Sep 8, 2016

How to Customize Cortana Settings on Windows 10


Are you just getting started with Cortana or you want to configure the feature properly? Here is how you can customize the digital assistant settings on Windows 10. Cortana is not a traditional "search" feature embedded in Windows 10. Microsoft designed it to be your true personal digital assistant and help you get things done, similar to Apple's Siri, but Cortana aims to be something better.




It's an easy-to-use and understand feature; just turn it on and you're good to go. Microsoft has many settings pre-configured in Cortana, but these defaults may not suit everyone. There are some even really good features, such as "Hey Cortana" and Cortana above the Lock screen that must be manually enabled due to privacy restrictions.

Here we'll explain and walk you through the steps to access and configure Cortana on your PC and Mobile devices to get the most out of the digital assistant.

 

Cortana Settings on Windows 10

Microsoft has designed Cortana's Settings to be consistent across devices, which means that configuring the assistant on your desktop PC is the same experience as configuring it on your laptop, tablet, Xbox, and phone running the latest version of Windows 10.

However, depending on the device you're using, Cortana may be limited on what it can do. This means that the settings available will slightly vary between Windows 10 and Windows 10 Mobile. And on other platforms, such as on Android and iPhone, the features available are very limited due to restrictions in these platforms.

 

How to access Cortana settings on Windows 10

Whether you're using a PC or Mobile device, you can access Cortana's Settings in the same way:
  1. Open Cortana.
  2. Click the menu button. It's a set of three of horizontal lines in the top left corner.
  3. Click the Settings (gear) button at the bottom of the list.

 

How to configure Cortana settings on Windows 10

On both PC and Mobile, you can configure various aspects of Cortana from different places, but most of the options you will find them in the Settings page inside the app. Microsoft is constantly improving and tweaking Cortana, so your available options may vary depending on which version of Windows 10 you are running.

The Settings page on Cortana is simple. There are no sections, just one giant list with all the available options. Some options have a toggle switch that you can quickly turn on or off, while others require you to jump to a different page within the Settings, and yet other options can be accessed via links into the Windows 10 Settings app or Bing settings.

 

Change what Cortana knows about me in the cloud

At the very top of the Settings page, you'll find the Change what Cortana knows about me in the cloud link. This option will open your "Personal Information" page, which let you delete everything Cortana knows about you.

This section provides valuable information that helps you to understand how Cortana collects and uses the data that learns about you, and how it'll impact your experience if you decide to delete it.

If you want to erase the information stored in the cloud that Cortana knows about you, do the following:
  1. Open Cortana.
  2. Click the menu button. It's a set of three of horizontal lines in the top left corner.
  3. Click the Settings (gear) button at the bottom of the list.
  4. Click the Change what Cortana knows about me in the cloud link
  5. Scroll down the page, and click the Clear button.

 

How to enable microphone access

If Cortana is having trouble trying to hear you or you're just setting up the assistant for the first time on your PC, under the Microphone option do the following:
  1. Open Cortana.
  2. Click the menu button. It's a set of three of horizontal lines in the top left corner.
  3. Click the Settings (gear) button at the bottom of the list.
  4. Click the Get started link to open the Speech wizard.
  5. Click the Set up the mic option.
  6. Click Next.
  7. Follow the on-screen instructions to set up your microphone.

 

How to enable Hey Cortana

You can use Cortana with the keyboard and mouse or touch using the search box in the taskbar, but you can also use the assistant hands-free with voice commands.
To enable "Hey Cortana" do the following:
  1. Open Cortana.
  2. Click the menu button. It's a set of three of horizontal lines in the top left corner.
  3. Click the Settings (gear) button at the bottom of the list.
  4. Turn on the Hey Cortana toggle switch.
Once you enabled the feature, two additional options will be available to you:
  • Respond when anyone says "Hey Cortana"
  • Try to respond only to me
If you only want to enable Hey Cortana to answer to anyone, make sure the first option Respond when anyone says "Hey Cortana" is selected.

If you want Cortana to answer to your voice commands only, then select the second option: Try to respond only to me. However, you won't be able to choose this option until you go through the training to help the assistant to recognize how you say "Hey Cortana."

To train Cortana to recognize your voice do the following:
  1. Click the Learn how to I say "Hey Cortana" link.
  2. Click the Start button.
  3. Follow Cortana's instructions to complete the training.
Keep in mind that this feature can impact your battery life on your mobile device, which is one of the reasons it comes disabled by default.

On the PC version of Windows 10, you also get an extra option to keep Cortana always listening for your voice commands. You do this by making sure to enable the Keep my device from sleeping when it's plugged in so I can always say "Hey Cortana" option.

 

How to enable Hey Cortana on the lock screen

Starting with version 1607, you can now use Cortana above the Lock screen. You can simply say "Hey Cortana" when your computer is locked and ask about the weather, play music, create reminders and more without needing to unlock your device.

Cortana above the Lock screen should be enabled by default, but if it's not, you can disable the feature with these steps:
  1. Open Cortana.
  2. Click the menu button. It's a set of three of horizontal lines in the top left corner.
  3. Click the Settings (gear) button at the bottom of the list.
  4. Turn on the Lock screen toggle switch.

It's important to note that Cortana's functionality above the Lock screen is limited by default to protect your privacy. If you want the assistant to access more information while your computer is locked, then check the "Let Cortana access my calendar, email, messages, and Power BI data when my device is locked." option.

