It's become clear that Cortana is no match for Alexa or Google Assistant. The company admitted as much in 2019, and subsequent updates have reduced its influence across Windows. 

The May 2020 update removed it from the Start Menu, while it will no longer be compatible with iOS, Android and the Surface Headphones from 2021. 

Cortana is still available via a standalone app, but there are plenty of reasons why you might want to use a different virtual assistant.

Getting Alexa on Windows is a relatively simple process, although you'll have to jump through a few more hoops to get Google Assistant on your PC or laptop. 

How to use Alexa on Windows 10

The good news here is that there's a dedicated Alexa app for Windows 10. Just head to the Microsoft Store to download it, making sure you're running version 17134 (April 2018) or later. 

Upon running the app for the first time, you'll be prompted to sign in with your Amazon account and accept permissions. This will give you the same controls as the Alexa mobile app, but the key feature here is 'Hands-free'. The app will prompt you to turn it on during the setup process and means the app is always listening for the wake word, as it would on any Echo device. 

To stop this at any time simply hit the smaller button to the right of the main blue Alexa one. It will also stop listening if you close the app. 

How to use Google Assistant on Windows 10

The lack of any official support makes this one a bit more tricky. Follow these instructions carefully, and be prepared to dedicate some time to the process:

  1. Download Python for Windows. Before installing, ensure you check the box next to 'Add Python 3.7 to PATH', as it's crucial to the successful installation of Google Assistant
  2. Open File Explorer and locate the main hard drive (usually marked C:). Create a new folder called 'GoogleAssistant'
  3. On Chrome, head to the Google Cloud Platform and click 'Create Project'. Sign in to the relevant Google account if necessary
  4. Type 'WinGoogleAssistant' as its name, and ensure you make a note of the Project ID, as you'll need this later
  5. In a separate tab, head to the Google Assistant API and hit enable
  6. From the overview screen that appears, click 'Create Credentials'
  7. In the 'Find out what kind of credentials you need' section, select the following:
    Which API are you using? Google Assistant API
    Where will you be calling the API from? Other UI (e.g., Windows, CLI tool)
    What data will you be accessing? User data
    Click 'What credentials do I need?' to confirm
  8. In the pop-up that appears, click 'Set up consent screen' and select the following information:
    Application type - Internal
    Application name - WinGoogleAssistant
    Don't change any other information, and hit 'Send' at the bottom of the page
  9. In the 'Credentials' tab, choose 'Create credentials' and then 'Help me choose'
  10. In the 'Create an OAuth 2.0 client ID' Name field, enter WGAcredentials and click Create OAuth client ID
  11. Don't make any changes to the Client ID and hit 'Done'
  12. You should now see the credentials you have created. Click the small down arrow and you should see what looks like a download icon, and hovering over it will say 'Download JSON'
  13. Click this, and ensure you save it to the 'GoogleAssistant' folder you created in File Explorer earlier
  14. Type 'Command' in the search bar next to the Start Menu and open 'Command Prompt'
  15. Copy the following exactly as it appears here and hit enter:
    py -m pip install google-assistant-sdk[samples]
  16. Once the installation is complete, do the same with the following:
    py -m pip install --upgrade google-auth-oauthlib[tool]
  17. Now, open to the 'GoogleAssistant' folder in File Explorer. Right-click the JSON file and choose 'Properties'
  18. Click in the file name field (next to the icon), select the whole thing and copy it
  19. Back in the Command Prompt window, type the following and hit enter:
    google-oauthlib-tool --client-secrets C:\GoogleAssistant\
  20. Hit Ctrl + V to paste the text you've just copied, hit the space bar and then type:
    --scope https://www.googleapis.com/auth/assistant-sdk-prototype --save --headless
    Finally, hit Enter
  21. You should see a message saying 'Please visit this URL to authorize this application'. Copy it and paste it into a new Chrome tab, signing in with the same account as before
  22. Hit 'Allow' to give permission. On the next screen, hit the icon next to the code to copy it
  23. In the Command Prompt window that's still open, paste it and hit enter
  24. You should now have Google Assistant installed on your Windows 10 device. To test if it's working, copy the following and hit enter:
    py -m googlesamples.assistant.grpc.audio_helpers
    If you get 5 seconds of audio played back to you, it's working properly
  25. In the same Command Prompt window, type 'cd C:\GoogleAssistant' and hit Enter
  26. Now type the following:
    googlesamples-assistant-devicetool --project-id
  27. Press the space bar and then type the Project ID from Step 4, before hitting enter again to complete the setup process

Now you have a fully-functioning version of Google Assistant on your Windows 10 device. To start using it at any time, open Command Prompt and type the following:
py -m googlesamples.assistant.grpc.pushtotalk --device-model-id “GA4W” --project-id
Then hit the space bar and paste in that all-important Project ID. 

Hitting Enter will now allow you to speak your command, with Google returning an answer whenever it's connected to the internet. It's far from a seamless experience, and is time-consuming to setup, but it's currently the only way to use the Google Assistant on Windows 10. 

Perhaps this tutorial has convinced you to use Alexa instead of Google Assistant on Windows, but what about in the world of smart speakers? Check out our Google Home vs Amazon Echo and Amazon Echo Dot vs Google Nest Mini comparison articles for more information.