Since Apple came up with Siri, their virtual personal assistant, other computer manufacturers have created their own versions.
Microsoft created Cortana and launched it in 2014 with the Windows Phone 8.1 update. Since its launch, the virtual assistant was added to Windows 10 and Windows 10 Mobile. So that you can ask for Cortana's help on your Microsoft phone or your Windows computer.
However, not everyone likes these assistants, so they want to disable them on their phones or computers. This information will teach you how to disable Cortana on Windows devices.
Why Disable a Virtual Assistant?
The main reason that smartphone and computer users want to disable virtual assistants like Cortana is their penchant for gathering all available data about them. Cortana is well-known for gathering every bit of information it can about Windows users.
Cortana has many useful traits, such as letting users can verbally asking questions when they want to find information. It can also keep track of and remind users about their appointments, tell the time and open applications.
However, it also keeps track of everything you do involving the service.
Data collection isn’t unusual, and most people know that other services record what they’ve searched on websites that they’ve visited.
Some companies keep track of the items you purchase from them to build a profile. And recommend products in which they think you might be interested. However, Cortana’s data collection goes beyond gathering basic information.
Information Gathered by Cortana
Along with recording information about the sites you’ve visited and the inquiries you’ve made on web browsers, Cortana also collects information on the people you know, the emails you’ve sent, where you go to, your text messages, emails, and phone calls.
Although you can clear the data that’s been gathered about you from the system. There isn’t a way to turn off their ability to collect information about you. At one time, Cortana could be easily turned off. But Microsoft has got rid of the “switch." So it can still collect data without you knowing about it. Fortunately, there are ways to turn disable the virtual assistant on your devices.
Ways to Disable Cortana
Since Windows 10 comes with Cortana, you may wish to disable it to keep the virtual assistant from gathering too much information from you. However, there isn’t a simple way to disable it since Microsoft removed the ability to turn it off in Cortana’s settings.
If you’re not tech savvy and are worried about messing with the inner workings of Windows 10. There are ways to limit the type of data the service can collect. However, if you want to block the assistant from gathering all data, you can follow these instructions for turning it off.
Creating a Restore Point
Before you start editing within Windows, you should create a system restore point in case important information is accidentally erased, or a system update is bad. To find System Restore in Windows 10, use the search box on the task bar and type in "System Protection."
Above the search box will be a results page and at the top, you should see “Create a restore point.” Click that link, which will open the “System Properties” panel with the tab “System Protection” already chosen.
Go to the "Protection Settings" box in the middle of the panel. It will show if the Windows C: drive has the protection set to "on" or "off." If it is set to on, then you don't need to do anything as a system restore point has been created. If it is set to off, go to the "Configure" button, right below the "Protection Settings" box, and click it.
Another panel will appear labeled “System Protection for Windows (C:)." Which is right beneath the label "Restore settings." Click the radio button to "Turn on system protection" and then go to the bottom of the panel. And click "OK," and a restore point will be created.
Since the default for “Data Space Usage” in the same panel should work well for most Windows users, you don’t need to do anything to this setting. However, you can choose to slide the bar to change the data usage setting, then “Apply” and “OK” to create a restore point.
After a restore point is created, you can continue the process of turning off Cortana. To do this, you will need to get into the Windows Registry. The easiest way to find the registry is to either ask Cortana to open it or press the Windows and "R" keys simultaneously. A box labeled "Run" will open.
In the box, type in "regedit" and press "OK." If prompted to give Windows permission to continue onto the Registry Editor, press the button to grant permission. Afterward, the editor should open, and you will need to find the folder labeled HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE on the left side of the panel.
Click to open the folder, find and open the Software folder, then the one for Policies. And then Microsoft, Windows, and finally Windows Search. However, if you don’t see a folder labeled “Windows Search,” you will need to create one by right clicking on “Windows." Then selecting “New” and then “Key.” Then type in Windows Search to label the folder.
After creating the folder, right click on the main part of the newly created window. And then select "New" and navigate down to "DWORD (32-bit) Value." Once this has been done. Then there will be a box in the main panel in which to type a name. Type in "AllowCortana” and double-click it, and then when a second box appears, set the Value to 0 (zero).
Once you’ve completed the last step, you’re done, and you can close the Registry Editor. Afterward, sign out of Windows 10. When you sign in again, Cortana should no longer work in your system. After disabling it, you won’t be able to use the virtual assistant at all. Not even to run searches on your computer.
Deleting Memory Files
The next step is to erase the information Cortana has saved from your files, inquiries, and data. You will then need to erase your data from Microsoft's servers, but don't worry; you are not hacking them!
Go to Microsoft’s privacy dashboard website and sign into your account. On the dashboard, you can go to “Cortana’s Notebook,” on the right side of the screen. Which offers an option to clear the data Cortana has collected about you.
Just press “Clear Cortana data,” which will prompt a box to make sure you want to take this step.
If you do, select “Clear” and the data will be erased from the server.
Keep in mind, clearing this data can affect other services like Microsoft’s Bing, Edge, and Maps. Because none of the erased data will be available to them.
Limiting Cortana’s Data Collection
If you don't want to turn off Cortana but want to change the data it collects. You can then go to Windows settings and choose Cortana from the options. Then select “Permissions & History” to change the data it gathers about you.
On the right-hand side, you will find several options about changing the type of information that is sent to Microsoft.
For example, if you select “Manage the information Cortana can access from this device." You can then choose options to change what is collected. Go through each option and change the settings as you wish to limit the information Cortana collects.
Disabling Cortana on a Windows Phone
If you have a smartphone with Windows Phone 8.1, Microsoft no longer supports it, but it includes Cortana. Windows phones with Windows 10 Mobile also contain Cortana. Fortunately, you can turn off the virtual assistant on these devices so that it doesn’t collect information while you’re using it.
Disabling Cortana on a Windows phone is easier to do than it is on a computer.
Toggle it On or Off if you are using the Windows 10 OS. Simply go into your phone's settings, choose applications, and then Cortana. Switch the toggle to "Off" to turn off the assistance.
In other phones, such as those using Windows 10 Mobile.
Firstly, you may need to go to Cortana, tap the hamburger menu, choose notebook. Then settings, and toggle off the setting that begins “Cortana can give you…”
If, for some reason you wish to continue using Cortana.
You can also reverse the steps for your Windows phones or computer to use it again. When you’re choosing the settings to disable Cortana. Read through them carefully to find out the impact of disabling the assistant.
Instead of completely disabling it on your computer. You may then wish to limit its ability to collect data by choosing what it can gather from your system or other devices. Albeit to protect your, or your friends and families privacy.
Featured image credit: CC0 Creative Commons, Kleineganz via pixabay.com.