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  • Dissecting the Cortana numbers

    Posted on December 14th, 2016 at 12:16 woody Comment on the AskWoody Lounge

    Brad Sams has a great back-of-the-envelope analysis of Cortana’s penetration, on Thurrott.com (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.

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

    Home Forums Dissecting the Cortana numbers


    This topic contains 39 replies, has 3 voices, and was last updated by  Noel Carboni 8 months, 3 weeks ago.

    • Author
    • #18705 Reply

      Da Boss

      Brad Sams has a great back-of-the-envelope analysis of Cortana’s penetration, on Thurrott.com (premium content). He drew on some obscure references fe
      [See the full post at: Dissecting the Cortana numbers]

    • #18706 Reply

      Noel Carboni

      How are statistics about Cortana use meaningful in an environment where it’s essentially impossible for all but a tech guru to turn it off?

      In any case, there will not be any “hits” from Cortana from any of *MY* Win 10 systems.

      If they ever make an AI that’s useful and works LOCALLY for me, I may change my stance.


    • #18707 Reply

      Noel Carboni

      Does image embedding work here, or just in the preview of the forums?


    • #18708 Reply

      Da Boss

      I think it only works in the Lounge beta. Although I do have an “Img” button on my editing pane.

    • #18709 Reply

      Da Boss

      Yep. That’s the subtext to what Brad’s saying.

    • #18710 Reply


      Cortana has been killed from my system. I don’t even have the Cortana search box next to the Windows or Task View icons any more.

      The instructions for disabling it are here:


      Now, any search I do will be exclusively offline (i.e. my computer).

      I also recommend people use only a local account instead of a Microsoft account to limit the information they have about you.

      A great, free tool which requires no installation is O&O ShutUp10 which offers a tick-box privacy solution for Windows 10:


    • #18711 Reply


      So many users expending so much energy trying to make Windows 10, secure, private and stable… The answer is obvious, but for the few that logic has eluded let me spell it out for you…

      W.I.N.D.O.W.S. S.E.V.E.N.

    • #18712 Reply

      AskWoody MVP

      It is meaningful because those people who use Cortana use Windows 10. This is expected from most users of Windows 10, except for those who you call “tech gurus” or those managed by them.

    • #18713 Reply

      AskWoody MVP

      I think O&O ShutUp is not a bad tool, but like AntiBeacon, provides solutions to some issues which are problems only in the software authors opinion. I appreciate that O&O makes distinction between different classes of issues though and provides guidance in that sense.

    • #18714 Reply

      Da Boss


    • #18715 Reply


      “Just for starters, if you type into the Win10 Search box, bingo, there’s another hit for Cortana.”

      Do you mean if Cortana is disabled? (Surely MS telemetry is more intelligent than that?)

      If not, then it is another hit for Cortana.

    • #18716 Reply

      Da Boss

      Define “disabled.”

      Disabling Cortana in 1607 is a royal pain.


      If you type in the Cortana-deprived “Search Windows” box, I have no idea if that’s picked up as a Cortana active use. Wouldn’t surprise me, though, because if the Cortana search box is disabled, Cortana (or at least a service called Cortana) continues to run in the background.

    • #18717 Reply


      If you have no idea, why assume “bingo”?

      One-Click (10 really) at your link doesn’t sound like much of a royal pain.

    • #18718 Reply

      Da Boss

      OK. So what percentage of the people you know have manually disabled Cortana?

    • #18719 Reply


      well not for that average users but heres that Edu. Ent. setting again “the plot thickens” wonder what they are experimenting with? but as usual M$ probably wont say.


      as for the O&O tool might be worth a look again i had it on here a while back, cant think why i didnt keep it. Might be worth a play in a VHD not my “real” Win10 although hard to quantify the results due to the intangible nature of the settings it modifies.

    • #18720 Reply


      Define “manually”.

      Many thousands had Cortana disabled by policy in the large corporation where I worked recently.

      And Cortana is disabled in all Education editions.

      But I don’t personally know any home users who have disabled it. So none “manually”?

      Not sure about the relevance of this question to Cortana’s hit rate though.

    • #18721 Reply

      AskWoody MVP

      Those settings done by O&O are not intangible. With a little bit of effort and using Process Monitor, all the settings which are configured can be identified. From this point of view, this tool is a “good”, legitimate one. Where I disagree partially is in some of the recommendations.

    • #18722 Reply


      Actually. there are 2 processes that continue to show activity in Task Manager with Cortana turned off.

