro Anniversary Edition and the Group Policy Editor.  It's worked without issue on a Surface Pro 2, and old Asus laptop, and Windows 10 Pro Anniversary Edition within Parallels 11 on a MacBook Pro. The opposite of 'impossible'...  You must be looking at different settings.
  • Worked fine for me with both the registry editor on my PC and the group polocy editor on my laptop.
  • You can turn off Cortana in the current version. You can do it the first time you activate search/Cortana. You're asked if you want to use Cortana. Yes or no, it's that simple.
  • That's gone in the Anniversary Update. Read the article.
  • Hmm, so it is. Well that was a stupid move. I have the anniversary update on my phone, and they removed the option to not have glance screen always on while charging. I personally don't want my screen to be on 24/7 in any capacity.
  • Well its not entirely gone. Yes the toggle switch is gone, but follow those 4 steps to sign out of Cortana and you're good to go. It's more steps to do the same thing.
  • Here's how to turn Cortana OFF ... "Hey, Cortana! Fetch me a beer from the fridge!"
  • "and make me a sandwich while you're at it! And hurry up, the game's about to start!" Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • To turn her back on its flowers and chocolates..
  • A little off topic, but can I have that wallpaper please? :-)
  • I don't really think there's anything addressed here that covers my conerns. Just a few points: 1. You defend it the change in the name of parity, then show iOS and Android screenshots that reveal parity isn't present in those anyway, so that falls flat. 2. I don't think "Microsoft gave the menu a different name, which can confuse" is a real point of proof that you made a point about Microsoft's data collection issues. I think it's something that warrants a major article, particularly a compare/contrast with Google (I think enlisting a member of Android Central for a cross-post article to compare data collection between MS and Google would be a fantastic idea). 3. Microsoft isn't bothering to be upfront about it. They seem to want to try hiding t he change, which is the main issue for the next point. 4. As you said, "Opting out after opting is less likely (see Facebook and Google)." Basically, Microsoft is changing things, not telling people, and allowing ignorance to serve as a means of permission, IMO. 5. Microsoft opts you in, and that's not pleasant. I just opened my phone to get a look at the Cortana settings. I see it has device history saved, and I never turned that on. When Microsoft doesn't let you know it changes things, then starts collecting your data vis those hidden changes, it's pretty reprehensible, IMO. 6. I've never understood why MS has gotten (well, been) so egregiously bad at relaying some information. For example, if I hit "Clear my device history," the button reacts, but there is no feedback. I have no idea what history was there, if it was successfully cleared, and what I've changed on my phone with that button. It seems like another example of Microsoft hiding its actions and intentions to keep people from knowing how sketchy it is. What history was it tracking from my phone? I have no idea, because Microsoft seems interested in hiding your own data from you so it can pull it into its servers without your knowing. That's the worst part of it all--Microsoft is hiding my data from me, but not itself, because if it were hidden from Microsoft AND me, it wouldn't need to exist in the first place. That it's ther,e and I can't see ANYTHING about it, leads me to believe it's data meant to just feed Microsoft. It's good that you addressed an issue, though I think you're being flippant with "these are clickbait articles," and lightly tapping Microsoft on the head for clunky menus. Cortana is way more invasive than many of us like, and the fact we're getting it thrown at us, not being told what it's reporting from us, and not even getting a courtesy heads-up of the change from them is worth worrying over. In an era where Apple is going toe-to-toe with the F.B.I. to protect consumer data (perhaps in an over-the-top show of sorts), Microsoft seems to be hiding that data solely from the consumers. We aren't getting a good idea of what we're in control of, and it's quite Orwellian to watch Microsoft behave in this manner. It makes the French accusation of privacy concerns more weighty when Microsoft does this.
  • Why is there always one of these guys...?
  • What, someone who explains his opinions thoroughly and completely, rather than popping out one-liners for likes on a biased site's comments section?
