Woody Leonhard's no-bull news, tips and help for Windows and Office
Home icon Home icon Home icon Email icon RSS icon
  • Does “killing” Cortana really kill Cortana?

    Posted on December 19th, 2016 at 20:25 woody 135 comments

    PKCano has been conducting some interesting experiments. Here are her results to date:

    PRE-TEST #1: I did what appeared to be a clean install. Since we are interested in disabling Cortana, I decided to do whatever the UI had to offer in that direction: Custom install turning off all the offered settings and choosing “Not now” at the “Meet Cortana” screen. Parallels Tools installed on the reboot. This gave me Build 14393.0. Cortana was not off by default as when I initially upgraded from 1511 back at the beginning of Aug.

    Cortana “O” appeared by default in the search box.

    cortana-01

    Cortana did not present a choice to use or not use in the search box popup menu. The notebook was present.

    cortana-02

    There were many choices in the search box settings menu.

    cortana-03

    cortana-04

    Cortana was a choice in the taskbar context menu.

    cortana-05

    There were two entries in the Task Manager that showed activity when I typed, “Cortana” and “Cortana Background Task Host.” DWORDs “BingSearchEnabled” and “CanCortanaBeEnabled” were NOT present under HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Search. DWORD “AllowCortana” was NOT present under HKLM\Software\Microsoft\Windows Search. The keys “Windows Search” and “Search” were NOT present under HKLM\Software\Policies\Microsoft\Windows.

    cortana-06

    PRE-TEST #2: Cumulative Update KB3176495 –> Build 14393.51. Things basically looked the same, maybe a couple more options in the search box popup menu.

    Registry settings were the same.

    cortana-07

    cortana-08

    GPedit: Local Computer Policy\Computer Configuration\Administrative templets\Windows Components\Search had two settings “Allow Cortana” and “Allow Cortana above lock screen,” both not configured. This is same as before

    cortana-09

    Now for the testing.

     

    TEST #1: GPedit: Local Computer Policy\Computer Configuration\Administrative templates\Windows Components\Search

    I set two settings “Allow Cortana” and “Allow Cortana above lock screen” to “disabled”. Rebooted.

    Cortana “o” disappeared from the search box.

    cortana-10

    The Cortana option disappears from the taskbar context menu.

    cortana-11

    Cortana disappeared from the search box popup menu.

    Search box settings are greatly reduced.

    cortana-12

    I still have two Cortana entries in the Task Manager but I believe only the “Cortana” one is active when I type, not the “Cortana Background Task Host.”

    cortana-13

    In GPedit I returned the settings to “Not configured.” See this thread:

    https://www.askwoody.com/2016/win10-anniversary-update-bug-turns-into-turn-off-cortana-feature/

     

    TEST #2: Remember, the two DWORDs “BingSearchEnabled” and “CanCortanaBeEnabled” under HKCU are not present in this install.

    Under HKLM\Software\Policies\Microsoft\Windows I created the key “Windows Search” (NOTE there is a space between) and the DWORD “AllowCortana” set to 0. Rebooted.

    The Cortana “O” disappeared from the search box.

    cortana-14

    Cortana disappeared from the taskbar context menu.

    cortana-15

    Cortana disappeared from the search box popup menu.

    The search box settings are reduced to 2.

    cortana-16

    There is Cortana activity in Task Manager.

    cortana-17

    In each case, I am resetting whatever I changed before so I start from scratch.

    Recall that previously (see link to thread above) the key “Windows Search” under HKLM did not initially exist – I had to create it and the DWORD “AllowCortana”.

    Test #3: Under HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Search the two DWORDs “BingSearchEnabled” and “CanCortanaBeEnabled” were not present in this install. But when Cortana disappeared in the TP and in the early AU, those two DWORDs were present and the DWORD “BingSearchEnabled” was set to 0.

    This time, I had to create those two DWORDs and I set both to 0. Rebooted.

    The Cortana “O” disappeared from the search box.

    cortana-18

    Cortana disappeared from the taskbar context menu.

    cortana-19

    Cortana disappears from the search box popup.

    Search box settings are reduced.

    cortana-20

    There is STILL activity under Cortana in the Task Manager.

    cortana-21

    CONCLUSIONS:

    1. It was the settings under HKCU that caused Cortana to disappear in theTP and the AU initial releases. The other things were not present in those builds, but “BingSearchEnabled” was set to 0 under HKCU.

    1. Enabling the “AllowCortana” in GPedit creates the “Windows Search” key under HKLM and sets the “AllowCortana” DWORD to 1. So basically these two things are equivalent.

    1.  Setting “BingSearchEnabled” (and maybe “CanCortanaBeEnabled”) to 0 underHKCU does the same thing. This may apply the disappearance of Cortana to an individual User as opposed to the entire computer which the GPedit settings probably do.

    1. None of these changes stop the activity of the Cortana processes in Task Manager.

    Want to REALLY squash Cortana?

    Open the Task Manager.

    Open C:\Windows\SystemApps

    Rename the folder “Microsoft.Windows.Cortana_cw5n1h2txyewy.”

    You have to stop the Cortana process in the Task Manager, b/c it’s using the folder.

    You have to be FAST FAST b/c the process restarts quickly.

    Reboot.

    The Cortana “O” still shows in the search box, but the search box is DEAD – you can’t type anything in it.

    Cortana still shows in the taskbar context menu, but the Cortana icon is also DEAD.

    Install Classic Shell and type in the search box. You get a “Microsoft Windows Search Indexer” process that shows activity.

    Don’t know what other effects this might have, but it does the job of killing the Cortana processes and removing them from the Task Manager apparently.

    cortana-22

     

    cortana-23

     

    cortana-24

    cortana-25

    If that helped, take a second to support AskWoody on Patreon

    135 Responses to “Does “killing” Cortana really kill Cortana?”

    1. ch100 says:

      @PKCano
      Maybe I missed this information which I consider essential for the purpose of this research.
      Which version of Windows 10 did you use? I mean Pro or Enterprise? This is highly relevant for Cortana configuration options.
      In relation to subversions, I think the only relevant one is the one fully patched at the time of the research, unless known to be unusable due to bugs and in that case the good one would be the previous next.
      This would apply to all currently supported versions either at CB, CBB or LTSB level.
      https://technet.microsoft.com/en-au/windows/release-info
      https://support.microsoft.com/en-au/help/4000825/windows-10-update-history

      • PKCano says:

        Answer: Pro.
        I’m dealing with what the User has available, not what businesses have available.

        • ch100 says:

          Thank you. I was under the impression that Allow Cortana policy works only in Enterprise, but after reviewing it, I realised that it is available in Pro.
          So what are Pro owners complaining about as being removed? Not being able to disable the Store?

    2. Byron says:

      Great work PKCano. I’ve been nuking the Cortana folder in C:\Windows\SystemApps since the original release of Windows 10. Other than completely killing the search box as you noted, I haven’t noticed any other side effects.

      One thing to note, however, is that the forced updates will attempt to put Cortana back. It recreates the folder that was renamed and puts the updated files into it. So far, Cortana has remained disabled since not all of its files are there, but I go ahead and get rid of the new folder anyway.

      • PKCano says:

        I renamed the folder, but did not pursue with whether the next Build put it back. Renaming a folder is non destructive, deletion is.

        I assume I could have done the same by taking ownership, but at the time I didn’t try that either. The AU was relatively new (Aug 20 testing). I was looking for what would kill the processes, and disabling the folder (however it’s done) did it.

        • Byron says:

          I just rename the folder also instead of deleting it. I have also found that just renaming SearchUI.exe within the folder also kills the task manager processes, at least it did in 1511. I haven’t tried it yet in AU. It seems easier to just rename the whole folder.

    3. Noel Carboni says:

      PKCano and others who crave the utter removal of Cortana…

      It can be done.

      Look closely at the PowerShell and CMD windows in this screen grab, and note that the system passes an SFC check. Updates don’t resurrect Cortana, though I’m sure the next in-place upgrade (of the “Creator” release) will do so.

      http://Noel.ProDigitalSoftware.com/ForumPosts/Win10/14393/Win10Desktop.png

      -Noel

      • woody says:

        Interesting! Compare and contrast that with the “official” method used by PKCano….

        • Noel Carboni says:

          Some of my additional observations:

          Once the AppXPackage has been removed, no Cortana-related processes run.

          http://Noel.ProDigitalSoftware.com/ForumPosts/Win10/14393/Win10Processes.png

          Settings and the Notification center continue to work.

          I’ve been testing it this way for more than a year.