    • #18723 Reply

      Da Boss

      What are they? You’re the expert…

    • #18724 Reply


      The two processes are Cortana and Cortana Background Task Host.
      They don’t disappear until you disable the Microsoft.Windows.Cortana_cw5n1h2txyewy folder in C:WindowsSystemApps (at least that was the name when I did the testing back in August).
      After that the Search Box in the Task Bar doesn’t work (AT ALL) and the Microsoft Windows Search Indexer process shows activity when I search using Classic Shell’s search box.

    • #18725 Reply

      Da Boss

      So that raises an interesting (and probably unanswerable) question: If the Cortana search box is not showing, does Cortana still register a “hit” every time the non-Cortana search box is used?

    • #18726 Reply


      The processes don’t show in Task Manager when Classic Shell’s search box is used. And that search box seems to use the Microsoft Windows Search Indexer process. I can’t say anything for other search boxes.

    • #18727 Reply

      Da Boss


    • #18728 Reply


      Cortana Search Box DOES show in the Task Bar, it just doesn’t work AT ALL, it’s dead, you can’t enter anything. It’s just a black space.

    • #18729 Reply


      (If you don’t have it hidden)

    • #18730 Reply


      All my comments imply the Cortana folder is disabled.

    • #18731 Reply

      Da Boss

      Don’t you get the “Search Windows” search bar shown here?


    • #18732 Reply


      I tried turning off Cortana in every way I could find.
      I did not set it up during installation.
      I hid it in the Task Bar.
      In Settings I never clicked “Get to know me”
      I used GP Allow Cortana – no
      HKLM and HKCU Allow Cortana – 0 (and Bing as well)

      No matter what I did, the two processes Cortana and Cortana Background Task Host continued to be present and show activity in Task Manager.

      UNTIL I disabled the Cortana folder under C:WindowsSystemApps. Then the search box in the Task Bar became DEAD, you could not enter anything. The two processes disappeared from Task Manager. And using Classic Shell’s search box, the process that showed activity was Microsoft Windows Search Indexer.

      My conclusion is that you can’t just turn off Cortana. You have to disable it.

    • #18733 Reply


      If you want to keep Windows 7 private, you’ll have to expend a bunch of time and energy following the rules of Group B.

      Having said that, I am in Group B for my two Windows 7 computers, and group A for my Windows 8.1 computer.

    • #18734 Reply


      Here’s what I get when I try to run Cortana on my company laptop:

      “Cortana is disabled by company policy.”
      “Online search is disabled by company policy.”

      I am running Windows 10 Enterprise, version 10.0.10586

    • #18735 Reply

      Da Boss

      Sounds like you have a very knowledgeable admin!

    • #18736 Reply

      AskWoody MVP


    • #18737 Reply

      AskWoody MVP

      Aren’t the Cortana processes which you see in Task Manager in fact Windows Search?
      If I look in the details of Task Manager for the process named Cortana under Processes tab, I see SearchUI.exe (Enteprise version with Cortana disabled in Local Group Policy.

    • #18738 Reply

      AskWoody MVP

      I think what PKCano says is in the context of renaming the folder containing the Cortana as Universal App under SystemApps. In that case, there is no Cortana at all and Cortana Search is also disabled. That’s why there is an inactive area left on the Taskbar, unless removing it.
      With Enterprise version, Cortana can be disabled in Group Policy, but the Search box would still be active.
      As I understand, at least in Pro Edition, Cortana can be disabled in a way similar with the Enterprise Edition, only that registry editor would have to be used instead. Or this was pre 1607?

    • #18739 Reply

      Da Boss

      I think that was pre 1607. PKCano has done some extensive testing and it’ll be interesting to see what she thinks.

    • #18740 Reply

      AskWoody MVP

      I know that the policy area does not work in Pro in 1607, or at least this is what is reported. There may be an equivalent setting outside of the policies area, in the regular registry settings. This can be obtain in many cases by removing Policies from path.
      In this case it would be:
      HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESOFTWAREPoliciesMicrosoftWindowsWindows Search
      changed into
      HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESOFTWAREMicrosoftWindowsWindows Search

      Same value for both AllowCortana REG_DWORD 0

      Worth trying at least.

    • #18741 Reply


      The tests were done with Build 14393.0 on 8/20 on a clean install of Win10 Pro. I believe this is considered AU, maybe pre-release(? was release 14393.10?).