  • It's good that you addressed an issue, though I think you're being flippant with "these are clickbait articles," and lightly tapping Microsoft on the head for clunky menus. Cortana is way more invasive than many of us like, and the fact we're getting it thrown at us, not being told what it's reporting from us, and not even getting a courtesy heads-up of the change from them is worth worrying over. In an era where Apple is going toe-to-toe with the F.B.I. to protect consumer data (perhaps in an over-the-top show of sorts), Microsoft seems to be hiding that data solely from the consumers. We aren't getting a good idea of what we're in control of, and it's quite Orwellian to watch Microsoft behave in this manner. It makes the French accusation of privacy concerns more weighty when Microsoft does this.
    There is a lot that's incorrect here.  First, full disclosure: I work for Microsoft.  (In our ethics training we go through every year we're told to make that clear up front in any kind of interaction so you can know that I'm just getting paid off for my biased opinion or whatever.)  I am a software engineer, but I don't work on Windows or Cortana.  I come to this site because other than some internal Insider rings they have more insight into what's coming than I do.  Summary: I work for MS, but not on anything related to what we're discussing here.  I'll try and comment on things you said that I disagree with, but I also have my own problems with the service and the way it's bundled so I'll include a little conclusion at the end that covers some of that. First point I'd like to refute: "Not being told what it's reporting from us" That has basic information, but also specific sections on Cortana, Bing and other individual services.  Cortana lists specifically what it collects and how the data is used for your benefit on 8 categories of data collection (everything from location to third party services).  In short, all the information you're claiming isn't there is fully available and with explanation for why it would benefit YOU to provide it.  Read also the section on How We Use Personal Data.  It explicitly (and differently from Google) says that it will NOT use what you say in chat, email, etc. for personalized ad targetting.  It will be used to provide you a service (such as automatically tracking packages from your emails IF you allow Cortana access) and I'm sure there's some level of telemetry data so the Cortana team can say things like, "Looks like we have X number of people who are using the package tracking feature and we had Y number of packages tracked in the last 7 days," or, "Suddenly we have no packages being tracked in Cortana.  Seems fishy.  I'll bet something's wrong with the service.  Let's investigate." "Not even getting a courtesy heads-up of the change" Except there are press releases, articles and apparently a workflow within the installation that all tell you about it.  Considering that we know all of this and it's not to be released for nearly a week I'd say there's been a heads up.  If not, we couldn't be having this conversation for about 5 more days. . . "In an era where Apple is going toe-to-toe with the F.B.I. to protect consumer data (perhaps in an over-the-top show of sorts), Microsoft seems to be hiding that data solely from the consumers." That's cherry picking headlines.  MS just won a case in the 2nd District Court of Appeals about data privacy and will take it to the supreme court if necessary. "We aren't getting a good idea of what we're in control of, and it's quite Orwellian to watch Microsoft behave in this manner." How much more control do you want than an entire section in the Settings app called "Privacy" with options for 14 categories (on the 1511 release) with app by app permissions?  Somewhere Orwell is hanging his dead head in shame about MS and their apparent ineptitude at becoming big brother.  Microsoft had a situation a little over a year ago where they thought (correctly) that someone was trafficking stolen MS source code through their Hotmail account.  An internal investigation decided to get access to that data and went through a process to do it.  Even though they were right and the dude was guilty and the data belonged to MS they changed their policy so that even if the data is known to be Microsoft's they won't look into it directly, but will instead hand it off to law enforcement. Here's a blog post about it: In short, outside of some kind of bad apple who's going to throw away their career over looking something up, or some kind of conspiracy theory that we don't abide by the rules of our own legal requirements we are not allowed to access anything that is yours, regardless of whether or not it happens to be hosted on our server or provided as part of our service.  Your data remains yours in every scenario, situation and location.  Only a valid legal challenge (aka a warrant that has the proper authority) will cause us to turn it over.  Even then it will be to the authorities and not to ourselves. Before I go into what I don't like about Cortana (and MS privacy by extension) let me give you my personal insight into how any customer data is handled within MS.  Admittedly "those guys" on the Cortana team might all be bad characters who don't follow the rules, but otherwise it goes like this: Customer data is considered sacred.  It's not "ours" to do with as we will.  We know that if we can't be trusted to hold the data then customers will go somewhere that will.  Internally there are 6 criteria that have to be met to even collect the data.  