          -Noel

          • woody says:

            Fascinating. Can I get you to write this up for a KB article?

            • Noel Carboni says:

              Some things worry me:

              1. I have proven a “remove Cortana and ALL Apps” strategy is workable, and have been testing it all through the various Win 10 releases. But that strategy is not going to suit very many Windows 10 users who actually WANT cloud-integration and fun Apps. What I DON’T know is whether removing just Cortana can stand on its own.

              2. If how to truly remove Cortana is widely published, Microsoft will undoubtedly take steps to prevent it from being done in a future Windows release. So sharing the information makes life harder for those who have figured it out and are enjoying Cortana-free existence now.

              3. People may THINK they want to remove Cortana, but not really know what the implications are. The commands to truly expunge it from a Windows system are not easily undoable (short of a full refresh/reinstall). I hate to think of someone breaking their system because of my advice.

              Still, it seems there is a sufficiently high and wide desire to expunge Cortana that people are interested in sharing details, and I’ve already written a script for doing it and published it online, so here goes…

              http://win10epicfail.proboards.com/thread/100/interested-participating-tweaker-development-test

              To say that it’s a geek/guru-level thing is an understatement. I fear people could get into a lot of trouble with it.

              It comes without warranty. PLEASE do not break your system with this. If you’re not testing in a fully throwaway environment, and are not supremely confident that you can restore a snapshot or backup, I urge you NOT to run my script.

              However, if you want to see the instructions that can culminate in a successful Cortana removal via Remove-AppXPackage and Remove-AppxProvisionedPackage Powershell commands, the how-to information is there. The key is in resetting the “IsInBox” field in the database “StateRepository-Machine.srd”.

              -Noel

        • ch100 says:

          Both methods are “official” and supported.

    4. jmwoods says:

      “There is STILL activity under Cortana in the Task Manager.”

      Actually, if a little more research had been done, the explanation would have been easily found…

      http://www.howtogeek.com/271096/why-is-cortana-still-running-in-the-background-after-you-disable-it/

      Ed Bott, and Chris Hoffman on How-To Geek, have already published the steps to disable Cortana, so statements in this article like “Don’t know what other effects this might have…” don’t engender much confidence as a “KB” article.

      • woody says:

        Good find.

        Chris is looking at it from a “system overhead” point of view. Most folks nowadays are concerned about snooping.

        If you take a fully-functional Cortana, right-click on Cortana in the Task Manager and choose “Go to details” you’ll still see SearchUI.exe. Disabling Cortana doesn’t seem to me to make any difference.

        Am I missing something?

        If I followed the instructions to disable a service called “Mxyzptlk” and then I found the service Mxyztplk still running, I’d be concerned.

        • ch100 says:

          No, that service is fully documented to be what was known as Windows Search in Windows 7 with the right Group Policies in place.
          https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/itpro/windows/manage/manage-cortana-in-enterprise

          • ch100 says:

            If someone really, really, really wants to disable Windows Search (indexing), it can be done in the same way like in Windows 7. Just open the services.msc console and disable and stop the service.

            • Noel Carboni says:

              Disabling indexing is a good idea, as indexing a hard disk on the same hard disk is kind of a silly idea that’s been poorly implemented by Microsoft, but from what I recall it doesn’t stop searchui.exe. Please correct me if I’m wrong; I’ve been running Win 10 without Cortana for a very long time.

              SSDs seem to all but eliminate the need for indexing, as a modern computer can search SSD storage very, very fast, and there’s never the chance of an index-out-of-sync-with-reality problem with a real search, nor the problem where not everything is actually indexed.

              -Noel

              • ch100 says:

                Sorry Noel, I don’t understand the meaning of “as indexing a hard disk on the same hard disk”
                If you refer to the checkbox under Disk Properties where it says “Allow files on this drive to have contents indexed in addition to file properties”, I think that refers only to the old Indexing service (Windows XP/2000/2003 style, before Desktop Search), although it is difficult to find authoritative information about that setting.
                About SSD file/folder indexing, even the SSD manufacturers recommend keeping it enabled if required, which means that it should not be so harmful, but it is true that SSDs are fine even without indexing.
                I don’t know much about Cortana though, I am relatively new to dissecting Windows 10 behaviour, so I am not in the position to “correct you if you are wrong” 🙂

                • Noel Carboni says:

                  What I mean is that developing an index of the contents of the hard drive and storing it on the very same hard drive makes little logical sense.

                  Thinking about that takes one to the realization that not everything can possibly be indexed – and in fact only parts of the directory structure are indexed, and only some of the files within those parts, and only some of the data within the files is indexed. And sometimes the index is out of date or worse, corrupted.

                  Basically, if you’re searching for a simple text string you might be able to quickly find it with the index. Unless it’s in one of the files that are not indexed (which used to exclude such files as .log by default – I’m not sure if that has been corrected since I looked in detail).

                  I’m not concerned with SSD wear. I only mentioned it because a decently fast computer with a fast SSD I/O subsystem can search actual files quickly enough so as to make indexing a complexity that can be eliminated with almost no downside.

                  What I AM concerned with is the surety of finding each and every occurrence of any string of characters (not just text) that I happen to search for. Computers are digital systems and as such can deliver perfection. Windows Search does NOT – by design.

                  Here’s my recommendation for specifically HOW to disable indexing (written in the context of Win 8.1 but it’s the same for Win 10):

                  http://Noel.ProDigitalSoftware.com/ForumPosts/Win81/DisableIndexing_1.png

                  http://Noel.ProDigitalSoftware.com/ForumPosts/Win81/DisableIndexing_2.png

                  http://Noel.ProDigitalSoftware.com/ForumPosts/Win81/DisableIndexing_3.png

                  -Noel

                  • ch100 says:

                    Noel, I think your argument against indexing could also apply to read-ahead caching in general. It is as efficient as the algorithm which is used.
                    Windows Search sometimes causes slow scanning of the folders and other issues and the debate is still open about the suitability of having indexing enabled or not.
                    I personally keep it enabled even with SSD but I am not convinced either way.
                    Indexing of folders which you mentioned in your post from where you published the screenshots is in the same category of indexing like the disk indexing. My feeling without having done proper monitoring is that that part of indexing setting applies to the older Indexing service which is disabled by default and has nothing to do with the current implementation of Windows Search indexing.
                    Do you have any authoritative information or your own trusted research to indicate otherwise?

        • R. says:

          I think his point is that Cortana and regular search use the same process. So, even if you disable Cortana you will still see the process as it is also used for the regular search.

          • woody says:

            Possible.

            But, I would argue, if SearchUI is a stand-in for Cortana when Cortana is enabled, might it not have the same “features” when Cortana is disabled?

            • b says:

              No:

              “Note also that if you use Cortana without signing in, your searches in the taskbar search box are treated like any other Bing search.”

              https://privacy.microsoft.com/en-US/windows-10-cortana-and-privacy

              • woody says:

                Well, yes, but searches in the taskbar search box should be treated like local file-only searches. That’s part of the Cortana snooping way.

                • Bill says:

                  Have you looked at:

                  Computer Configuration/Administrative Templates/Windows Components/Search/Do Not Allow Web Search

                  I’m also trying to find time to experiment with putting SearchUI in AppLocker.

                  • ch100 says:

                    @Bill
                    A lot of web sites talk about that policy. If you look in the description you will find that:
                    “Microsoft Windows XP, or Windows Server 2003 with Windows Search version 3.01 or later”
                    The one that is of interest to you is Don’t search the web or display web results in search.

                    But if you configured Allow Cortana to Disabled, all your worries would go away and you would not need any other policy in that group (under Search).

                    • Bill says:

                      I already have “Don’t search the web or display web results in search” Enabled, “Allow Cortana” to Disabled, and a lot more. A complete list of what’s in my workstations’ Local Group Policies would blow up Woody’s comments section.

                      • Bill says:

                        Here’s a page of stuff I had convenient. For a full list, it will take a while to pull out sensitive info.

