New Windows 10 Insider Preview Build Separates Cortana from Search

Posted on January 16, 2019 by Paul Thurrott in Windows 10 with 26 Comments

As has long been rumored, Microsoft is taking steps to extricate its digital personal assistant from Windows 10’s core search functionality. And a new Windows 10 Insider Preview build, just released today, provides our first peek at this separation.

“Going forward, we’ll be decoupling Search and Cortana in the taskbar,” Microsoft’s Dona Sarkar explains. “This will enable each experience to innovate independently to best serve their target audiences and use cases.”

In case anyone is interested in me reading between the lines here, there’s long been tension between the Windows team and Cortana, which is developed separately in a different part of the company. That makes some sense, since Cortana capabilities can and should pop up in many places throughout the Microsoft ecosystem. But it has also led to issues between the two teams, which have moved forward in different directions and at different times.

“Search and Cortana settings have also now been split between the two, along with the familiar group policies,” Sarkar continues. “This change is one of several we’ve made throughout this release to improve your experience in this space, including updating the search landing page design, enhancing your search results, and integrating Microsoft To-Do with Cortana.”

Also new in build 18317 are:

Improved Start reliability. The Start menu is being separated from ShellExperienceHost.exe into its own process, called StartMenuExperienceHost.exe. “This has a number of benefits, including simplifying debugging and insulating Start from potential issues impacting other surfaces,” Sarkar writes.

Improved font management. You can now install fonts by dragging and dropping them from File Explorer into Settings > Fonts (just as you could before when fonts were managed in File Explorer). You can also uninstall fonts from here.

Simpler Windows Insider Program settings. The Windows Insider Program settings page in Settings > Update & Security > Windows Insider Program is now much simpler looking but provides the same enroll/unenroll functionality as before.

Beyond that, there are a number of general changes, improvements, and fixes, in particular for the Windows Console.

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Comments (26)

26 responses to “New Windows 10 Insider Preview Build Separates Cortana from Search”

  1. Maktaba

    It’s a shame you can’t search inside OneNote notes from the taskbar (I mean notes from notebooks stored online on OneDrive, not just local notebooks)

  2. Winner

    I'm waiting for them to decouple reboots from the updates.

    Today was another day where I go to my left-on work machine to find it has rebooted and all my open stuff has to be relaunched and autorecovered. The problem with Win 10 is that you can't leave your desk occupied with open work overnight or it may get trashed. For the first 30 years of my GUI experiences, that wasn't a problem.

  3. JosephDickerson

    This and taking Cortana out of the setup UI pretty much means Cortana is dead. Well, she will still be in the Halo games...

  4. wbhite

    "Improved Start reliability."

    Does this mean that I won't have to wait 1-3 seconds for the Start menu to appear when I click it? Happens on every Windows 10 device I've used.

    • IanYates82

      In reply to wbhite:

      I get that on mine a bit too.

      I can see that in task manager, the shell experience host gets suspended, as it should. It's just the wake-up bit that can take a moment, particularly if the RAM contents it had suspended needs to come from disk, or if other contents of your RAM needs to go to disk first.

  5. evictedkoala

    Corporate statements and such should really limit the term 'innovate'. It loses its meaning when it's used in ridiculously simple cases like this. Anyone who cares to read these articles is intelligent enough to see through the flowery distraction attempt and it makes them look pathetic.

  6. SupaPete

    I don't really care whether MS separates Cortana and search, i hardly ever use Cortana (knowingly/intentionally), so i don't mind much about it.

    What really annoys me though is when there is now an additional not removable icon on the taskbar because i already have too few space on the taskbar.

    I don't get why MS doesn't finally improve the taskbar properly.

    So like on mac dock one could have as many icons there as one wants and they then just scale smaller to fit in.

    Much better than that nonsense windows does where it adds paging, like yeah, totally, i want to click through multiple pages forth and back each time i want to get to an icon on a different page.

    I hope they finally bring the taskbar functionality to macOS dock functionality level in 2019, it's about time.

    • charlesverrier

      In reply to SupaPete:

      The current Cortana icon can be removed from the taskbar (I don't think there's a suggestion they'll change this?) - It's a routine change I make for our office PCs, as Cortana is of no value in a work environment. I also remove the Task View icon, as again my experience is that users just get lost and log more support calls.

  7. drprw

    I hope the "improved start reliability" bit actually works. I had to buy Start10 from Stardock on my Surface 2017 because the start menu keeps resetting. I've done everything I can find (creating a new user and all) and the start menu resets itself eventually back to the app/game garbage menu that is provided in a fresh install of Windows 10.

  8. sevenacids

    I hope this means one can safely remove Cortana from the system without breaking Search.

  9. robincapper

    Be nice to see them address more parts of the world which don't even have Cortana...

  10. CaedenV

    sweet! Maybe now when I do 'check for updates' it will actually open settings and search for updates rather than a clueless web search if I type too fast!

    • warren

      In reply to CaedenV:

      You don't really need to do that anymore. In 2018 they brought back the tray notification icon for when there are updates that are ready to install.

      Also, doing "Check for Updates" manually will invite Windows Update to download and install the preview for next month's quality updates. You probably don't want that.

  11. Dan1986ist

    I got the separated Cortana and Search in Build 18312, and prefer that way. Also, wonder if this could mean a choice of whether one wants to use Cortana, Alexa, or whatever.

  12. krabago

    Still no sign of Sets. Anyone know what's going on with Sets?

  13. ggolcher

    The blog post says: "We have locked down the inbox apps in 19H1. These “lite” versions of the inbox apps are what will ship with 19H1 when it is released."

    It would be amazing, just amazing, if MS actually locked-down a build in terms of features one month earlier and dedicated one full month extra to bug-fixing before widespread release.

    I really hope that statement alludes to an earlier lock-down date , it may seriously have a positive impact on release quality.

    (We may never know, Microsoft is terrible communicating decisions like these)

  14. karlinhigh

    Will they be separating web search from local search so start menu search doesn't get me movie posters from the web instead of My Documents contents?

  15. prjman

    Just kill Cortana already. Jeesh

  16. jdawgnoonan

    I am not sure why Microsoft thinks a big text box on the Taskbar is a good idea. Fortunately it is easy to get rid of and hopefully it stays that way, but it is always irritating to see it in screenshots or on any machine I see where it has not been removed.