Woody Leonhard's no-bull news, tips and help for Windows and Office
Home icon Home icon Home icon Email icon RSS icon
  • Win10 Anniversary Update bug turns into “Turn off Cortana” feature

    Posted on August 17th, 2016 at 10:31 woody 41 comments

    Remember when we were talking a couple of weeks ago about the bug in the Win10 Anniversary Update that kills Cortana?

    Ends up that our idle speculation was correct – the registry setting that triggered the bug does, in fact, disable Cortana.

    NetDef posted the original hack (although he fingered BingSearchEnabled as the key, uh, key).

    Ed Bott just posted the definitive answer on ZDNet. In Win10 Anniversary Update, if you set HKLM\Software\Policies\Microsoft\Windows\Windows Search\AllowCortana to 0, Cortana disappears. Symptoms are the same as the ones I describe in my InfoWorld bug post from two weeks ago.

    If it were anyone but Ed, I’d approach the tip with caution — there are lots of hacks that end up breaking things. But Ed has the eyes and ears of the Dev team behind him. Count on this being a good hack. For now, anyway.

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

    41 Responses to “Win10 Anniversary Update bug turns into “Turn off Cortana” feature”

    1. abbodi86 says:

      This group polcy registry is known since first Windows 10 release in July 2015 🙂

    2. Byron says:

      Great news. I have one question though. Does this setting prevent Cortana from running as a background process? When you “disabled” Cortana pre-Anniversary Update, it still ran as a background process.

      • woody says:

        I believe it does – but if you can try it, I’d love to hear the results!

      • PKCano says:

        I created the key and DWORD, set to 0.
        Cortana and Cortana Background Task Host still appear in TaskManager.

        • woody says:

          Not good. What about the other outward appearances – the ones you posted about earlier?

          • PKCano says:

            No Cortana in taskbar context menu
            Search ocon is mag glass
            Search box says “Search Windows.
            Search bos settings still has Cortana language selection. History view, clear history, search online still options.
            No Cortana “O” in search box popup menu.
            When I type in the search bok I see activity in Cortana in Task Manager.

      • Byron says:

        I haven’t got the AU so I can’t test just yet but I’ll take PKCano’s word for it. The trick I’ve been using this whole time is to remove execute privileges from searchui.exe and that seems to kill it completely, at least it does on 1511.

    3. superuser says:

      Hello woody,it seems that intel has fixed bluetooth problems with the famous patch:


      You can post it if you like in infoworld or here.


    4. PKCano says:

      I do not have the Registry key you suggest. Maybe you have to create it?

      But when Build 14393.10 made Cortana disappear on my TP, I sent you some screen shots. Here’s what I found:

      BingSearchEnabled had been set to 0. Setting it to 1 made Cortana return. Either way, the search box in the taskbar worked, even there was no Cortana “O”.

      However, CanCortanaBeEnabled was set to 1. If it was instead set to 0, the search box appeared in the taskber but clicking it did NOTHING.

      • woody says:

        Yes, you do need to create it.

        Wonder what the difference is between CanCortanaBeEnabled, vs BingSearchEnabled vs AllowCortana…

        • NetDef says:

          (Blush) . . . I really can’t take original credit for what should be considered a bug. Pretty sure there were others that found it an hour or so earlier than I did when I did a WinDif on registry hive dumps between a working profile and a non-working profile re: Cortana.

          Anyway, here is what I “think” the differences are for the aforementioned registry key values.

          At the profile hive level: (HKCU)

          CanCortanaBeEnabled appears to be a hacky method (by MS) to store an internal check setting that controls whether the user can enable/activate Cortana. (This is part speculation . . .) I think it’s set to ‘1’ when a Local Only user links to a MS Account in account settings – or when a new profile is created directly with a MS Account. On a new profile that meets the requirements of using an online MS Account this setting appears to trigger the Cortana Setup dialog/wizard when the search bar is clicked.

          AllowCortana is the correct key to enable/disable Cortana for that profile – which only works on enable if certain other requirements are met — such as the user is logged on with a linked or direct MS account and whether Bing Search is enabled.