                        Disable Computer Configuration/Administrative Templates/Control Panel/Regional and Language Options/Allow Input Personalization
                        Enable Computer Configuration/Administrative Templates/Control Panel/Regional and Language Options/Handwriting personalization/Turn off automatic learning
                        Enable Computer Configuration/Administrative Templates/System/User Profiles/Delete user profiles older than a specified number of days on restart – At 90 days
                        Enable Computer Configuration/Administrative Templates/System/User Profiles/Turn off the advertising ID
                        Enable Computer Configuration/Administrative Templates/Windows Components/App Privacy/Let Windows Apps Access Account Information – at deny
                        Enable Computer Configuration/Administrative Templates/Windows Components/App Privacy/Let Windows Apps Access Call History – at deny
                        Enable Computer Configuration/Administrative Templates/Windows Components/App Privacy/Let Windows Apps Access Contacts – at deny
                        Enable Computer Configuration/Administrative Templates/Windows Components/App Privacy/Let Windows Apps Access Email – at deny
                        Enable Computer Configuration/Administrative Templates/Windows Components/App Privacy/Let Windows Apps Access Location – at deny
                        Enable Computer Configuration/Administrative Templates/Windows Components/App Privacy/Let Windows Apps Access Messaging – at deny
                        Enable Computer Configuration/Administrative Templates/Windows Components/App Privacy/Let Windows Apps Access Motion – at deny
                        Enable Computer Configuration/Administrative Templates/Windows Components/App Privacy/Let Windows Apps Access the Calendar – at deny
                        Enable Computer Configuration/Administrative Templates/Windows Components/App Privacy/Let Windows Apps Access the Camera – at deny
                        Enable Computer Configuration/Administrative Templates/Windows Components/App Privacy/Let Windows Apps Access the Microphone – at deny
                        Enable Computer Configuration/Administrative Templates/Windows Components/App Privacy/Let Windows Apps Control Radios – at deny
                        Enable Computer Configuration/Administrative Templates/Windows Components/App Privacy/Let Windows Apps Sync with Devices – at deny
                        Enable Computer Configuration/Administrative Templates/Windows Components/Location and Sensors/Windows Location Provider/Turn Off Windows Location Provider
                        Enable Computer Configuration/Administrative Templates/Windows Components/Location and Sensors/Turn off location
                        Enable Computer Configuration/Administrative Templates/Windows Components/Location and Sensors/Turn off location scripting
                        Enable Computer Configuration/Administrative Templates/Windows Components/Location and Sensors/Turn off sensors
                        Enable Computer Configuration/Administrative Templates/Windows Components/Microsoft Edge/Send All Intranet Sites to Internet Explorer 11
                        Disable Computer Configuration/Administrative Templates/Windows Components/Search/Allow Cortana
                        Disable Computer Configuration/Administrative Templates/Windows Components/Search/Allow Search and Cortana to Use Location
                        Enable Computer Configuration/Administrative Templates/Windows Components/Search/Do Not Allow Web Search
                        Enable Computer Configuration/Administrative Templates/Windows Components/Search/Don’t search the web or display results in search
                        Enable Computer Configuration/Administrative Templates/Windows Components/Search/Set what information is shared in search – at Anonymous info
                        Enable Computer Configuration/Administrative Templates/Windows Components/Store/Turn off the store application

                      • ch100 says:

                        @Bill That seems a bit overkill to me, but it is likely to serve the purpose well 🙂

                • ch100 says:

                  This depends on which side you are.
                  There is nothing suggesting that Cortana is not doing web (Bing) search if this feature is not disabled.

            • ch100 says:

              This is why research like the one done by PKCano is very useful. Nobody knows with certainty and although there is official documentation, sometimes it is spread in many places and difficult to understand in plain non-geeky language.

      • Noel Carboni says:

        There is always overhead when a process is running. “Very few” resources is not “no” resources.

        Me, even though I prefer supercomputer sized machines, I strive to make every byte of RAM and every cycle of CPU available for MY use. Not surprisingly, I get a better computing experience from it.

        More fundamentally, it is MY computer. If I don’t want something in particular running, it’s MY choice. Microsoft and pro-Microsoft apologists might say that a “Cortana” like appendage is becoming an essential part of the system; that an OS without the ability to talk to you is like last year’s OS without the ability to display on a monitor.

        Uh, no, not yet.

        I’ll wait until it’s mature and useful. At the rate we’re going now, that’ll be in at least 10 years or more.

        Back in about 1978 I experimented with an Apple II system that could recognize a few voice commands and control an RC car. Here we are today with computers at least 1,000x faster and can hold 1,000,000x more data… Yet Cortana recognizes a few voice commands and… Oh, wow, big whoop, brings up an (inferior) web search. The stated “new awesomeness” in the next version is that it will be able to turn off the computer? Yeah, just what I want to do. Not!

        -Noel

        • Noel Carboni says:

          I just did a bit of research here…

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Instructions_per_second

          A MOS Technology 6502 (the heart of an Apple II) is listed as capable of 0.43 Dhrystone MIPS. By contrast, a modern Intel Core I7 6950X is listed as capable of 317,000 MIPS. So I was wrong.

          A modern computer, 40 years later, is nearly 1,000,000x faster.

          An Apple II had 4 KB of RAM. My computer presently has 48 GB of RAM. That’s not even a big amount any more.

          So that’s more than 10,000,000x more RAM in a modern computer.

          An Apple II, equipped with the optional external 5¼-inch floppy disk drive, the Disk II, could store 140 KBytes and read it at a data rate of about 25 kBytes per second. Today a $30 SSD can store 120 million kBytes and transfer 500 MB/second over SATA III (and much more with a RAID array). Expensive SSDs store terabytes. I presently have enough SSDs inside a normal PC chassis to have 2 TB of RAID storage and sustain data transfers of over 2 gigabytes per second.

          100,000x the mass storage data rate to access
          10,000,000x as much mass storage capacity!

          We won’t even get into advancements in the quality of digitized data, or of microphone hardware quality…

          And yet, even today, with these head-spinning orders of magnitude improvements in hardware, Cortana struggles to recognize a few words accurately.

          The programmers are not even trying.

          -Noel

      • PKCano says:

        Unless I am mistaken, Cortana is related to the Bing search engine. And Bing results go to M$.

        Despite the fact that I did not name all the files in the folder or remark on the level of activity, the instructions to “turn off” do not turn off Cortana as implied, it continues to show activity.

        When I did this testing on 8/20/16, the AU was relatively new. Was the How-to Geek article already published then?

    5. fp says:

      I am not clear why nobody checks out the aero script before undertaking all this hassle.

    6. ch100 says:

      From a Windows Insider newsletter.

      “Cortana just got even more awesome.* Now you can use voice commands to have Cortana turn off your computer, change volume — even control music playback and volume on more of your favorite music apps (U.S. only) like iHeartRadio and TuneIn Radio. Cortana can also now recognize music for customers in China. And check out Cortana’s new look when using “Hey Cortana” (it’s not only gorgeous but even more useful, as you’ll discover).”

      And we are trying to disable it now when it became even more awesome. 😁😁😁

      • woody says:

        Awesomeness is in the eye of the beholder….

        Personally, I rarely use Cortana. If I want to work in voice, I pull out my Google phone. Much better.

        • ch100 says:

          See my post as a joke.
          While the product is without doubt a technical marvel, the implications of using it are too far reaching.
          Same can be said about Siri and Google and Amazon equivalents though.

        • b says:

          How do you know the latter is much better if you rarely use the former?

          • woody says:

            Because every time I try to use Cortana voice input, I give up. Easy test: Try asking Cortana just about anything, then pose the same question to a Google phone.

            As for using Cortana to search on my hard drive: I use File Explorer.

            As for using Cortana to search on the web: Sorry, I’ll search from inside a browser.

            As for using Cortana to combine web and file searches: No thanks.

            I do, however, use Cortana in the situations where I would use “File | Run” in Win7.

            • Noel Carboni says:

              >As for using Cortana…

              +1.

              To get really geeky, try the free, open source program grepWin by Stefan Kung for real, fast, honest searches. Right click on a folder, choose grepWin, and enter things to search for in that folder and subfolders.

              http://stefanstools.sourceforge.net/grepWin.html

              In my experience, with SSD-based systems it’s efficient enough that it competes with an indexed Windows Search.

              It searches for ANYTHING, with the added power of regular expressions if you’ve mastered them, and even tells you when it can’t open a file so the results are fully rigorous.

              Windows search by contrast is more of a “See if you can turn up some interesting text because I’m bored.” Not at all in the same league as a real search.

              -Noel

              • Ascaris says:

                I’ve been using “Everything” for searching for a while (Voidtools). Its results are pretty much instantaneous whenever I use it… it’s what indexed Windows Search would be if MS did it right. (Standard disclaimers; I have no connection to Voidtools, etc.)

    7. UKBrianC says:

      It will be interesting to see if the re-naming approach raises some problem in the future with the cumulative update method. Will Windows look for some Cortana related element that has been previously installed but then moved/renamed and get into some horrible update/error loop?
      That on-going battle to remove/rename after updates will become a real chore. This is still really “masking the presence” rather than removing/disabling.