Here's a link that has the list: Whether or not you agree with their conclusion, every bit of data that gets collected had to go through a review and pass on all 6 of those points.  It's a rigorous review with people from the legal department whose whole job is to make sure any customer data (personally identifiable or otherwise) meets a very high bar of need/benefit before it gets taken.  The point is, we aren't dumb enough to think that if we treat your data like trash that you'll have any reason to stay with our services. This leads into a discussion of the things you can't turn off (aka basic Telemetry).  From what I can understand we don't treat telemetry as your data.  It's our service (including Windows as a Service) data.  The basic telemetry (to my understanding) can't be traced to you and is no way "personal" or "customer" data.  There are opt-ins for more detailed telemetry that might cross those boundaries.  The project I work on does use telemetry quite heavily and I can tell you that it is enormously valuable in locating issues before they actually become issues.  The cortana package tracking example from earlier was obviously extreme, but in a smaller scenario those things are exactly what happens.  We get to know if a feature is being utilized and what it's used for.  We know when a service appears to be struggling and can investigate.  We can often eliminate problems before anyone realizes anything was happening.  Our mantra is that if a customer has to tell us something broke then we completely whiffed on our responsibility.  That's only possible with telemetry. Since the telemetry I deal with has no customer data I can't speak specifically to anything that might count that way, but I can tell you that per company policy if you turn telemetry to the lowest setting (like I do) then there is nothing to worry about.  If you want to believe Illuminati/Big Brother conspiracy theories then feel free, but it's not grounded in any reality that I've ever seen. So, I promised the things I don't like.  I don't like that for ANY Cortana usage there is a core set of permissions you have to allow.  Technically it doesn't break any of my rules because they tell me what it is (Location and Speech/Inking are two that I know are required for Cortana), they allow me to opt out (although it seems to be a strong arm tactic in that I HAVE to allow those ones specifically even if I just want Cortana to add something to my calendar) and there are direct benefits (even if I don't care for those benefits specifically).  For example, I don't care to have my home computer providing a location.  It's always in my living room.  It's never going to help me know when to leave to meet my friends for lunch, or whatever.  I don't have a touchscreen, etc. and I don't use a microphone to interact with Cortana, so why does it need my speech/inking?  I wish they would let me have the granularity to turn those things off.  Their explanation (when you opt-in) is that Cortana needs these things to "better get to know you" or something like that.  Honestly, I don't care about that, but I want some of the other features.  So, what I don't like and disagree with on a fundamental level is that there is a certain set of permissions that I have to authorize, which directly provide benefits that I don't care about, in order to get to authorize the things I might care about. On the flip side, I at least feel good knowing that my data is secure and being treated with the utmost respect, so I go ahead and do it anyway.  I just wish in those cases I didn't have to.   Long response is long.  Sorry. Edit: Words are hard.
  • Edit: Words are hard.
    On the flip side, I at least feel good knowing that my data is secure and being treated with the utmost respect, so I go ahead and do it anyway.
    Yes. Yes they are... You're biased and this massive statement cannot be taken seriously given the person writing it. Satya Nadella would say the same thing. Google would tell you the same thing. Vladimir Putin would say the same thing if the Russian Federation owned similar services. Statements like this from a source close to the people running the services are called marketing rhetoric.  In this situation you aren't any more credible than any other source speaking about their own products. You work for Microsoft.  I don't think any Microsoft employee would post on a forum like this if they felt there were any issues or doubts about the service, as they'd likely fear retaliation for publicly stating such a thing.  You're making it sound like you're super "indenpendent," when in reality you're almost guaranteed to give a template response like this based on your affiliation with the company in question. Lastly, don't bother claiming you're an employee of << Company X >> (to gain credibility) while keeping your identity anonymous.
  • Make up your mind.  Am I biased and work there (which I stated up front to make my perspective clear) or am I an obvious poser I making it up under the shroud of anonymity offered by the interwebs?  Or maybe I'm a communist marketer (that's the most likely. . .).  The suspense is killing me! Also, I backed up my rebuttal to every statement incorrect statement he made about MS with data.  I frankly don't care if you believe me or not, but rather than attack me as being a biased employee, no wait poser, no wait marketing guy from Russia (that one was pretty random, actually) why don't you take a stab at looking at the arguments themselves and their backing data. Who knows, you might even like it. . .
