How To: Troubleshoot Using Voice Activation in Windows 10

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One of the most intelligent things Microsoft has done with Windows 10 is to separate Cortana from Search. Cortana is now exclusively a language assistant. This was bound to happen because not everyone uses Cortana, and it also opened the way for other assistants like Alexa to board Windows 10. In version 1903, Windows introduced voice activation under Privacy. We will take a look at this feature and see how to troubleshoot voice activation.

To use voice activation under Windows 10

Open Start and enter Voice activation. Click on the voice activation privacy settings listed in the result. In the settings, you can specify that applications can use the microphone, i.e. listen in the background and select the application that has access to it.

If this option is enabled, language assistants will continue to listen to the language keyword through the microphone. The application activates for the keyword and responds according to what you request.

A problem for Windows 10 users is that you will be frustrated if you try to use the Hey Cortana voice command when voice recognition is active. To avoid this problem, you can disable speech recognition with the Stop Listening command before using Cortana. You can also “Open Cortana”, then use the “Tip” function of speech recognition to enter your query in the Cortana search field.

Speech recognition does not work perfectly with all third-party programs. For example, your favorite text editor does not accept dictation, but opening and closing programs and navigation menus works quite well.

These are the basics of speech recognition in Windows. Despite the many adjustment windows, it is in fact very easy and quick to set up. It’s also a great way to interact with your PC as long as you keep this reference card handy for the first few days.

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Help your PC recognize your voice.

You can teach Windows 10 to recognize your voice. Here’s how to install it:

  1. In the search box on the taskbar, type Windows Speech Recognition, then select Windows Speech Recognition from the list of results.
  2. If you do not see a dialog box labeled “Welcome to Voice Learning Voice Recognition”, type Control Panel in the search box on the taskbar and select Control Panel from the list of results.
  3. Then choose Easy to Use > Voice Recognition > Train your computer to better understand you.
  4. Follow the instructions to set up speech recognition.

“Hey Cortana Speech Activation

The “Hey Cortana” Voice Activation (VA) feature allows the user to quickly activate the Cortana experience outside of its active context (i.e. what is currently on screen) with their voice. Users often want instant access to an experience without having to physically interact with a device. For telephone users, this may be because they are driving in the car and their attention and hands are busy driving the vehicle. For an Xbox user, it may be because he doesn’t want to find and connect a controller. For PC users, this may be due to quick access to an experiment without having to perform several mouse, touch and/or keyboard actions, such as a computer in the kitchen.

Voice activation allows you to listen to voice input continuously via predefined keywords or “activation words”. Keywords can be pronounced by themselves (“Hey Cortana”) as a staged command, or followed by a vocal action, such as “Hey Cortana, where is my next meeting?”, a concatenated command.

Select the Application Privilege check box to use the voice activation feature.

You must ensure that the Shift key of the voice activation function is enabled globally. You can find it in the section “Allow applications to use voice activation”. You must also ensure that the microphone is available for applications that use this function.


Although speech recognition does not provide a conversational experience as a personal assistant, it remains a powerful tool for anyone who needs to fully control their device with speech.

Cortana also offers the ability to control a device with speech, but it is limited to a number of input commands, and it is not possible to control everything that appears on the screen.

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