Microsoft, Cortana, Halo
Cortana, Microsoft's personal assistant and a lead character from the Halo video games. (Image: Microsoft).

Published: July 29th, 2015

Canadians often complain that they don’t get access to some of the coolest technology services as quickly as their American neighbours and Microsoft’s Cortana is the latest thing you can add to that list.

It’s Microsoft Corp.’s big day with the launch of Windows 10 around the world and maybe you’ve already upgraded your PCs, or reserved your upgrade and will be deploying it later today. One of the big differences over previous versions of Windows is the inclusion of Cortana, Microsoft’s intelligent assistant (like Apple’s Siri) that can help you find files and folders, launch applications, conduct web searches, or get directly to specific information about any number of topics. Plus, you can control it with your voice.

But as of today, Cortana on Windows 10 is only available in the U.S., UK, China, France, Italy, Germany and Spain. Since Microsoft wants Cortana to have an appropriate personality for each region and be able to offer contextual responses based on localization, Canada is one area where it’s still trying to achieve this. (So far all we know from Microsoft is that Canadian Cortana will “love hockey.) So even though Canadian users of Nokia devices are already using Cortana on Windows Phone, Windows 10 users have to wait.

Or not. If you’re willing to use a Cortana that doesn’t love hockey and won’t immediately deliver the date of John A. MacDonald death, there’s a way you can turn it on today. All you have to do is pretend to be American.

The first thing to do is manually turn on Cortana. It will be off by default if you’ve upgraded a PC that’s set to Canada for its region. Seach for “Cortana” from the search bar next to the Start Menu to find the Cortana and Search settings. Turn everything on.

Once you’ve done this, assuming your region is set to Canada, you’ll see this message if you try to turn on Cortana.

Cortana-Region

To trick Cortana into hanging out with us, we have to lie. (She’s an intelligent assistant, not a lie detector.) Now search for “Region” in the search bar and you’ll find your region and language settings. This can also be found under Control Panel –> Clock, Language, and Region. Simply change your country from Canada to United States from the drop-down menu.

Windows 10 region switch

Now the next time you click on that search bar next to your Start Menu, Cortana will suddenly become more responsive! Just be cool about the references to Obama and other Americanisms and this should be a fine workaround for now.

Cortana working

It’s likely you won’t get the full Cortana experience that Microsoft is working on for Canada. If you want to get access to that as early as possible, then sign up with your Microsoft account to become a Windows Insider. Microsoft says that Cortana will become available later this summer through that program.

Region settings affect other apps

Be aware that changing your region will affect some of your other Microsoft apps. Anything that depends on your region settings may go haywire as a result of this little fib. Renting or buying movies and TV episodes or downloading apps from the Store could be impeded, for example. Thanks to Twitter user @RayVanEe flagging us on this one.

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  • gisabun

    If only I could get Windows 10 RTM to upgrade my Windows Insider build!

  • muffinjello

    Lame! This should totally be available in Canada on windows 10 if windows phone has it.

    At the very least, they should offer a less “aware” version of Cortana for all of those countries and regions that don’t have official support yet (in as many languages as possible)

    • Al

      I am in Canada. I have a Windows phone with Cortana but I also need to change the region of my phone to the United States or Cortana won’t work.

  • NickCanadian

    The last thing I want is a hockey loving Cortana -_-

  • Mark E. DeSade

    It takes a couple months to add a bunch of u’s to words that Microsoft couldn’t have Cortana ready for Canada at launch?

    • The UK has all of the same U’s and they get Cortana. And Apple Pay, etc. Just another US company that doesn’t “get” Canada. So if Apple and Microsoft both snub Canada, what are we to do? Linux, eh? I’m mad as H-E-double-hockey-sticks. Oops… I’m sorry.

      • Mark E. DeSade

        I’m sorry that you’re sorry.

        • Bob Smith

          I am in turn very sorry about that

          • Fighting_Republitard_Dumbness

            I am sorrier than all of you. And sorry about that too. Oh and GO HABS GO!!!!

          • Éric Sylvain Périard

            I’m even sorrier for all this sorryception…

          • M. Kingsmill

            Excuse me, I’m sorry but I don’t like hockey or politics eh… I want an un-nationalized Cortana even though I live in Canada… Wouldn’t that have been easier than snubbing entire countries because of cultural differences? The idea is not to be such hosers and just concentrate on making Cortana for different *LANGUAGES*. Come back later & enhance it with the stupid “cultural” stuff later…

      • Kyler Facini

        My sincerest apologies.

  • Claude

    Thank you Brian, that worked fine on my laptop and although I changed the country to US, the searches (like nearby restaurants) are showed to my real location!

    • Corey777

      Now try and download an app in the windows store. You will suddenly realize “Brian” is an idiot. lol

  • Bob Smith

    the hold up is they cant figure out where to put all the eh’s and they are having troubles making it polite. damn canadians

    • hate bob smith

      Only a bad mouth American say this eh you say it to!!!!

    • Corey777

      Check this, anime nerd: American Latinos say “EH” 95% more than any Canadian ever has, or will. Also, we have some of the rudest people in the world here… drug addicts and alcoholics that think they have nothing to lose. Just come visit Toronto, Edmonton, Calgary, or any city for that matter. bigot. loll

      • Bob Smith

        Born and raised in Toronto, retard wetback. It was a joke . You need to relax

  • matthew storey

    as of august so far nothing

  • mohammed

    HOW LONG MICROSOFT.. I NEED CORTANA

  • Corey777

    Why in the world are all these alleged “IT techs” posting this stupid “hack” If you change your location region language etc. You CANNOT BUY OR DOWNLOAD ANY WINDOWS APPS!!!! Why would you screw that up for an unfinished partial version of a feature? Foolish people. And why am I the first person to mention this here…. seriously people. lol