      • ch100 says:

        It is never a great idea to rename system files.
        Cortana is not just another Windows App like Calculator.
        We can identify system wide Apps by checking their location on the disk, C:\Windows\SystemApps and few more locations under C:\Windows like C:\Windows\ImmersiveControlPanel or C:\Windows\MiracastView vs C:\Program Files\WindowsApps

        • UKBrianC says:

          I just don’t see the point of going to the hassle of messing with system files for Cortana. Just toggle off what can be and hide it. I never see it/never bothers me.
          I think the “Killing of Cortana” has become a hunt for it’s own sake to a degree.
          But,I am interested what those Cortana processes are doing that pop up every so often when the user has set Cortana to do nothing at all.

          • messager7777777 says:

            @ UKBrianC & ch100 ……. Maybe Cortana should hv been an app/program, n not fused/integrated into Win 10.
            ……. An OS should just help a cptr buyer to operate the cptr, ie run the essential n peripheral devices, n various programs/apps. Win XP used to be like that, until extreme greed overtook M$.
            ……. IE, Edge, Bing, Defender, Cortana, etc should not hv been fused/integrated into Win 10 – in this way, Win 10 users can opt to not run these preinstalled M$ programs/apps by uninstalling them or vice versa.
            .
            Seems M$ hv copied the “dirty” tactics of smartphone OEMs who fused/integrated their bloatware/apps into their mobile OS. Or was it the other way round.?

          • ch100 says:

            “I think the “Killing of Cortana” has become a hunt for it’s own sake to a degree.”

            Exactly so. The Group Policy is enough and does what you have in LTSB and Server 2016.
            For example, on Server 2016 there is a process named Search. By right-clicking and going to the location, it takes you to… Microsoft.Windows.Cortana_cw5n1h2txyewy folder

    8. Nick says:

      Or… go into Region settings and change your country to, say, Vanuatu. No more Cortana (for now?).

      Alternatively, install Windows 10 Education.

    9. AJ North says:

      Lions and tigers and bears; oh my!

      This is from one who has zero experience with Win 10 (by choice!), so please excuse a possibly dumb question:

      Would AutoRuns afford any useful assistance in neutralizing Cortana (deselecting the option Hide Microsoft Entries)?

      • woody says:

        Good question. I don’t know if PKCano tried it.

      • Noel Carboni says:

        Unfortunately no, it’s not quite that simple, assuming you don’t want errors logged, or to destroy System Protection, or have basic instability.

        But there are still ways to stop it that involve manipulating data that we users are still in control of.

        The reason it’s possible is that most everything Microsoft has done to Windows 10 so far IS architecturally added on (opposed to built in), and therefore can still be cut off.

        But they’re adding things on in ways that are ever deeper, and sooner or later it will no longer be possible to “cut off” Cortana or other things they’re doing. Will that be the case in the next version? Who can say, but it’s clear we’re working AGAINST Microsoft’s wishes here.

        THAT is what needs to be questioned.

        I’m sure they think they’re doing good things for their business – but fundamental attributes of Windows have always been that it’s a set of building blocks, and that Microsoft has never arranged those blocks in a way that’s ideal for a given user. This has been okay because features have been OPTIONAL and CONFIGURABLE. That’s not been an accident, it’s been a FEATURE of Windows. One the predecessors of the children running the show today at Microsoft worked hard at.

        Now, that feature is in direct conflict with their turning Windows into a system that does unwanted things to you in order to extract value for Microsoft. After all, if you could just turn off the unwanted things, they’d get nothing of value and be stuck trying to sell the system. For some reason, they’ve given up on charging money for an ever-improving operating system. I guess it must be too hard to do.

        I disagree with the basic concept that software engineering can no longer be supported by actual sales, and that taking valuable things from users instead is okay.

        Perhaps Microsoft thinks Windows needs to go the way of broadcast, commercial-supported television (you know, where you can barely stand to watch it because the majority of the content tries to sell you something, and most of the rest of the content is mediocre).

        I don’t know about you, but I just don’t watch much television any more, and when I DO I always fast forward through the commercials.

        There is no natural law of the universe that says we should give up expecting excellence.

        -Noel

        • JNP says:

          Noel is correct about this and we have to start to see this as a potential violation of the Sherman Anti-Trust Law, and revisit, by filing the appropriate legal actions, the issues raised in U.S. v Microsoft (the Netscape case), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_v._Microsoft_Corp. and, broadly, the EU case that raises the same legal principles: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microsoft_Corp_v_Commission . Windows is a necessary OS for what can be broadly called Intel-based personal computers. Once MS starts to bundle something like Cortana, or telemetrics in a necessary OS, without the ability to to easily turn the “feature” off, significant legal issues are once again raised.

        • ch100 says:

          Noel, at the subject of errors, there is one which baffles me and I can’t find a solution.
          On Windows 2016 Server and Windows 10 Enteprise LTSB 2016, Cortana and the Store and Store Apps are disabled by licence. There is a specific location protected by the operating system which decides what is available in different versions under C:\Windows\System32\spp
          The error is related to Cortana which cannot start under the built-in Administrator (or any other admin not restricted by UAC controls), which is identical or similar to the error logged on the regular editions in the same conditions.
          Why is it even trying to launch Cortana and fails to do so?

          • Noel Carboni says:

            In what log is the error being logged? I’d like to double check to see whether I’m seeing it.

            The only System error I see (at bootup) is this: “The luafv service failed to start due to the following error: This driver has been blocked from loading”. That’s because I have disabled UAC via the EnableLUA setting in the registry.

            It’s possible the mechanism I’ve put in my re-tweaker script for removing the Cortana AppXPackage might work on your systems to eliminate the errors, especially since they’re not supposed to run Cortana at all.

            I suspect any remnant errors on a system not normally set to run Cortana are there because Microsoft simply hasn’t paid enough attention to compartmentalizing the software. That’s what I meant by my comment about the adult predecessors at Microsoft working harder than the current kids. That Windows could be applied in so many ways was no accident, and all this recent oversimplification and removal of configurability is going to break things they didn’t anticipate.

            -Noel

            • ch100 says:

              Windows 2016 Server runs “Cortana” as Search process, exactly like on Enterprise or Pro with the policy set on disabled, only the display name is different.
              The same error comes up when logging on as the default Administrator on the editions where Cortana is enabled. I don’t want to get into discussions about the security provided by UAC and why I use admin accounts without being in admin approval mode. We can leave that for another time, maybe it is a suitable subject for the lounge.
              If you log in as Administrator (the one built-in, the one with the suffix -500 in the SID), you will likely see the same thing.

              The error is in the Application Log as Source: Apps, Event ID: 5973.
              Activation of app Microsoft.Windows.Cortana_cw5n1h2txyewy!CortanaUI failed with error: This app can’t be activated by the Built-in Administrator. See the Microsoft-Windows-TWinUI/Operational log for additional information.

              In Microsoft-Windows-TWinUI/Operational log I get:
              Source: Apps
              Event Id: 5955
              The app Microsoft.Windows.Cortana_cw5n1h2txyewy!CortanaUI could not be activated for the Windows.BackgroundTasks contract because the current user is an Administrator with a full token. Only split token Administrators can activate apps.

              The issue is that it should not log an error if Cortana was disabled regardless of the account used being too elevated for Microsoft’s taste, but obviously Cortana is not disabled completely as it is needed as Search.
              Windows Search as a service providing indexing (or Instant Search as it is also known) is Disabled.

              Functionally, the error is benign, but like you, I just don’t like the Red X in the logs.

      • PKCano says:

        Haven’t tried Autoruns.

        Mostly, what I was trying was available to the common User, even most do not do Reg editing and most have Home Edition so GP is not available. The settings available in the GUI certainly do not “turn off” Cortana processes.

    10. cma6 says:

      “Install Classic Shell and type in the search box. You get a “Microsoft Windows Search Indexer” process that shows activity.”

      So is it possible in this way to regain Search even without Cortana?
      And how does one get Classic Shell” to install?
      I have Win 10 Pro.

      • woody says:

        Classic Shell is easy and good, if you want to replace the Start menu.

        http://www.classicshell.net/

        See “b”‘s comments about regaining search.

        • cma6 says:

          Hi Woody:
          I contacted the Classic Shell people at one point and was told that if one disables or removes Cortana, then Classic Shell will not search in Win 10.
          I have disabled Cortana pretty completely (I don’t remember how) but have completely lost search capability.

