Newsletter Archives

  • Viva Microsoft!

    One day in what seems the distant past, Microsoft Cortana starting sending me email messages. I didn’t ask for them; they just started showing up. For the most part, I found them useless. I think there were some “mental health” messages. My wife thinks I’m crazy; I don’t need some server in Redmond telling me that.

    One day in what I’m sure is the recent past, the new Microsoft Viva took over that responsibility. This time, however, the focus appears to be on actionable items. Cortana/Viva is watching me, picking out what it thinks are to do items, and reminding me about them. I’ve been a happy camper for years because while it was apparent that Google was reading my Gmail, Microsoft wasn’t. Now it clearly is.

    But, okay, reminders. I handle a lot of email in my editorial duties; some assistance might be helpful. So, I’ve been experimenting.

    Microsoft Viva Broken

    More often than not, clicking one of the action buttons in the email results in the teeny, tiny error message shown at the top.

    Can’t Microsoft code any longer?

  • Cortana officially gets thrown under the bus

    An amazing Friday blog post from Cortana corporate VP Andrew Shuman:

    Today, Microsoft is announcing an updated Cortana experience in Windows 10 that will deliver more help from your assistant in Microsoft 365. This next step in Cortana’s evolution will bring enhanced, seamless personal productivity assistance as a free update to the latest version of Windows 10 coming this spring…

    We’re excited about how these updates to Cortana will help you stay on top of things, save time and do your best work. As we continue to innovate on Cortana in Microsoft 365, we plan to share further improvements in the coming months.

    Tero Alhonen had an accurate synopsis on Twitter:

    We’re excited about these updates to Cortana:
    * consumer skills including music, connected home and third-party skills will no longer be available
    * ending support for Cortana in older versions of Windows
    * turning off the Cortana services in the Microsoft Launcher on Android

    and we plan to share further improvements in the coming months.

    He then turned to the demise of certain MCSE certifications, posted yesterday by Alex Payne, the GM of Global Technical Learning at MS….

    We’re also excited to share that there will not be Windows Server 2019 and SQL Server 2019 certifications and basically everything that has anything to do with on-prem will be wiped out

    (That’s Tero’s take, but it’s a fair representation of what’s happening.)

  • Cortana’s footprint is shrinking

    I think there may be two people reading this who will actually care, but Microsoft is pulling Cortana from Android and iOS, as Lawrence Abrams describes on Bleepingcomputer.

    I think MS hasn’t gone far enough. Mehedi Hassan, over at, got it right:

    UPDATE: Günter Born has the original article. Not clear if the US will be among the countries that lose Cortana on iOS and Android.

  • Where we stand with the Cortana/Search redlining bug

    We’re stuck between a rock and a very hard place.

    On the one hand, if you’re running Win10 1903 — you may have been pushed — you really need to get the first August cumulative update installed to guard against DejaBlue (which hasn’t been exploited yet).

    On the other hand, there are so many bugs in the first August cumulative update (VB/VBA/VBScript, Windows Sandbox, PXE, MIT Kerberos) that you really should get the second August cumulative update.

    On the third hand, if you install the second August cumulative update, your machine may start redlining.

    Tell me again how Win10 1903 is ready for prime time?

    Computerworld Woody on Windows.

  • Microsoft STILL hasn’t acknowledged the bugs in last Friday’s Win10 1903 cumulative update

    Last Friday, Microsoft released KB 4512941, the long-anticipated second August cumulative update for Win10 version 1903.

    Within a few hours, people were complaining on various online forums that installing the update immediately triggered excessive CPU use. I wrote about that on Friday night.

    Since then, explanations and workarounds have appeared all over the place. @EP came up with this list:

    one workaround to the problem posted on Softpedia news:

    Günter Born has had two — not one, but two — explainers with detailed analyses. Ends up that making certain registry changes can get the CPU utilization back to normal.

    Most damning, Mayank Parnmar at Windows Latest reported on Saturday:

    It’s important to note that Microsoft actually tested KB4512941 with Windows Insiders in the Release Preview Ring for more than a week before shipping the update to the general public.

    According to some posts on Feedback Hub, reports of high CPU usage were submitted multiple times by testers earlier this week, but the reports appear to have been ignored because they weren’t upvoted enough.

    So now it’s Tuesday, four days after the offal hit the fan… and Microsoft hasn’t said one thing about it.

    Even now, the KB article says:

    Known issues in this update

    Microsoft is not currently aware of any issues with this update.