Keep in mind that you will still need to sign in to do some more advanced tasks using Cortana.

You can also open Cortana on the Lock screen using touch or mouse, but you need to click the Lock screen settings link in the Lock screen option. This link will open the Settings app in the Lock screen settings page, where you need to turn on the Get fun facts, tips, and more from Windows and Cortana on your lock screen option.



For some reason, Microsoft only lets you use this feature when you choose Picture or Slideshow as your background.

 

How to enable Cortana Tidbits in the taskbar

Tidbits are pieces of information, such as notifications, greetings, and thoughts, Cortana can sometimes show in the search box in the taskbar.

If you don't like this kind of information appearing in the search box, you can do the following:
  1. Open Cortana.
  2. Click the menu button. It's a set of three of horizontal lines in the top left corner.
  3. Click the Settings (gear) button at the bottom of the list.
  4. Turn off the Taskbar tidbits toggle switch.

 

How to send notifications between devices with Cortana

Send notifications between devices is a new feature included with the Anniversary Update that let you sync phone notifications to your PC. This means that as long you're signed in with your Microsoft account between devices, Cortana can let you know when the battery is low on your phone, you missed a call or text, and other app notifications.

To enable or disable notifications do the following:
  1. Open Cortana.
  2. Click the menu button. It's a set of three of horizontal lines in the top left corner.
  3. Click the Settings (gear) button at the bottom of the list.
  4. Turn on or off the Send notifications between devices toggle switch.
This feature comes enabled by default, but you can always control or disable synced notifications between your Windows 10 phone and PC using this guide.

On Windows 10 Mobile, you'll also find an additional option to Read incoming text messages aloud.



Options available are:
  • Off
  • Always On
  • Bluetooth and wired headsets
  • Bluetooth only (default)
  • Wired headset only

 

How to set your Cortana language

Cortana language is an option that let you specify your specific region language. For example, if your device primary language is English (United States), but you're from Canada, you can tell Cortana to use English (Canada) to better understand you.

Usually, most users won't need to change this option, but you can change these settings by doing the following:
  1. Open Cortana.
  2. Click the menu button. It's a set of three of horizontal lines in the top left corner.
  3. Click the Settings (gear) button at the bottom of the list.
  4. Under Cortana language, click the drop-down menu to change the language.

 

How to stop Cortana from tracking your recently used apps, web use

History view is a simple feature that allows the assistant to show you the history of your apps, settings, the web, and search in Cortana home.

This option comes enabled by default, but you can turn it off:
  1. Open Cortana.
  2. Click the menu button. It's a set of three of horizontal lines in the top left corner.
  3. Click the Settings (gear) button at the bottom of the list.
  4. Turn off the History view switch toggle.

 

How to stop Cortana from using your device history in search results

My device history is an option that allows Cortana to collect search information using apps, settings, history from all your devices connected with the same Microsoft account to improve your search results on your devices.

This option comes enabled by default, but you can turn it off:
  1. Open Cortana.
  2. Click the menu button. It's a set of three of horizontal lines in the top left corner.
  3. Click the Settings (gear) button at the bottom of the list.
  4. Turn off the My device history switch toggle.
Also, you can delete the device history by clicking the Clear my device history button.

 

How to stop Cortana from sharing your search history between devices

My search history is an option that lets Cortana use your search history across devices to improve search results.

This option comes enabled by default, but you can turn it off:
  1. Open Cortana.
  2. Click the menu button. It's a set of three of horizontal lines in the top left corner.
  3. Click the Settings (gear) button at the bottom of the list.
  4. Turn off the My search history switch toggle.
Under My search history, you also get three additional links
  • Search history settings: See and delete search history from your Microsoft account.
  • Bing SafeSearch settings: Choose how much Bing filters search results on using Bing. (On Windows 10 Mobile, you can choose your SafeSearch option within the Settings page.)
  • Other privacy settings: Opens the Settings app on the Privacy settings page to manage your privacy settings.

 

Additional Cortana settings

While it would be more organized to have every setting for a particular feature located in one place, Cortana relies on other features to make it all work that causes some settings to be scattered around.
Here are some additional Cortana settings you can configure on Windows 10.

 

How to change how Cortana is displayed in the taskbar

You can always open Cortana by clicking the search box next to Start button. However, if you want to optimize the space in the taskbar on your PC, or you simply don't want the search box to be visible, you have some options available through the taskbar settings.
  1. Right-click the taskbar to open the context menu.
  2. Select Cortana.
  3. Choose one of the three options:
    • Hidden: Removes Cortana from the taskbar, but you can always open the Start menu and start typing to bring up the assistant.
    • Show icon only: Removes the search box, but you'll still have access to the Cortana button.
    • Show search box: Default option that places the search box in the taskbar for quick access to Cortana.

 

How to improve Cortana voice recognition

Cortana's default voice recognition settings may suit most people, but if the language configured on your PC or phone isn't your native language, Cortana may find it difficult to understand what you're saying when you use voice commands.

To improve voice recognition using Cortana you can do the following:
  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click Time & language.
  3. Click Speech.
  4. Check the Recognize non-native accents for this language option.
Once you completed the steps mentioned above Cortana will be able to understand more accurately when using voice commands. This option is available on Windows 10 as well as on Windows 10 Mobile.

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