How to Enable Hey Cortana

By Woody Leonhard

If you’ve never used Cortana on your Windows 10 device before, she won’t respond to “Hey, Cortana!” in spite of all the demos you’ve seen. Instead, you need to click in the Type Here to Search box to the right of the Start icon in Windows 10. Cortana responds with a notice that she can do much more with Windows 10. Hard to tell if that’s a brag or a fact.

Enable Cortana Windows 10
Start by letting Cortana in the door.

Here’s a quick run-through of how you can enable Hey Cortana:

  1. Click the Settings (gear) icon.

    Windows brings up the Settings, Talk to Cortana pane.

    try cortana Windows 10
    Time to give Cortana a try.
  2. If you’d like to let a 500-years-in-the-future AI listen to everything you say, attempting to parse the words “Hey, Cortana,” move the Let Cortana Respond to “Hey Cortana” slider to On.

    Cortana works whether or not you turn on the voice prompt. It’s kind of the face of Windows’ built-in search routines.

    If you want Cortana to listen, even when your machine is locked (typically when the cover is closed), do one of the following:

    • Select the box that says Spy Away O Mighty One.
    • Select the box below the Hey Cortana slider that says Keep My Device from Sleeping When It’s Plugged in So I Can Always Say “Hey Cortana.”
  3. If you’ve logged on to Windows with a Microsoft Account, Cortana can see all of your Microsoft-stored data. If you want to give Cortana the capability to thumb through that data even when the machine is locked, scroll down and select the box next to Let Cortana Access My Calendar, Email, Messages, and Power BI Data When my Device Is Locked.

    But wait! There’s more!

  4. Back in the main Cortana screen, click the notebook icon on the left bar of the Cortana pop-up.

    A bunch of customizing options appear.

    customize Cortana
    Start the customizing of Cortana.
  5. Click the Edit button to the right of your name, the one that looks like a partial figure 8 with a pencil next to it. Then click Change my name.
  6. Type the name you want Cortana to use for you.

    For now, let’s have her call us Boss.

    Cortana settings
    Even more Cortana settings.
  7. Click Enter. Then click Hear How I’ll Say It.

    Cortana then tries to pronounce your name. If her pronunciation sounds good, click Sounds Good. If she messes up, click That’s Wrong and teach Cortana how to say your name by speaking into the mic.

  8. Say “Hey, Cortana!”

    If that doesn’t rouse the old biddy, click the microphone icon in the Type Here to Search box and then ask your question.

    After the first time or two, Cortana gets the idea that she’s supposed to be listening for the sound of your voice.

  9. Practice asking Cortana all sorts of questions. Test a bit.

    You’ll find that you need to pause slightly after saying “Hey, Cortana.” For example, if you say “Hey, Cortana” (pause a second) “How is the weather,” you get a response like the one below.

    Cortana Windows 10
    Cortana’s great at telling you the MSN weather forecast.