      I have the series of e-mails I sent to Woody with screen shots of the desktop GUI, Task Manager, Group Policy Editor, Registry Editor, and Explorer. They contain the steps I took during install, Settings changes, GP editing and Reg editing. NOTHING removed the two Cortana processes from the Task Manager except the disabling of the Cortana folder under SystemApps. That, coupled with the search box in Classic Shell, seemed to shift the search function from Cortana to Microsoft Windows Search Indexer.

      One thing I did not test was whether the supposedly Cortana-deprived “Search Windows” box was sending Internet traffic. But I bet M$ was collection the data b/c the two processes were active.

      There is another similarly named Cortana folder under AppData. If I were going to use this to kill Cortana, I believe I’d disable it too.

    • #18742 Reply


      Local Computer PolicyComputer ConfigurationAdministrative templatesWindows ComponentsSearch “Allow Cortana” and “Allow Cortana above lock screen” disabled
      NOTE: enabling this creates the Windows Search key under HKLM and the “AllowCortana DWORD = 1

      HKLMSoftwarePoliciesMicrosoftWindowsWindows Search DWORD AllowCortana = 0

      HKCUSoftwareMicrosoftCurrentVersionSearch Dwords BingSearchEnabled and CanCortanaBeEnabled = 0

    • #18743 Reply


      One further piece of information I see looking at my test.
      Build 14393.0 was the initial install.
      CU KB3176495 had raised the build to 14393.51 after the install, so that was the build that the testing was done on.

    • #18744 Reply

      AskWoody MVP

      14393 is Anniversary regardless of the subversion, so I think your results are relevant, unless we have clearly documented information that something major has changed in that area by installing a certain CU.
      The AppData information containing Cortana in the user’s profile should be deleted too as it is the cached working copy for all Windows Apps.
      I think if Allow Cortana in the right place in the registry works, anything else loses relevance and is redundant.
      If Allow Cortana set to 0 does not work, then the other measures may limit the “damage” (or the “experience” if you listen to Microsoft) and need to be set to the maximum impact possible.
      This is something that apparently has been done in Pro in few places by design when the full configuration available in Enterprise would not work.
      Think about Telemetry set to 0 – Security in Enteprise vs 1 – Basic (still good enough for most purposes, but not all) available in Pro.
      I don’t want to discuss at all the Home version from this perspective, as I think that version is not suitable for being managed by design.

    • #18745 Reply

      AskWoody MVP

      @pkcano I understand that you spend a lot of time trying to kill the Cortana processes, but as I said, if you want to keep Windows Search working, you have to allow those processes. This is what happens in Enterprise, LTSB and Server 2016 (LTSB Server in fact).
      Using Classic Shell or equivalent is outside of my interests and I will not discuss here.

    • #18746 Reply


      Fyi, there is the AllowExperimentation setting in the Registry of Win 10, which allows M$ to reset configuration/registry settings n conduct experiments remotely after a mandatory auto-update. The default AllowExperimentation setting only allows M$ to change the configuration settings. (source: ghacksdotnet by Martin Brinkman)
      ……. Only Win 10 Pro & Ent users who hv subscribed to M$-Intune are able to fully disable the AllowExperimentation setting via CSP or Configuration Setting Policy.

    • #18747 Reply


      Fyi, M$-Intune costs US$6 per user per month n is meant for an org or enterprise or business to manage their employees’/members’ devices, ie smartphones, tablets or work-station cptrs. This jumps to US$11 per device per month if include Software Assurance = free Version upgrades of Win 10 Ent.
      ……. So, people need to pay M$ if they do not want the configuration/registry settings of their Win 10 devices regularly reset by M$ to the default settings after mandatory auto-updates, eg settings that enhance their privacy or reduce Telemetry Data collection.

    • #18748 Reply


      You have extensive knowledge of how the Windows OS is supposed to work and what Microsoft says is best for the Users. I greatly respect your expertise in this area.

      On the other hand, many Users do not agree with what Microsoft SAYS it best for them. They do not like what Microsoft has done/is doing with Win7/8.1 that was not in the agreement they accepted, and they do not trust what Microsoft says.

      These Users have the right to know that the instructions they are given to turn off Cortana (and the accompanying data collection) hides Cortana from view. But it DOES NOT DISABLE Cortana PROCESSES.

      The Emperor has no clothes.

    • #18749 Reply

      Da Boss

      Soooooo…. If you eviscerate Cortana, is “she” still sending info to the mother ship? Can anybody prove the assertion for or against?

    Please follow the -Lounge Rules- no personal attacks, no swearing, and politics/religion are relegated to the Rants forum.

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