    And the Release Information Status page says absolutely nothing.

    UPDATE: As I was writing this, MS posted on Twitter (thx, MJF)

  • Cortana isn’t exactly going away, but…

    Good overview of Cortana’s long-anticipated demise by Tom Warren, over at The Verge.

    Microsoft is now refocusing Cortana and stripping back its direct integration in Windows 10 and the Xbox One. Microsoft has a new vision for Cortana, involving conversational interactions for workers who are organizing their days.

    Don’t know about you, but I’m quite happy with the way my working days are organized. Which is to say, hectically.

    I use Alexa and OK Google all the time, and Siri occasionally. I never understood why anyone would want Cortana. Perhaps “she” will find peace in her new home.

  • Gralla: Will Cortana go the way of Windows Phone?

    Signs sure point in that direction.

    [Microsoft has] finally shed the arrogance of believing it can win every fight by spending billions of dollars and using Windows as a battering ram.

    I, for one, won’t miss her.

    Great article by Preston Gralla.

  • Say what? Microsoft moves the Cortana org to sit under Office?

    Wow. How the mighty have fallen.

    Cortana under Office changes all sorts of things.

    Brad Sams on Petri.

  • Alexa and Cortana talking to each other….

    … and why I don’t care.

    Here’s an overview from Paul Thurrott, if you’re interested.

    Microsoft’s sales pitch:

    Cortana users will be able to have Alexa shop on and manage their Amazon orders and access many of Alexa’s third-party skills by asking Cortana to open Alexa, just as Alexa users will have access to Cortana’s world knowledge and helpful productivity features such as calendar management, day at a glance and location-based reminders simply by asking Alexa to open Cortana.

    I can envision some people, in some situations, wanting to use Cortana to get to Alexa. In very rare instances I can see using Alexa to get to Cortana. But for most people most of the time – and certainly for me – it’s a big meh.

    Cortana’s “world knowledge” doesn’t hold a candle to Google’s, as any seven-year-old can attest. As for calendar and location-based anything, Google’s way out ahead on those fronts, too.

    Microsoft’s losing the Augmented Reality wars. They’re losing the voice assistant wars. Personally, I use Alexa for home stuff and Google Assistant for everything else that’s voice-friendly. It works. And I don’t have to wait for 20-minute blackouts while my PC updates itself, or bob and weave through mediocre updates.

    Downright distressing for somebody who’s been with Windows since version 286.

    UPDATE: Great article from John Brandon in Computerworld:

    Cortana and Alexa can talk to each other, but it isn’t really a conversation or integration — simply a way for one bot to open the other. Yawn.

  • Does “killing” Cortana really kill Cortana?

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


    There were many choices in the search box settings menu.



    Cortana was a choice in the taskbar context menu.


    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.


    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.



    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


    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.


    The Cortana option disappears from the taskbar context menu.


    Cortana disappeared from the search box popup menu.

    Search box settings are greatly reduced.


    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.”


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


    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 disappeared from the taskbar context menu.


    Cortana disappeared from the search box popup menu.

    The search box settings are reduced to 2.


    There is Cortana activity in Task Manager.


    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 disappeared from the taskbar context menu.


    Cortana disappears from the search box popup.

    Search box settings are reduced.


    There is STILL activity under Cortana in the Task Manager.



    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.


    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.







  • Dissecting the Cortana numbers

    Brad Sams has a great back-of-the-envelope analysis of Cortana’s penetration, on (premium content). He drew on some obscure references ferreted out by @teroalhonen.

    Microsoft claims 145 million monthly active users. Brad takes the number apart, and shows – quite convincingly – that there’s less here than meets the eye. Just for starters, if you type into the Win10 Search box, bingo, there’s another hit for Cortana.

    Another excellent article from Thurrott Premium.

  • The hunt for Cortana

    jabberwockI’d like your comments, insights and experiences on disabling Cortana.

    As best I can tell, all of Windows Search is run through Cortana (which is, itself, a front end to Bing).

    You can easily take Search off the taskbar (there’s a setting), but that doesn’t disable Cortana – in spite of what many, many people have written. PKCano noted weeks ago that Cortana continues in the Task Manager.

    So… any luck slaying the Jabberwock? What do you know?

    By the way… good background info in Paul Thurrott’s Aug. 31 article Ask Paul: Can I Turn Off Cortana in Windows 10 Version 1607?