Cortana has become more and more difficult to turn off with each passing Windows update. Once upon a time, shutting her down was rather intuitive. You just had to navigate to her options and flick a switch, but this option has since been removed and now it's a bit trickier to make sure she isn't lying in wait.
Cortana will passively gather data on you and send it back to Microsoft, everything from your location to your browsing history. There isn't anything particularly sinister about this in theory, as Microsoft claims it's using that data only to enhance its service and provide you with a more tailored experience. However, it's also not at all surprising that some people may prefer their information kept private, and Cortana kept in the dark.
How to disable Cortana
To make sure Cortana is off for good we’re going to need to dive into your computer’s Registry. The Registry is one of the more sensitive parts of your computer containing options and settings that are crucial to its operation. While you should be very careful when using the Registry, you should be fine as long as you don't start randomly deleting and changing stuff.
To be safe, you should always back up Registry before you make any changes, and create a system restore point that you can jump back to if anything goes wrong.
- Pressing the Windows Key + R. Type regedit into the box and hit Enter to open the Registry. You may need to allow it to make changes to your device
- Using the folder tree structure in the left panel, navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE_SOFTWARE_POLICIES_MICROSOFT_WINDOWS
- If there is no 'Windows Search' folder here you should create one. Right-click the 'Windows' folder, select New > Key and name it 'Windows Search'
- Within this new folder, right-click the blank white space to the right and select New > DWORD (32-bit) Value
- Rename the new file that appears 'AllowCortana'. Double-click this and a box will appear - set the 'Value Data' to 0
- Press OK and close the Registry Editor
- Restart your computer
When you turn your computer back on Cortana will have disappeared. This is visible by the lack of her eye icon in the search bar at the bottom left of your screen, which will now simply show a magnifying glass for you to search Windows.
Cortana will no longer be active and won’t be sending out any data on you. She is still lurking around on your machine but is dormant.
If you later change your mind you can always delete the Registry key you created.
Also, here's how to shut down Windows 10 properly.
If you want to delete all the personal data Cortana (Microsoft) holds, then head to the web page for Bing personalisation settings.
You will have to sign in using your Microsoft account and you will see options to clear your history for search, saved places and more. At the bottom is a big 'Clear' button that will delete the data stored for Cortana online.
And that's it. Cortana is now turned off, her search bar hidden and cloud data deleted.
Don't forget that if you use Cortana on another computer with the same Microsoft account, you may want to disable it on that one too.