Cortana Not Working? 8 Ways to Fix It Fast

If Cortana disappears, one of these solutions will bring her back

Figure 1-1: A young business man with his hands to his forehead contemplating a problem.
Figure 1-1: You can fix problems with Cortana if she's not working properly. Getty Images

Windows Cortana is Microsoft’s virtual digital assistant. Most of the time, she’s online and a pleasure to work with. But sometimes, she stops working, often for (what seems like) no reason at all. Perhaps she’s not answering to "Hey Cortana" like she used to. Maybe she’s gone completely AWOL from the Taskbar or Reminders are not working. Perhaps she never worked! Whatever happened to Cortana, first restart your device, then, try these solutions.

01
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1. Turn on Cortana and Reconfigure the Microphone

Figure 1-2: A screen shot of Cortana Settings
Figure 1-2: Change Cortana Settings to enable Cortana and the microphone. joli ballew

Cortana can only work if she’s enabled, and she can only hear your voice if there’s a microphone available. If she’s not enabled you might also find that the Windows button is not working. To verify Cortana is enabled in Cortana Settings:

  1. On the Taskbar, in the Search window, type Cortana.
  2. In the results click Cortana & Search Settings (in System Settings).
  3. Verify that the following options are enabled:
    • Let Cortana respond to “Hey Cortana” to talk to Cortana.
    • Respond when anyone says “Hey Cortana” to let anyone talk to Cortana.
    • If desired, Use Cortana when my device is locked.
  4. Under Microphone and Make sure Cortana can hear me, click Get Started.
  5. Work through the wizard to set up the microphone.
  6. If there are problems, let Windows resolve them.
02
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2. Fix problems with your Microsoft account

Figure 1-3: A screen shot of the Start menu with a user account showing.
Figure 1-3: Access your user account from the Start menu. Joli Ballew

If the Start menu is not working or if you’re seeing a Start menu critical error, it might be an issue with your Microsoft account. Resolving this issue by logging out and logging back on might resolve it. To see if your Microsoft Account is causing the problem:

  1. Click the Start button.
  2. Click the user icon.
  3. Click Sign Out.
  4. Sign in again, using your Microsoft account.
  5. If that doesn’t resolve the issue, restart your device.
03
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Check for updates

Figure 1-4: A screen shot of Windows Update settings in the Settings window.
Figure 1-4: Check for Updates from Settings. joli ballew

Microsoft has updates available to fix known issues with Cortana. Installing these updates will resolve related problems immediately. To update Windows 10 using Windows Update:

  1. On the Taskbar, in the Search window, type Check for updates.
  2. Click Check for Updates (in System Settings) in the results.
  3. Click Check for Updates and wait for the process to complete.
  4. Restart your device, even if you aren’t prompted to.

Note: Cortana works with specific languages, like English or Spanish, but not every language. Your computer has to support and be configured with the regions offered in order for Cortana to work. Additional languages may be included through updates. To see the most recent list of languages that are supported, visit Microsoft.

04
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Run the Start Menu Troubleshooter

Figure 1-5: A screen shot of the Microsoft page that offers the Start Menu Troubleshooter.
Figure 1-5: Download the Start Menu Troubleshooter from Microsoft. Joli Ballew

Microsoft offers the Windows 10 Start Menu Troubleshooter that  will look for and resolve known problems with the Start menu and Cortana. Often when Cortana isn’t working, the Start button is not working properly either, thus the name.

Here’s how to use it:

  1. Navigate to Microsoft’s Start Menu Troubleshooter page.
  2. Click Try the Troubleshooter and then click Start Menu Troubleshooter.
  3. Click on the downloaded file and click Next. How you find that file depends on the web browser you’re using.

If issues arise, let the troubleshooter fix them, and then click Close.

05
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Restart the Cortana Process

Figure 1-6: A screen shot of Taswk Manager
Figure 1-6: Use Task Manager to stop the Cortana process. Joli Ballew

You can stop and restart the Cortana Windows process if the previous options haven’t resolved your problem. To restart the service:

  1. Hold down the Ctrl key + Alt key + Del keys on the keyboard. Task Manager will open.
  2. If applicable, click More Details.
  3. From the Processes tab, scroll to locate Cortana and click it one time.
  4. Click End Task.
  5. Restart the device.
06
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Disable Antivirus software

Figure 1-7: A screen shot showing the Control Panel with the Uninstall a program windows showing.
Figure 1-7: Uninstall anti-virus software if it is incompatible with Cortana. Joli Ballew

There are known incompatibilities with Cortana and some anti-virus software programs. If you use a third-party anti-virus or anti-malware application, disable it using the user interface offered with it. If the problem is resolved by disabling that software, consider uninstalling it and using Windows Defender instead. Windows Defender ships with Windows 10 and works with Cortana, not against it.

To uninstall a third-party antivirus program:

  1. On the Taskbar, in the Search window, type Control Panel.
  2. From Control Panel, click Uninstall a program.
  3. In the list of programs that appears, click the antivirus program one time, and click Uninstall.
  4. Work through the uninstall process.
  5. Restart the device.
07
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Reinstall Cortana

Figure 1-8: A screen shot of a PowerShell window with the command to reset Cortana running.
Figure 1-8: Use an elevated PowerShell prompt to run the command to reset Cortana. Joli Ballew

If none of the above options work, reinstall Cortana at an elevated PowerShell prompt:

  1. On the keyboard press Windows key + X, and then press A.
  2. Click Yes to allow PowerShell to open.
  3. Type the command below, all on one line: Get-AppXPackage -AllUsers | Foreach {Add-AppxPackage -DisableDevelopmentMode -Register "$($_.InstallLocation)\AppXManifest.xml"}. (Do not type a period at the end of the command.)
  4. Press Enter and wait while the process completes.
08
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Reset your PC

Figure 1-9: A screen shot showing the Reset option in Settings.
Figure 1-9: As a last resort, reset the device and reinstall Windows. Joli Ballew

If none of the above options work to fix Cortana, you may have to reset your computer, or take it to a technician. You can find the reset option in Start > Settings > Update & Security > Recovery. Just click Reset and follow the prompts. This will reset Cortana by reinstalling Windows, and is best used as a last resort.

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