Personally, I’m happy just ignoring Cortana and not letting “her” bug me by hiding all those controls, as we did previously.
Apparently, that’s not enough for some.
OK, fine. We’ll break out a bigger hammer. Since it needs to work in all editions of Windows 10, that hammer turns out to be a registry setting.
Become a Patron of Ask Leo! and go ad-free!
I can’t stress enough the importance of backing up prior to playing around with the registry. In my mind, you have two acceptable options:
Very Bad Things can happen if mistakes are made when playing with the registry.
Create and set “AllowCortana”
Run regedit, the registry editing program. (Just type or click on the Windows icon, and start typing regedit until it shows up; then click on that).
In Registry Editor, expand (by clicking on the small “>” symbol in front of each):
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE SOFTWARE Policies Microsoft Windows
At this point, if there is an entry called “Windows Search” expand that as well. If it doesn’t exist, click on the “Windows” item you expanded in the previous step, and then right-click somewhere in the right-hand pane. Click on New and then Key.
Underneath Windows in the left-hand pane, a new item will be added, “New Key #1”, in edit mode, so you can rename it. Replace “New Key #1” with “Windows Search“.
Press Enter to complete the edit.
Right-click in the right-hand pane again, and this time, click on New and then DWORD (32-bit) Value.
Once again, a new entry will be created, with the name “New Value #1”, ready to be changed. Edit it to be “AllowCortana“. The value of zero that’s already there is exactly what we want.
Exit the registry editor and reboot (or sign out and back into) your machine.
The search box remains, and you can still click on the Windows icon and just start typing to use it, but now, instead of “Ask Me Anything”, the search box will say “Search Windows”.
Cortana is nowhere to be found.
If you ever decide you want Cortana back, you can repeat the process above, though you won’t need to create any keys. Simply change the value of the “AllowCortana” entry from zero to one.
Reboot, and Cortana will return.
Registry shortcut files
If all that registry editing is too scary or complicated, below are two “.reg” files you can use instead. Right-click on either, and use “Save as…” (or the equivalent in your browser) to download the file to your computer.
Then simply double-click on the file you downloaded to make the desired change to the registry.
You’ll be given a couple of warnings along the way. First, the traditional UAC prompt.
Then you’ll get a warning from registry editor itself.
Assuming you trust the file you’ve downloaded, click Yes.
Registry Editor will then report success.
As above, reboot and the changes will take effect.
Here are the files:
- turn-off-cortana.reg – a registry setting to disable Cortana completely
- turn-on-cortana.reg – a registry setting to re-enable Cortana
Group Policy Editor
If you’re running something other than Windows 10 Home edition (for example, perhaps you’ve purchased the Pro edition, as I typically recommend when you have the choice), you can also use the Group Policy Editor – gpedit.msc – to make an equivalent change.
Gpedit is a tad more intuitive than the registry editor, so I won’t walk through all the steps. Locate the policy
Computer Configuration Administrative Templates Windows Components Search Allow Cortana
To evict Cortana, change that to “Disabled”, and reboot.
Subscribe to Confident Computing! Less frustration and more confidence, solutions, answers, and tips in your inbox every week.
I'll see you there!