  • You have revealed your true color. You have no other response to the post other than he works for Microsoft, and therefore anything he writes is biased. What makes you then? Oh, of course we don't know anything about you and therefore you cannot be biased. /s
  • @ SomeDude681 The privacy policy you link to and quote from states:
    And we use data to help make the ads we show you more relevant to you. However, we do not use what you say in email, chat, video calls or voice mail, or your documents, photos or other personal files to target ads to you. It's the things it doesn't list that are intruging. Does MS use data collected from searches to target ads at users? And what about voice calls, SMS and MMS? We share your personal data with your consent or as necessary to complete any transaction or provide any service you have requested or authorized. We also share data with Microsoft-controlled affiliates and subsidiaries; with vendors working on our behalf; when required by law or to respond to legal process; to protect our customers; to protect lives; to maintain the security of our services; and to protect the rights or property of Microsoft. Where does MS publish a list of these affiliates, subsidiaries, and vendors? And why share data with them, data that I presume is not anonymized (given not indication to the contrary)?  
  • *shrug* I don't know.  Maybe you're right and the entire thing with the 6 principles and all the explicit exclusions to try and stop people from making false claims was really a big smokescreen to capture all the voice calls and SMS data (which is likely legislatively protected anyway) so we can send you ads, because that's where all our money comes from.  I have nothing to refute that theory.  Go ahead and run with it. We also don't have any explicit language saying that if you have a medical emergency and I help you, but get some of your blood on my shirt in the process that I won't run DNA testing and determine your blood type, cholesterol level, % of neanderthal or denisovan DNA present in your ancestry or even things like what types of diseases you might pass on to any children.  We don't even claim we won't clone you and make a slave army of you to do our nefarious bidding of making an ad targetting platform based on your SMS history.  So maybe THAT is really what we're leaving out of the exclusions.  Again, I have nothing to refute this, so believe it at your will and pleasure. The last section seems like pretty standard boilerplate to me.  If you want to find a hidden agenda there, go ahead.
  • We're talking about data collection via electronic means, so all your bullocks about DNA etc is pure distraction. The failure to reference common electronic communication methods in respect to data collection is important. A simple statement to the effect of "Unless explicitly stated, no data whether electronic or otherwise, are collected by Microsoft, its subsidiaries, or its affiliates." Simple. --------- Ethics and Microsoft go together like Trump and Truth.
  • Fair enough.  Believe what you will.  The guy who pointed out that I have absolutely no credibility beyond my own claims where I claim that my claims are credible is exactly right.  You have no reason to believe me or change anything you want to think based on my simple words.  They are there for what they're worth and you can keep your belief structure intact.  I think that's a win/win. Have a good one, man/gender-neutral-pronoun-of-your-choice! (In case you aren't or don't identify as a man.  I honestly don't know and don't want to offend.)
  • And to be honest, creating a full list of such vendors etc and which data is shared with which ones may be difficult. However, my favorite boilerplate is the anti reverse engineering clause in MS EULAs.
  • I can't seem to turn her on on my desktop with education slow ring build. I don't have a microphone installed at the moment, but I dont think that should make a difference.
  • Cortana is not available in the Education SKUs.
  • People are just waiting for a chance to look down and blame on Microsoft. Some things are genuine and you can blame. But using that as an excuse to not like Microsoft isn't gonna do you any good..
  • Why would I want to do that...Live on Cortana.
  • Microsoft just retrenched another 2850 employees from their hardware and phone division. Where's the reporting, eh?
  • On the front page
  • Why anyone would want to should be the real question. People afraid of the change hold back progress for the future.
  • I don't call wholesale loss of privacy progress.
  • Nor do I.
  • Time for the Bing name to be phased out completely. MS just need to buy out these guys...
  • Daniel, do you only edit your writing in Microsoft Word? Mobile Nations should have someone who does this for you guys...
  • As usual Daniel, thumb's up
  • In Soviet Russia we can't turn it on ((
  • And I'm just sitting here, waiting for them to allow Cortana in my region...
  • So... there is no 'Off Switch' you can only 'Sign Out' all search on the 'Anniversary Update' is called 'Cortana' ...therefore it IS impossible to turn Cortana off. In what way, Daniel, is the headline to this article correct?