          The only comment I could find from “b” on the topic was
          ” And if you want to search for files on your device, such as documents or photos, you can always use the search feature in File Explorer.”

          That seems to work OK as a good-enough replacement for Cortana search.

        • ch100 says:

          Arghh, endorsing another surrogate software.
          Why not staying with Windows 7 or even XP if (the old) Start Menu is such an important feature for some?

          • Elly says:

            Because Windows 7 will join XP in not being supported? Kudos to those exploring Windows 10 and seeing if it can be made secure and functional. If Microsoft had followed its own path to success by continuing to allow user control, all this wouldn’t be needed.

          • Noel Carboni says:

            The Start Menu is just a small part of Windows as a whole.

            >Why not stay with Windows 7 or even XP if (the old) Start Menu
            >is such an important feature for some?

            Because it’s generally better to have the rest of Windows be current. With the latest release we get bugfixes and better security design and better support for modern hardware and overall better technology. At least I feel that’s true up through Win 8.1 (my jury’s still out on 10).

            That 3rd party software is available to replace flawed or insufficient parts of Windows is not a bad thing. Some of that 3rd party software is actually quite excellent – an attribute that’s distinctly lacking in Microsoft’s work.

            I’ve been using Classic Shell for many years – basically since we lost the Classic start menu setting with cascading menus. You know what? I’ve been able to avoid disruption by not having to learn whatever new metaphor Microsoft was experimenting with at each new release, and it’s STILL a better implemented Start Menu than anything Microsoft has ever released. I use it today on Win 7, 8.1, and 10 systems, and I’ll wager I’m more productive moving from system to system than someone who has to shift gears and use Microsoft’s various implementations.

            When something is very right, there is no harm in keeping it and promoting it to others.

            -Noel

            • ch100 says:

              Do you know how long it took Microsoft to understand that everyone likes to enable the hidden extensions for the files and hidden files in general? Only in Windows 10 there was an area implemented as “for developers” to have all those normal settings enabled at once.
              All the Microsoft high level experts that I met doing presentations for Microsoft were forced to use Windows “as is”, with files and extensions hidden, although it did not make any sense even for the least technical of the users.
              It is pretty much the same with the Classical Menu, or even worse, because this is third-party and not built-in.
              Do you see any of the larger organisations installing Classic Shell on all desktops?

      • ch100 says:

        Why even trying when everything is built-in and readily available? Classic Shell uses exactly the same features, only wrapping them in a different cover.

        • Noel Carboni says:

          Yes, Classic Shell is more usable.

          This is one of those cases where the software is actually just better than you’d think it should be.

          On a complex system, with more than a few small applications installed, the utility in being able to organize your menu hierarchically is huge. Microsoft doesn’t seem to think we should have systems that complex.

          -Noel

        • James Bond 007 says:

          “Why even trying when everything is built-in and readily available?”

          Because it does not work the way I (and others) want. I prefer the classic start menu myself and that’s why I configured Classic Shell to use the classic menu in Windows 7 / 8.1 / 10 (Yes, I use Classic Shell even on Windows 7.). Others may want the Windows 7 style start menu back. (Yeah, those people should stick with Windows 7. But what if they have a new computer with Windows 10 or the Windows 7 on their computer was “upgraded” already, maybe against their wishes?) Isn’t that reason enough?

          It has the additional benefit of not displaying the rubbish apps and ads in the original start menu in Windows 10.

          If you can find a way to tell that start menu to behave in the way I want, then may be I can do away with Classic Shell. Until then, Classic Shell is essential for me.

          You seem to believe that in Windows 10 softwares like Classic Shell are not necessary since you can just use the resurrected start menu. I understand your position but I respectfully don’t agree with you. I believe it is nice to have these softwares as alternatives, when Windows no longer works the way I and others want.

          We should thank Microsoft and its Windows 8 for the rise of Classic Shell and other similar programs, haha. I certainly was not aware of it until many people started talking about it in response to Windows 8.

          I have not changed my stance of not using Windows 10 on any of my production computers, by the way. But I do test it in virtual machines.

        • PKCano says:

          I don’t us any of M$’s CrApps. I only use apps that work. Why should I have to look at the ugly tiles? Why should I have to wade through all of them in the menu just to find my workable desktop programs.
          Classic Shell segregates the CrApps in a side menu and leaves the workable programs in the REAL menu.

          • Ascaris says:

            Why should you have to look at ugly tiles?

            For the same reason that themes have to be signed by MS to be used (preventing the use of unapproved themeswithout further modifications to the system)… branding.

            The tiles are an important part of their branding effort for Windows. MS could put up billboards that feature various squares and rectangles in the same colors as the tiles and we’d all recognize what it was advertising, even without any text.

            MS put the tiles front and center in Windows 8… it was basically a full-screen ad for Windows Mobile masquerading as a start screen. When 8 was rejected by the market, MS reduced the emphasis on mobile features like the tiles, but there was no way they were going to go away. They would be in your start menu, whether you like it or not, because it’s part of their marketing effort.

            People thinking in terms of usability and products that are made to satisfy a customer’s needs will understandably be confused by the seemingly bizarre choices MS has made for them. The tiles aren’t there to serve the needs of the user; they’re there to serve the needs of Microsoft.

    11. b says:

      I don’t understand the fixation with killing Cortana when she can simply be unfriended:

      “If you prefer not to send *any* character data to Microsoft, choose not to use Cortana. If you like, you can even hide Cortana. And if you want to search for files on your device, such as documents or photos, you can always use the search feature in File Explorer.”

      https://privacy.microsoft.com/en-US/windows-10-cortana-and-privacy

      • woody says:

        Important detail: “Character data.” What about other kinds of data?

        As noted, I don’t share the paranoia. But I certainly understand why people are skeptical.

      • ch100 says:

        I don’t understand either.
        Very pleased that you decided to start posting constructively beyond your obvious bias in favour of Windows 10. Not everything is perfect in Windows 10 as you try to present it, but there are very good things too, so please make those good things public wherever possible. 🙂

      • Noel Carboni says:

        b, assuming you work for Microsoft, please understand that you’re going too far too quickly.

        Just make it an option to not have Cortana or any part of the software supporting Cortana running AT ALL.

        It’s not up to you what we want running on our computers. And you need to understand that we didn’t buy them to pay your salary. We’d prefer to do that by buying your software based on its merits and value.

        This should not be a game where you keep pushing the boundaries, like a “shock jock” using ever more offensive language, just so that the public accepts worse and worse things. Things that benefit only you.

        -Noel

      • fp says:

        But why should it be imposed on me such that I have to figure the dozens hidden settings for hiding her while she continues to watch me and phone home? Why? Show me any evidence that anybody has asked for it. Is it an os function? Anything that is not and is an app should be an option. Lets see then how many users opt for all that useless baggage that Ms loads on win.

      • Ascaris says:

        Cortana has become a symbol of Microsoft’s “we own your PC, and we’ll do things our way” attitude. If we can’t eradicate Microsoft’s arrogance, at least we can kill its most visible agent.

        I don’t *have* to have IE completely cleansed from my PC. Windows 7 lets me go further in almost uninstalling it than any version of Windows since 95, but after having gone though the transition from 95 (where IE was distinctly separate) to 98 (where MS tried to sell us on the idea of it being built-in and thus unremovable, which turned out to be a cynical lie), I wanted more than to just turn it off. I want it GONE.

        Similarly, if I were using 10, I would want a lot of things GONE. Among them are Cortana, Edge, Windows Store, Get Office, Xbox, OneDrive, and every “app” on the PC. Groove, the new picture viewer, the new calculator… all of it has to go (and can be replaced with Win 7 versions if the old-style programs don’t get installed anymore). MS has upped the ante by trying to force their way on the user, so I’m inclined to push back just as hard.

        When I was done with all of that, I’d have a broken Windows 10 installation. Deliberately broken in specific ways, but broken nonetheless. When I last used Windows 10, it was in such a state… all of that stuff was gone (I’d used the WinAero scripts), and it still worked and was stable in my use.

        It would likely stay that way, too, until it didn’t. There could be latent instability just waiting for me to use some bit of the OS I hadn’t used before, just waiting to bite. If not that, perhaps some future Windows update would depend on the stuff I removed being there more than it does now, and it would fail at that point. As time passed, the odds of that happening at some point seems like a near certainty.

