We're coming up on the ten-year anniversary of Microsoft's mildly irritating Cortana assistant, which launched in 2014 alongside the now defunct Windows Phone. But thanks to an upcoming Windows update, Cortana won't be around much longer unless you want it.
Microsoft has already confirmed plans to kill Cortana in favor of AI assistants, and it started the process by removing the Cortana app this summer. Now Microsoft is testing a Windows 11 update that will allow you to remove Cortana entirely along with some of Windows' other baked-in bloatware, like the Camera, Photos and People apps.
This is significant because, frankly, it's a minor convenience that's long overdue. These apps are superfluous at best for many of us, and the fact that we haven't been able to remove them from Windows is frustrating. Why does my desktop PC need a camera app if it doesn't have a camera connected? Why do I need the People app if I keep all my contact lists in other apps and websites?
Luckily, it looks as though Windows 11 Insider Preview Build 23585 will free us from this nonsense. This build was released to the Dev channel of the Windows Insider Program last week (November 8), and according to Microsoft's release notes it will allow "the Camera app, Cortana, Photos app, and People app, and Remote Desktop client" to be uninstalled at will.
While you can already disable or uninstall Cortana if you're willing to dig around in Windows menus and edit system files, this new option should be easier, faster and more final.
And while the ability to uninstall key apps is the big new change headlined in this Windows update, it's not the only one. This build also improves HDR support for the Windows Snipping Tool, which should result in better color accuracy in screenshots and recordings conducted on HDR displays. As someone who regularly snaps screenshots from my HDR monitor for work, most of which are unusable because they're too white and blown out, this minor fix is a welcome one.
However, a note of caution: Windows builds tested in the Dev Channel of the Windows Insider Program, like this one, are not guaranteed to ever see the light of day.
While it seems highly likely that Microsoft will roll these in-development features out to all Windows users later in the year, especially given that it's already announced plans to kill off Cortana, I can't say for sure if or when Windows users can expect these new features to arrive on their own PCs.
The best I can offer is to make sure you're regularly checking your Windows Update utility (hit the Start button and type "Windows Update" to find it) for new releases, and make sure the "Get the latest updates as soon as they're available" option is enabled if it isn't already. Doing so will ensure you're first in line to get the latest Windows drops.