  • I would like to know how to turn off "remind me" option on incoming call screen...can any one help me with this? I am on 14393.5
  • Cortana is slow and cumbersome. I've switched back to legacy settings. Might have put up with it if she had sounded "like" Cortana. But that's just for the US. Such an EPIC FAIL not to give the option of the Real Cortana voice as a selectable option. I kinda sucked it up on the phone. But on the console!!! The console I play Halo on?!?!?!? Weak.
  • You can also disable Cortana using group policy or via the registry reg add "HKLM\SOFTWARE\Policies\Microsoft\Windows\Windows Search" /v AllowCortana /t REG_DWORD /d 0 /f  
  • Not after the Anniversary Update. The GPE is gone and the Registry entries are Portected.
  • Hell no to Cortana or anything else FORCED
  • Funny; you don't understand at all what this discussion is about :). The problem is, search request are sent to Microsoft. Even the fact, that this is default, is something worth critisising. The fact, you can't disable this without Registry hack is something really problematical. Yes, you explained, Microsoft can't force you to log in. Never noticed. But are you really such naiv thinking Microsoft can't analyse your date just because it isn't linked to your account? Sorry, but search requests are still sent to Microsoft. And so this article even fails to address the right topic.
  • Actually, after the Anniversary Update, you can't change the Registry entries.
  • I found I had to exit Cortana to get my portable to run as it causes lags and crashes of the start menu and action centre. Would the new version relieve pressure on the OS in the same way or will my computer again become buggy? Thanks for your advice. 
  • this was not helpful at all........i can't log out and I can't get rid of this dumb stupid program.....never buying windows agan
  • Amen!!!   I have lumina nokia phone and there is no way to record "hey Cortana" ... I can skype, I can speakerphone but when I click to say HEY CORTANA -- nothing.   Now it shows up when I touch my phone asking what it can do for me!  it can work!  I have turned everything off.  No Notifications, No locations, no personalizations.... yet it opens up, takes up the screen asking What can I do for you!   I want it gone!   There is no place Under my face and email address to turn it off.  There is no place in SETTINGS!  Please stop telling people, go to settings.... it isn't there.  The Notebook is no better. 
  • You don't really show us how to disable, do you?  You merely show us how to turn it off.  Do you think your TV is disabled when it is turned off? I want Cortana off my computer.  "Disabling" seems to be the only option, and it really doesn't get disabled.  Show me how to delete it.  Show me how to rip out it's guts.  Show me how to remove the dlls that run it. Disable it your way, and you can bet Microsoft will figure out how to re-enable it without my permission.  
  • The problem is that "Signing Out" is not the same as Shutting Off.  Properly done, shutting off would you stopped the service from running AT ALL.  I can only presume that when you Sign Out, the service is still sitting active in the background.  Now, I've heard the usual mealy-mouthed excuse that "it's only a small system service, how much memory/processor time can it use?"  Well, looking at just one item it may seem small, but you add enough useless/unwanted cruft to a system and it adds up.  On top of that, any service/executable/library is going to have bugs (not picking on just MS there, it's just a general fact of computer code); if an nuwanted service continues running, it will only introduce those bugs into your system.  Allways better to shut down unneeded processes.  But MS has the arrogant delusion that their s*** don't stink, and their code is bug-free. There's one thing I like about setting up systems as dual-boot with MSWin and Linux.  Just boot to Linux, find the exe/dll that runs an unwanted service, and simply rename it.  You'll be set until the next update that pushes in more of their cruft.  What would probably be better is a system utility which would take a blacklist and automatically kill services at each and every boot.
  • Yes you can 'turn off' Cortana by not seeing the Cortana box and revert to the Search Windows box, but most people wanted a simple method to 'actually' turn it off so it's not constantly using 35MB-50MB of memory...  
  • You say you can not turn Cortana off on iPhone or Android, but that is not true.  On these devices you can simply remove Cortana because it was a user choice to add Cortana to the device. Windows users do not have that choice after the anniversary update. 
  •   Okay, I have done everything to turn off Cortana. Including changing the registry settings. Go to Microsoft Store via Bing (desktop) and Cortana shows up in the Edge Browser. Try it yourself and see who really controls your computer!?
