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You can't turn off Cortana in the Windows 10 Anniversary Update

Ian Paul | July 27, 2016
...but you can lessen her awareness.

Microsoft made an interesting decision with Windows 10’s Anniversary Update, which is now in its final stages of development before it rolls out on August 2.

Cortana, the personal digital assistant that replaced Windows 10’s search function and taps into Bing’s servers to answer your queries with contextual awareness, no longer has an off switch.

With the Windows 10 Anniversary Update, the search box is now Cortana. Customers can expect the same great search experience powered by Bing and Microsoft Edge with the added benefit of Cortana’s personality.

  • We know consumers want choice and we make it easy to customize Cortana’s personalization or opt-out of Cortana’s suite of personalized services. Cortana works best when you sign in, but if you choose not to, you can still use her to chat, search the web and your Windows device. If you like, you can also easily hide Cortana and the search box in the taskbar altogether.

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Cortana’s settings in the Anniversary Update.

The impact on you at home: Similar to how Microsoft blocked Google compatibility with Cortana, the company is now cutting off the plain vanilla search option. That actually makes a certain of amount of sense. Unless you turned off all the various cloud-connected bits of Windows 10, there’s not a ton of difference between Cortana and the operating system's basic search capabilities.

Microsoft even says as much: "With the Windows 10 Anniversary Update, the search box is now Cortana," Microsoft said in a statement. "Customers can expect the same great search experience powered by Bing and Microsoft Edge with the added benefit of Cortana’s personality."

In fact, the biggest functional difference is that Cortana is far more useful than plain search thanks to the digital assistant's handy voice commands, reminders, the ability to send text messages, and so on. That said, Microsoft’s move is probably less about the practical differences between Cortana and search, and more about pushing people to use Cortana.

But what if you still don’t want to use Cortana at all?

Refusing to download the Anniversary Update is not an option. You can delay it, but since Windows 10 updates are mandatory for home users, you’ll eventually receive the update—and its unkillable Cortana. Here a few strategies you can try instead.

Set limits on Cortana

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The privacy section of the Settings app in the Anniversary Update

First, head to Start > Settings > Privacy > Speech, inking, & typing. Now click on Stop getting to know me and then select Turn off. This effectively makes Cortana deaf to the sound of your voice as well as blind to your typing history and—for stylus wielders— handwriting patterns. It also turns off system-wide dictation.

 

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