          BingSearchEnable is the key that was discovered to be set to the incorrect value during the upgrade from 1511 to 1607 on some profiles (no idea why yet) that “broke” Cortana. As far as I can tell, this is a BUG, and is not the “official” supported method to turn Cortana off/on. But it’s tied into the fact that Microsoft disabled the ability for Cortana to use any alternate search engine other than Bing. (I smell an EU antitrust suit in the making here.)

          As always I highly recommend the use of local machine or domain group policy to make any of these changes, which I know leaves Home editions in the dark. Hack the registry at your own risk folks. Leaving the umbrella of officially supported methods can lead to future unexpected (and very difficult to diagnose) problems on patch days.

          Off topic, but because I am still peeved about something:

          What can we do to pressure MS to restore the ability to turn off Consumer Experiences (aka pushing unwanted random crap-ware tiles onto a users start menu) in Windows 10 Pro by Group Policy?

        • PKCano says:

          See my earlier emails when 14393.10 came out plus postings today

        • PKCano says:

          Above should be HKCU not LU

    5. axkramer says:

      Yesterday I was blessed (sic) with Windows AU on my desktop. So far I have encountered no major problems. I had MS Cortana turned off before and she stayed turned off. All of my other “turn offs” were also left off. The only visible change was the Windows Defender icon which is now a white shield instead of a fortress wall and the start menu shortcut for One Drive no longer works. One Drive has disappeared from Windows Explorer, etc., as well. I don’t use it so don’t miss it.

      A check with regedit showed that the HKLM key provided by Ed Bott was already set to “0”.

      • ax kramer says:

        correction: I was referring to file explorer, not Windows explorer still finding no other changes from the original Win 10 installation

    6. ch100 says:

      I had Windows 10 installed almost since the Insider Program started. I went through all the iterations until November 2015 – release 1511 on my “production” laptop, imagine how much I trust my Windows skills to do such thing without backups. It was all good, but too much trouble with the betas, so after the 1511 release, I stopped the Insider program on that machine and stayed with the system with the regular updates until not long ago when I had enough and rolled back to Windows 7. Now you guys drag me back into Windows 10. What should I do now that Windows 7 is fully sorted for me (with your help for the last few months) and not challenging any more?

    7. ch100 says:

      Which version?!

      • rc primak says:

        If you’re asking about Linux, I believe Linux Mint is on Version 18, and I know Ubuntu Linux is on Version 16.04 LTS. Depending on your hardware resources, either of these Linux versions will keep you busy for a long spell.

        • ch100 says:

          No, I am asking about Windows or other commercial product. Linux is good and solid for professional implementations like servers and virtualisation platforms where ease of use is not the main reason to be implemented. I made up my mind about Linux and if I have to use one distribution, that one would be based on Red Hat/CentOS and not what is popular today and may not be around tomorrow.
          Windows 10 has its own version of Linux based on Debian I believe right now 🙂

          • Steven says:

            Windows Subsystem for Linux in the AU is an Ubuntu 14.04 command line environment, not Debian.

            My daily driver runs Linux Mint 18 Cinnamon. After nearly 40 years of computing, 30 of them using every *nix system imaginable, I appreciate that LM just works, no fiddling. It’s certainly what I would recommend to any newbie or win10 refugee. I can count the number of problems I’ve had with LM 18 on no hands 🙂 Windows? Not so much, that’s how I ended up here.

            LM and Ubuntu have both been around for more than a decade and neither is in any danger of disappearing any time soon. You wouldn’t think that MS would be working with Canonical if they thought Ubuntu had an uncertain future.

            • ch100 says:

              Microsoft has their own Unix version called Posix which was very much discontinued. Recently Microsoft wrote off Nokia assets in value of 7.2 billion USD. Was there any guarantee that when Microsoft bought Nokia, Windows Phone would be a success? Like any company which works with innovation, there are failed steps in the process.

    8. ch100 says:

      Ubuntu is built on Debian like Fedora is built on Red Hat.

    9. Steven says:

      @ch100, I give up. Best regards.

    Leave a Reply