How to Turn “Hey Cortana” On or Off on Windows 10


Cortana is the digital assistant for Windows Phone and now in Windows 10 and when “Hey Cortana” is on, it’s always listening which can make it come on unintentionally.

Microsoft’s digital assistant, Cortana, first appeared on Windows Phone 8.1 and has migrated to Windows 10. The “Hey Cortana” feature allows you to activate the digital assistant by voice and use it. Here’s how to enable this feature or turn it off if you when don’t need it.

I like to use the “Hey Cortana” feature because it’s always listening and makes it easy to launch programs, settings, create appointments and reminders…etc. However, if I’m using my laptop while listening to a podcast, listening to music, or watching Netflix, sometimes Cortana can turn on and start launching things – which can be annoying.

Update: Microsoft has decoupled Cortana from Windows Search, and a lot of its settings have changed over time. This article has been updated to reflect those changes.

Turn Windows 10 “Hey Cortana” On or Off

Since the updates, you can get Cortana to respond by saying either: “Hey, Cortana,” or simply just “Cortana.” To get started, make sure you’re signed into the Cortana app.

To turn it on, launch the Cortana app from your taskbar. Then click the menu button (three dots) on the left-hand side and click Settings.

Next, click on Voice Activation from the menu.

Voice Activation

Now click on the Voice Activation Permissions link.

voice activation permissions

If this is the first time using Cortana to open Settings, you will need to click Yes to verify.

Now in Voice Activation Settings, you want to make sure that the “Allow apps to use voice activation” switch is enabled.

voice activation

Then scroll down to the “Choose which apps can use voice activation” section and turn on the switch to let Cortana respond to the keyword. Here, you can also flip the switch for Cortana to respond when your PC is locked. But that’s optional.

To turn Cortana’s responding to the keyword off, just go back into Settings and flip off the switches you enabled. And that’s it.



  1. John

    August 12, 2015 at 6:26 am

    I also noticed that when active moving my pointer via the touch pad on my Lenovo T500 across certain open menus or on a web page will “awaken” Cortana. Interestingly when using a USB trackball doesn’t. Prompting me to think DRIVER.

  2. Burt Heacock

    August 12, 2015 at 7:17 am

    Cortana seems to really work well. Strangely, it can’t seem to hear me when I try to train it to my voice. However, is seems to hear me just fine when I actually use it. I’ve used Siri on my iPhone since it became available and Cortana’s voice recognition seems much better. So far, it hardly every makes a mistake.

  3. John

    August 12, 2015 at 7:44 am

    I might also add to my above post, that turning the “Hey Cortana” option on, on the desktop seems to have no effect. I still have to click the mic button to get her attention.

  4. Paula

    August 12, 2015 at 4:24 pm

    I keep trying to turn Cortana on to try it out, but must not be available thru the Windows 10 upgrade that I received from Microsoft. I do not have the “Notebook” icon available, nor the microphone available on lower left “Search” bar….. nor can I turn on the top item under Cortana’s settings which asks about Cortana giving suggestions, ideas, etc. Just a little frustrated….

    • Kate Eldridge

      November 15, 2021 at 3:14 pm

      I made the mistake one time of telling Cortana to “turn off Cortana.” Then couldn’t figure out why it would not respond to me anymore. Finally figured it out; I also might have removed it from the startup programs one day when I was updating. HTH

  5. Pete

    August 14, 2015 at 6:47 am

    How do I stop Cortana from popping up all the time? I still want her in the task bar in case I want to use her, but her constant popping up while I’m doing other things is annoying

    • Anthony Spinelli

      November 1, 2016 at 4:24 am

      How do I turn Cortana off. She comes up at the most inopportune time and I’ve had HP techs trying to remove her from my PC but it never worked. She still pops up although I really want her off my PC

  6. Bob Slipper

    August 26, 2015 at 6:49 am

    I have same problem as John on 12th August. Even though I have “Hey, Cortana” turned on I still have to click the mike to get her to respond – makes no difference whether I use the magic greeting or not. Rather defeats the object in my view!

  7. Kevin

    October 16, 2015 at 2:53 pm

    I had to turn off the Hey Cortana feature because when I watch streamed TV, Cortana picks up words and searches the internet bringing up a browser. It also happens in games while I use Ventrilo which can be very annoying while playing a game.

  8. Anthony Spinelli

    November 1, 2016 at 4:29 am

    I’d like to have Cortana off of m system. She pops up at the most inopportune time and although I’ve had HP techs trying to remove her, she still appears unwanted. Please send specific examples on “How to remove Cortana” once and for all. Thanks… Anthony S

  9. Esther

    October 31, 2021 at 9:29 am

    Constant popping up when unwanted is annoying. I really want her off my Notebook NOW!

  10. Kai Carver

    December 28, 2021 at 10:28 am

    Thanks, this was helpful. I turned off “Let Cortana respond to ‘Cortana’ keyword”. I’m hoping this will stop Cortana from popping up in extremely annoying ways which I’m relieved to know others are annoyed by.

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