Windows 10 users will no longer be able to disable Cortana after the Anniversary Update, according to reports. Microsoft's virtual assistant is set to replace the standard search function in the upcoming software update, which rolls out on 2 August and is mandatory to Windows 10 Home customers.
Cortana has been one of Microsoft's key selling points in its promotion of Windows 10, and is set to become a key part of the user experience in the incoming update. This means deeper integration into the operating system, with Cortana now able to save and recall important information and deliver notifications across all your Windows 10 devices, as well as being accessible from the lock screen.
It also sees the virtual assistant take over from Window 10's native search function. Currently, Windows 10 users can disable Cortana from within the Settings menu, although this options appears to be no more in the Anniversary Update, according to PC World. This shouldn't be too much cause for concern, given that Cortana's web-powered search and context awareness should lead to better all-round functionality. Still, the more privacy-conscious and those still hung up on Microsoft's pushiness in getting users to upgrade to Windows 10 will see it as another fly in the ointment.
For these people, there does appear to be ways that users can at least limit Cortana's awareness and prevent it being the all-knowing digital assistant that Microsoft envisions. For starters, you can make it deaf to the "Hey Cortana" voice prompt as well as stop it from chiming in with suggestions and notifications while you're working. You can do this from Cortana's settings windows.
How to turn off Cortana
You can put restraints on Cortana's context-awareness by heading to Start> Settings> Privacy> Speech, Inking & Typing. From here you'll be able to toggle 'Stop getting to know me', which will turn off Cortana's ears and stop it from learning your typing and handwriting inputs.
If you're a Windows 10 Professional user and you want to go one further, you can deep-dive into the Windows 10 policy editor following these tips, provided by GHacks.net. First, hit the Windows key, type gpedit.msc and hit enter. On the left-hand side of the screen, look for Computer Configuration then go to Administrative Templates> Windows Components> Search. Find Allow Cortana and double-click on it to open the policy, then check the box next to 'Disabled' to turn off Cortana.
You can reverse the changes at any time by following the same steps. If you're a Windows 10 home users or can't access the Group Policy options for any other reason, GHacks outlines steps for modifying the Windows Registry. If that is route you choose to go down we advise you proceed with caution, as missteps could potentially leave you with a non-functioning machine.