        As I use my PC for things other than getting essentially meaningless symbolic victories over MS, I never explored doing this other than on my test PC. Even with the modifications, MS still has more control than I am prepared to tolerate. I still don’t want updates that seek to impose themselves whenever MS wants; more breakage to “fix” that would be needed. I don’t want updates that even have the possibility of unilaterally uninstalling programs I want on my PC, regardless of MS’ views about their suitability with Windows 10. I don’t want it reinstalling things I’ve intentionally removed either.

        Thus, Windows 10 is not, to me, fit for purpose. Still, I recognize that Win 7’s days are numbered, so I still have the probably futile idea that if we continue to reject 10, MS will be prompted to try a little carrot instead of it being all about stick. I’d like to have a suitable upgrade path when Windows 7 sunsets… I’m not going to give up on Linux (no unringing that bell), but I don’t want to have to put all my eggs in that basket either… it’s not ready, and I don’t know that it will be in three years either.

    12. UKBrianC says:

      Here’s another viewpoint that seems to go along with the making-almost-invisible-is-almost-good-enough attitude.

      https://askleo.com/how-do-i-disable-cortana/

      Poor Cortana – on everyone’s list today!

      If Cortana is being asked to do very little by the user – just what are those Cortana processes in Task Manager doing all day? Do things labelled as Cortana perform other work for the system that are not part of the digital assistant?

      • PKCano says:

        Cortana is not just the personal assistant. Cortana is search is Bing. “She” has access to everything you do, mail, contacts, location, search, camera, etc – even if you don’t TALK to “her.”

        • messager7777777 says:

          @ PKCano ……. Wonder whether Satya Nadella, Terry Myerson n other M$-Win 10 shills hv laid off their personal assistants/secretaries n fully embraced Miss Cortana.?

        • b says:

          How or why does Cortana access your camera?

          Any evidence or documentation?

      • fp says:

        I don’t think the objective should be to hide Cortana but to nuke it (no her).

    13. fp says:

      There is absolutely nothing of value in these assistants for users. Their only value is to extract user data and sell to advertisers or to users directly.

    14. James Bond 007 says:

      Nice article. I know some of these settings but there are other things I am not aware of. I should try them on my virtual machines later.

    15. AJ North says:

      Would Everything (for which a new version is soon to be released) work for Win 10 with Cortana disabled?

    16. Tech-n says:

      I accept that the Microsoft operating system is proprietary, not open source. I also acknowledge that integrated services, like Bing and Cortana are there at the manufacturer’s whim.

      Cortana is not essential to the operation of a Windows based computer or its ability to run system programs or user applications. It is intended to add value to both the product and user experience, as a service.

      Data created and stored on private property is also proprietary. No service should be able to access, collect and store that data without explicit user permission. For this reason alone Cortana should be disabled by default. However, the reality is that the EULA ended up being permission given in advance.

      The chitchat aspect of Cortana can be disabled and MS is obviously not concerned about that as they allow it. However, MS is not allowing users to go after the rest of its capabilities. I assume the reason for this is that Cortana is not a wheel in itself, but a cog in a bigger wheel yet to come.

      Whatever Microsoft has under wraps is open to speculation, but no doubt AI and enhanced cloud computing is in the works. The ‘cog’ is under their protection right now and they have provided no path to a hack that will be effective or permanent.

      Eventually this OS will not be accessible to user tinkering at all (including the Enterprise). It is part of the evolution of proprietary operating systems. It is possible that Cortana may eventually be essential to the operation of a W10 component based computer.

    17. AlexEiffel says:

      I’m with ch100 on this regarding third party software. I manage a lot of computers, no domain (ch100 might not like this part though). Firefox and Thunderbird autoupdates without administrator’s right. Love that. Third-party software that is embedded deeply in the system can create issues when Microsoft send updates and decide they break it or just break it because they changed things. Plus, it can make your attack surface larger, you need to trust the unknown software developer. If it needs updating and requires administrator’s right for that, I don’t like it. I would prefer to have Windows working

      There is a need for independent (no domain), locked up computers, that auto updates with Windows update with a delay so if there anything you need to block, you can, but if everything is fine, you never touch the machine.

      So, basically, for me, Windows Search (from 7) is good enough. Not good. Good enough. Here’s why :

      1) it finds settings and features if I type them. If I type “indexing options”, it pops out.

      2) it easily finds files and show the most or latest used ones first, in fact, it shows the file I am more likely to want first.

      3) it search file content for some, like I know I typed “a raccoon ate a lion” in a document but I don’t remember the name of this document, it finds it. I use that a lot. Would it work as well on a SSD with a search that does no indexing? I don’t have the answer. The third party I looked at often didn’t provide file content search.

      Yes, it sucks too. It sucks like if you already have the file open, it doesn’t see it often. Why you search it then? Well, so I can right click on it and open its folder location. Search makes my life so easy to organize files. I always right click and then open folder location to a known file when I want to move another file of similar value at the same place. I don’t browse folders anymore, almost. I just store them by similar need met.

      It also sucks that since the dawn of Google, you can type the word a bit wrong and it finds everything, but someone didn’t get the memo at Windows. Add an s at the end of the word and it can’t find it anymore. Wow, that’s futuristic, Microsoft. Maybe we won’t make mistake in 2050 when our brains are supplemented by our digital personal brain boost assistant directly connected through our skull with the added bonus of augmented reality and ability to use Paint 3D Pro Plus to draw directly on the things in our living room.

      Long story, short: I can’t live without Windows Search, it is the most useful productivity tool brought in since XP.

      So, ideally, I don’t have a problem with the part of Cortana that would do the search for me if it did it at least as good and better than the old Windows search. I just don’t want it to snoop at all (to get better or any other purpose), I don’t want web search when I look for my computer files and certainly not related web searches from Bing. I don’t have web search since I turned that GPO off. I just want Cortana to stay local, not respond to my voice, not talk to me, not know me and my contacts and my relationship to them, not use the network at all, not stay active in the lock screen.

      In a way, it makes sense to not keep two search engines for Windows, Cortana might even use Windows Search engine for what I know (or more precisely don’t know). Just give me a setting so I can turn off the crap.

      It seems all these things can be limited on the surface, as always it is just not clear at all if turning everything off really does end up with you having what you want: a local search only, nothing sent outside. That needs to be better. Maybe with the “normal” tuning I did Cortana is almost what I want, a frontend to Windows Search Engine or an acceptable replacement for it. The thing is, it is not easy to know and there is good reason to think it is not because Microsoft is still shoveling it down our throat and agressively removes our ability to disable what we don’t want without clear explanations how to get what we want.

      • ch100 says:

        I am not “forcing” you to adopt the domain model. I run a test WSUS server without being in a domain. The Microsoft old recommendation is to use a Windows domain if you have more than 10 devices for the convenience of central user management.
        I agree with you for most of your post, except that I don’t like Firefox updating automatically, as this behaviour was creating major problems few years ago. The concept was the same with the current Windows 10 forced updates to get everyone quickly to certain new ways of doing things. Pay particular attention in the immediate future when the add-on model changes to the Google model and existing add-ons may not work any longer. Now they are experimenting with multi-process and doing telemetry for that purpose and I just don’t like the instability from one version to another, but where I could afford it in test systems, I actually ENABLED telemetry to assist the developers. For those reasons I prefer using the ESR version of Firefox and use mozila.cfg file for disabling auto-updating and setting few other preferences which I consider essential.

        • AlexEiffel says:

          Oh I didn’t mean you would “force” me, just that it might not be the way you would choose.

          I respect and understand your point of view about Firefox. It is a more “professional” way to do things. In my case, I manage above 50 computers that are not all related. I used Firefox on all of them since the very early versions. For me, there was never any big issue, even after they started going on a forced updates model. Even if there was, people could have used IE while we fix the issue. I thought not spending any time maintaining Firefox the rest of the time makes up for it. Of course, this is possible because of my specific context where people don’t have very particular needs and it might not work everywhere. We don’t use extensions besides adblock plus and noscript.

          The other good thing about Firefox is most settings are fine by default, no need to tweak much and even if it wasn’t tweaked, I would not loose sleep over it. I must say I got scared when they started the “we-update-all-the-time” policy, but I haven’t been bitten. I think it is very different with Windows. Firefox functionalities are more behind the scene than in user interface and functionalities like in Windows. Once you got rid of most menus and buttons like they did, there’s not much left to do in user interface (not that I think making menus disappear is a great idea). The browser just disappears to leave all the room for the content, so auto-updating to fix issues and support the latest standards might not be that bad if done properly (considering stability and backward compatibility). Of course, the extensions could be an issue, but I don’t use Firefox for extensions. I use it for support of standards (traditional reason), privacy and stability (main reason) and pretty good security, even if other browsers might be better for security if tuned properly. In a managed environment, probably IE would be the best one.