  • I am trying to turn off web search from my start menu. Previously, instructions said to Turn off Cortana. This is no longer an option. Am I still able to disable bing search but still leave computer search? As an aside,  you complain this is an age of only reading headlines, but you do the exact same thing. Your headline is not accurate. You cannot at any level turn cortana off. It is now baked into the OS, and the best we can do is sign out.. and as you point out that isn't turning it off. "On iOS, Android, Windows 10 Mobile, and Windows 10 PC you can sign out of Cortana and still use Cortana for non-personalized searches. That's not turning it off." Perhaps the headline should have been "You can't turn Cortana off, but you can still sign yourself out" or "don't worry! signing out of cortana is very similar to turning it off"
  • Exactly. Writer of this stupid article is a hypocrite.
  • I have the aniversary edition [1607] and followed the instructions perfectly. It worked exactly as the narrator said. No problems.
  • I just wish anything you say would match what my PC does. Nowhere do I see "Notebook".
    I'm going to restore to before this stupid update. It has changed way too much on my PC. 'MY' PC. Hear that Microsoft? 'MY' PC...=(
  • I found where it says Notebook but he is totally wrong with everything he is saying based on what I am seeing on my Windows 10 system too. To really get rid of Cortana, a completely different set of instructions exists and I had to go to group policy editor on my Win 10 Pro retail version but the message I just dealt with gave me chills on a laptop with Winbdows 10 OEM. I found the option to click Notebook and since I am not even signed into Cortana, I cannot see how this could even be relevant. I never opted in. And furthermore, I tried to select the options that seemed to be the only one that would push her away. She sits there all smug "ASK ME ANYTHING". I felt like asking her how many Micorsoft Execs she banged in the closet but the options were only as follows: 1. Sign in -  Cant do this because I NEVER OPTED IN!!!!!! or 2. Maybe Later - I figured this would put her on ice and revert the box to a search only. Well, no such luck. You want to know what this Bee-utch had to say when I selected "Maybe Later"? She says "I'm afraid I can't help out without that permission. I'll be happy to do anything else that doesn't require that, though" I mean, this really gave me the creeps. As if she was reiterating the words of her creators who are hell bent on making sure they have total control of what we can and cannot do, & can fire at will. I'm like you. This is "MY" computer. "I" paid for it. And, I paid for the retail version of Windows 10 Professional in full. Had I known there would be so much contention, I would have just went Linux back then. I'm just not about opening the door to my private and personal life like this. The future seems inevitable and we all might be forced to give in eventually, and it will likely be via the smartphone channels. Via mobile is where I think people are haphazardly giving up the motherload when it comes to personal information. I mean, people are geo tagged and followed everywhere they go. What we do is more personalized on our phones and the way google tracks, although it can be controlled, is not even something most people even know how to do, or even care to do. Everyone is either unaware or they do not believe they are being manipulated in the hidden agendas. Even kids as young as 5 and 6 years old have phones, maybe younger. We are seeing the world being overtaken, maybe even blindsided, by technology. Those of us trying to hang on to control or don't want to be subjected to the agenda know who we are. I think we need a new secret society to separate ourselves from the madness. Crazy
  • I felt the same - I didn't opt in to this Cortana spyware and now I have no way of opting out of it. The way MS installs updates, which are really fundamental system changes, without asking user consent is IMO at least unethical but should be considered illegal - I have bought something, paid money for a specific thing (not the software - it's still owned by MS, but a tool, a specific user experience), and yet MS, the seller has taken the right, without my, buyers, consent to alter, cripple and modify the product after the purchase. And these changes don't have to be in my, buyers, best interest! Buy a car, and discover that the car salesman comes later to your house during nights and removes or install stuff to your car. One morning the wheels are gone and the car has a plow installed... All is fine, welcome to the future. Anyway - the way I got rid of the nasty C is by setting non-english system locale (you can customize the keyboard, time and currency formats to your liking still) and then choosing in Cortana's settings system locale as my language for Cortana. Poof!
  • just go to C:\Windows\SystemApps and rename the one that has Cortona in the title. Cortona will no longer run... even in the background. have task manager open and end task on cortona then rename the folder