          My philosophy is trying to not manage computers. Maybe I am wrong, but I lock up people as much as I can and try to set and forget machines. In our business, our costs of support are very low and we don’t have notable security incidents. I have been doing this for more than 20 years and IT spends way more time developing instead of maintaining. I think Apple got something right with IOS in that regard. At some point before the overwhelming choices of cloud things on those devices, you could give user an IOS device and pretty much let them do whatever they want with it, without that much of a security risk (I am not talking about leaking of corporate data, though, which is a different story), even though Apple are not the best at patching, because most of the damage that you can do on PC couldn’t be done on those devices. No antivirus, but you download apps that are approved in theory, apps are auto-updated. I think despite it is far from being perfect in practice, the model has some value and worked at least in some ways. Yes, you can use the management tools for phones, but my point is even without them, you can pretty much let people use their Iphone without too much issues. At least, this has been my experience.

          I think there is a similar need for a PC. It’s only about what you do with it for a lot of users. Yes, big corporations have lots of tools that can be great, but I am sure a lot of smaller organizations could enjoy most of the productivity a PC can offer without having to hire too many specialists if the PC was done with an out of the box secure thinking or one easily activated by a switch. I know one of the strength of the PC was its openness and there will always be a need for that. But I also think a lot of people are fed up with PCs because they don’t understand them and why they have issues. Add to that an interface that will keep changing every 6-10 months or so and you can make a lot of users mad.

          An Ipad is a simple device to most people (although it is becoming less and less simple). Really, the most problems I see is with people answering the wrong questions to Icloud and things because we didn’t install their stuff, they fill up the thing, then don’t know what to do or why things don’t synchronize the way they did before. A PC could become a similar device on the surface in terms of security model within the walled garden part, but with better apps and mouse/keyboard/good windowing support.

          I think at some point that is what MS had in mind with its Metro UI, too, in addition to the continuum experience. I read some comment from a Microsoft insider about that. They might have wanted to make it easy to lock people into their new Metro environment so they avoid most of the problems of PCs in this controlled environment + gets multi-device support. At the same time, they would continue to provide better tools for power users behind (better command prompt, updated powershell, Win-X, Linux bash…).

          The idea isn’t bad, but has been terribly implemented. They forgot that the windowing system is not optional for productivity on a PC, the mouse/keyboard either. Walled garden for some, maybe a good idea. Subpar apps compared to desktop ones, not so much. Walled garden with the same Office you love, file management, Photoshop and whatever, maybe not so bad. They also forgot even more that it is important that nothing breaks if you send updates.

          Yesterday I went to help a friend who had upgraded to Win 10. The person told me its phone didn’t synchronize with Itunes since a few months. I thought probably anniversary update screwed up the driver because the phone wasn’t recognized anymore, I reinstalled Itunes and voilà. That should not happen. Same thing with so many printers. I get calls after AU for printers that stops working. You reinstall the same old driver from 2013 and you get back the printer. Not great.

          • ch100 says:

            Few points here.

            In the past I compared Firefox and Chrome model of updating with Windows and some people here were quick to point out that a browser is a lot less complex than an operating system and may be more suitable to be subject to forced updates if this is what the developers of those browsers decided.

            I managed and manage Firefox centrally in few small environments using mozilla.cfg files and it works reasonably well. But this is not strictly required as you said in your post.

            Comparing Windows with iOS is not quite fair, because iOS does and is meant to do only a subset of the functions which a full operating system like Windows or Linux does. But iOS might be just what most people need in terms of their everyday browsing. Most people do not need to ping, trace routes, run telnet or do other basic networking troubleshooting. Most people should never need to reconfigure the systems using local group policies. A lot of people use Firefox successfully and have no idea about things like about:config because that additional functionality is as it should be, optional and not a requirement for basic use.
            Bill Gates pulled a great trick by making everyone believe for the last 30 years that they need a personal computer (read server with reduced functionality enforced only by license) at home which has never been the case. Now people blame the current Microsoft management for breaking implicit promises made to their lower-end customers. They don’t break any promise in fact, the system is just too complex by design for a regular end-user to manage but it just does not serve Microsoft’s business interest to tell things like they are.

            • Elly says:

              Grandma here, spending Christmas with grandchildren. What does that have to do with Microsoft and their business interests? Well, when I buy toys for my grandchildren, I try to avoid things that are addictive (yes, computer games). I look at skill building, like building blocks, and things that stimulate imaginative play and creativity. Maybe my grandchildren don’t need to manage servers in a large organization. But they are surrounded by technology and need knowledge and skills in it to utilize it wisely and make good decisions. Personally, I got “bit” by letting my daughter get a netbook, with Windows 7 starter on it, with her self-earned money. What all the advertising led us to believe was that was a usable mini laptop. It wasn’t. It was an underpowered, stripped of functions, browsing toy, without the cloud to fall back on. People with IT knowledge knew that. Marketing failed us. It was the first time I felt betrayed by Microsoft. We had successfully used XP and Windows 7. Windows 7 starter was a no-starter. My grandchildren will experiment with operating systems on Rasperry pi. They will know what different components add, and how to link them together. They are learning to code. Their grandfather is a ham, and doesn’t have to think about how to transmit morse code… he thinks in it. I want my grandchildren to be able to think in code… and not lose their humanity. Unfortunately Microsoft hasn’t lost its humanity… it is greedy and self-serving, like some spoiled child without parents to discipline it. I want an operating system that will allow me to do the things I want to do. I do not want any of my information or data in the cloud. I do not want to pay for services endlessly. Having a ham in the house allowed me to see the joy of communication world wide (especially when there are emergencies and disasters)without having monthly fees, or being corralled into a safe garden. Radios were constantly being fixed, parts replaced, etc… but it was his hobby… not a necessity. The old “glow in the dark” radios still work… decades later. The internet, cell phones, and computers have a potential to free people globally… but I see Microsoft deliberately “dumbing down” their potential, and attempting to corral users into thinking that doing things the way Microsoft wants is good for them. It isn’t. I want my grandchildren to be educated about history, not used as pawns to believe this or that. I want them to know about their bodies, the earth, the sciences… but not to grow up into greedy self-serving, deceptive bullies. There was a time that Windows systems supported all sorts of personal choices. Maybe that was chaotic, and ended up with lots of BSOD, but I learned from crashing my systems… what not to do, and more importantly, how to problem solve, and how to do things better. There is something to be said for specializing… but there is also a certain level of competence needed in the world. Every person, as an individual, has things that they are good at. Ch100, you are exceptional in your knowledge about operating systems. You have little self-awareness that how you keep telling us to be good end users and to stop trying is offensive and counterproductive. I’m inspired by those who are trying this or that… I’m so inspired, that when a screen cracks on an otherwise good laptop, and a friend is going to take it to e-recycling, I volunteer to take it for them… but, I went on-line, learned how to change out the screen on the cheap, and have a chance to experiment with operating systems without worrying about doing something devastating to my main computer. But I don’t mind experimenting. I find it telling that Microsoft isn’t letting their operating systems, that allow the user greater freedom of choice, be bought by simple individuals… freedom has always be dangerous. We all might want to do something else. I turn my back on corporations or government policies that seek to control for their own benefit, rather than for the benefit of their customers. Personally, I’m looking for an operating system that lets me use the programs I want, when I want, with complete privacy. That means I share what I want, when I want, and only when I want. Right now, I have Windows 7, and I’m happy with it. It does what I want. I use it daily. I stay away from Google and social media. I want it to continue to work… and I don’t want telemetry foisted on it… that’s all… Microsoft knows how to provide it, but they aren’t interested. Someone, somewhere else (maybe one of my grandchildren) is working on something that is non-proprietary, that will be easily accessed, and will do what I, and millions of other users want that same freedom. I don’t mind supporting developers, but people on food stamps shouldn’t be supporting the multi-million dollar salaries of Microsoft or other digital corporations, to their personal detriment. My grandchildren have to have computer access for elementary school on. I’m doing my best to learn what I can, so they can learn what they can… What I find here at AskWoody is hope… hope that I can recover if I make a mistake, and hope that my grandchildren will be able to continue to learn and be at personal choice, rather than herded and harvested. Peace on Earth… to each and every one of you…

              • AJ North says:

                Hello Elly,

                Your grandchildren seem fortunate indeed; pity that there are not more adults such as your husband and you providing wise (and wholesome) guidance on technology to America’s young people… .

                Have you had a chance to investigate any of the Linux distributions (“distros”) yet?

                Best wishes to you and your for the holidays and coming year (especially peace)!

                • Elly says:

                  Initially Linux Mint Cinnamon looked the most immediately appealing. I’ve just been reading through information, even though distros are seemingly easy to take for test runs. Tails and Qubes seem to each take a different security approach, and security is important to me. My favorite use of my computer is photo editing and doing computer scrapbooking and journalling, and enjoy putting together small stories with pictures and music, so Ubuntu Studio is very appealing. I tend to do a lot of research rather than jumping in impulsively, and instead of being discouraged, I have found the choices opening up. I think I am seeing operating systems and a computer very differently than I did even a year ago. Also, I have hopes that someone will post in the new Lounge how to 1) test drive an operating system (setting up a virtual machine or running it from a USB, 2) what to look for when testing it, and 3) how to keep Windows 7 off-line while using Linux on-line, so I can continue using the programs I am familiar and happy with. I would really prefer being walked through it step by step, although I might end up just jumping in. Meantime, I am reading various support forums, to see what problems and solutions there may be ahead, as well. That helps me find out what the heck they are talking about, and sort out what meets my needs. I am Microsoft phobic now… and trying to research where they might have their fingers into open source, so I can avoid them. Then I get distracted by finding some tool or bit of knowledge that lets me know more about my current operating system, learning about it, trying this or that. I’m grateful to Microsoft… I’m much more computer literate than I had ever thought to be, because of their evil tactics. I’m even more grateful to Woody and the other contributors here. I have a healthy and stable OS because of them…

                  • ch100 says:

                    @Elly

                    Forget about Debian/Ubuntu/Mint and go for the safe long term professionals choice which is Red Hat/CentOS/Fedora.
                    Just a personal opinion, as Debian/Ubuntu is a fully legitimate option and if you choose to go that way, it is perfectly fine. 🙂
                    I think for your particular situation CentOS is the way to go, a RedHat free clone which some perfectionist people believe it is immoral because it leeches on RedHat development, but CentOS is all the way within legal requirements for Linux licensing. And there is no doubt it is suitable for home users, even if it may raise moral (not legal) issues for profitable businesses.
                    Fedora is even better, but it is not for those who question Windows 10 experimentation. Fedora is lots worse.
                    Sorry if I confused you a lot more than it was necessary.
                    In essence, my recommendation is to try to use CentOS for your particular purpose.

                    • Elly says:

                      Thank you @ch100 for your response. CentOS does sound like what I would be looking for, in terms of stability. I’m not sure what the moral issue might be? I’m a home user leading the way for other home users in my family. I really try to support projects or sites that are behaving morally, so maybe you could clarify. Initially my objection to Windows 10 was auto-updating, but as far as I’m concerned Microsoft is acting in an immoral way, and thus not going to be in my future. So a moral issue might make it a no-go…

                      Not trying to muddy the issue of what I need, but I am trying to increase my skills in supporting my grandchildren. The supported operating system for Raspberry Pi (Raspbian) is Debian based. Would I be confusing myself terribly if I am learning two different systems? Are they very different, or would gaining skill in using one help me in the other?

                      I’m determined, but probably going to move very slowly from other people’s point of view.

              • messager7777777 says:

                @ Elly …….
                .
                A+

              • ch100 says:

                @Elly
                Thank you for your post. We have a different perspective and while I understand your point of view, I tend to believe in the philosophy that is taught on board of airplanes, that one has to save themselves first by putting the oxygen mask on, before being able to help others. I am very tempted to get into politics, but I will stop here as Woody would not tolerate it and for good reason, because it would open a can of worms, or Pandora’s box in other words.

            • messager7777777 says:

              @ ch100 & AlexE ……. ch100 said, … ” I don’t like Firefox updating automatically, as this behaviour was creating major problems few years ago.” &
              AlexE said, … ” I used Firefox on all of them since the very early versions. For me, there was never any big issue, even after they started going on a forced updates model.”
              .
              Fyi, on my Windows machine at home, I hv Firefox 50 Update set to “Check for updates, but let me choose whether to install them”, n not to “Automatically install updates”.
              ……. IOW, Firefox does not hv the forced updates model like Win 10.

              • messager7777777 says:

                @ ch100 & AlexE ……. Correction… Maybe I hv those Firefox Update settings bc I hv the Classic Theme Restorer addon installed.
                ……. Anyway, if I remember correctly, without this addon installed, Firefox will only be updated when the user click “Help”, “About Firefox” n “Update …”, ie there is no forced auto-update in Firefox.

              • AlexEiffel says:

                Thanks messager. Interesting info.

                My point to ch100 was that I don’t have a problem with Firefox auto-updating because I am not scared of it. I think they do it in an acceptable manner because:

                1) Firefox usually don’t do stupid things for the wrong reasons or things that will threaten my security, privacy or significantly annoy me.

                2) I don’t want to manage Firefox updates on my user’s desktops. I want it to be always up to date to reduce my attack surface, unless there is a very good reason not to do so. I find it less time demanding overall that if a bad update of Firefox causes problems, to have to fix it then if it ever happens than always managing the update process that usually is transparent and fine. ch100 has a perfectly good way to do things, we just have a different philosophy and/or a different context. I use no central management tools at all and try to rely on autonomous well locked-up configured devices that I try to set and forget. In that respect, Windows 10 makes my life a lot harder. I spoke to some people during Christmas. They have about 35 users and they also use no domain. They all switched to Macs a few years ago and never looked back. They run a few Windows things in VMs and that’s it. Some of them uses Linux. It is pretty telling. But not every company can do that.

                3) On my desktop, it is even more easy. If I get an update I ever have a problem with, I will do something about it, but fortunately, even though I had to maybe once or twice temporarily tolerate some quirks until the next update, I never really had to go to a previous version.

                • ch100 says:

                  @AlexEiffel
                  I think the differences between us in managing medium sized environments have more to do with context than philosophy.
                  You don’t use an Active Directory Domain for good reasons and you understand the reasons behind your decision and this is all that matters. You manage Unix servers, while I only marginally have anything to do with Linux and this is via Citrix XenServer which has CentOS as Control Domain, but is managed using specific tools and rarely using Linux specific commands. Even then, I feel more comfortable using WinSCP than using native shell commands.

    18. Rawr says:

      Great article but I have to ask, does it have to take up more than half of the front page? First time I’ve seen such a lengthy article overcome the topics shown on main page. Should maybe shorten the lengthy ones but still keep some preview of it so people will still click on it to see the whole article. Just a mere suggestion.

      • woody says:

        Yep. There will be a solution with the Lounge – I’ll post articles like this as AKB articles and link to them from the main page.

        I did a lousy job of formatting the graphics, too. It’s hard than it looks.

    19. KARL WEBER says:

      I sent this to Woody & he recommended I post it so PKCano can see it. I hope it doesn’t garner numerous guffaws since I may e out of my league here.

      “12/22/16

      Hello Woody,

      RE: 12/19/16 article on killing Cortana.

      I can’t rename the Microsoft.Windows.Cortana_cw5n1h2txyewy.”
      folder because I get an error telling me the folder or a file is in use. Don’t even get a chance to reboot. I get the same error when trying to move or delete that folder. Any ideas w/o monkeying around with the registry as the largest portion of that post delves into.

      Best Regards,

      Karl Weber USN Ret”

      • woody says:

        No guffaws at all. It’s a very valid question, well put.

      • Byron says:

        Karl,
        It’s a bit of a tricky process. When you get the error message, don’t close that messagebox.

        Open Task Manager and find the “Cortana” process.

        Right click it and select “End Task”.

        Quickly go back to the error message and click “Try Again” or “Retry” (Sorry, I can’t remember which it is.)

        You have to do this quickly or Cortana will restart itself. If you get the error message again, you weren’t fast enough. Keep trying until you don’t get the error message.

      • ch100 says:

        @Karl Weber
        In essence, stop breaking your system. What you are trying to do, will break Windows and you will have to reinstall Windows 10.
        PKCano is only testing for research purpose, not recommending anyone to use the system with Cortana folder renamed.

      • PKCano says:

        I think I mentioned in the article:
        “You have to stop the Cortana process in the Task Manager, b/c it’s using the folder.

        You have to be FAST FAST b/c the process restarts quickly.”

        You have to have Task Manager and Explorer open side by side and be REALLY REALLY REALLY FAST.

        I did it, but it’s not easy.

    Leave a Reply