The Windows 10 voice assistant Cortana can be pretty handy if you have it set up to respond to your voice.

Just say, ‘Hey Cortana’ to get its attention and you can do a variety of things like send emails, open programs, and search for things.

Since Cortana is voice-activated, you’ll need to have a microphone. Tablets and many laptops come with built-in microphones while most desktops do not. If your device doesn’t have a built-in microphone, you’ll need to purchase one. It does not have to be an expensive device. I’ve used Cortana successfully with the built-in microphone on a pair of inexpensive earbuds. If you have a desktop computer, a mic that sits on the desk is a nice accessory, but it’s certainly not necessary. Plug your mic either into the audio jack or a USB port (depending on the model) and we’re ready to start.

If ‘Hey Cortana’ is activated, you’ll hear a little sound of acknowledgment and a black box will pop up at the lower left.

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If nothing happens, you’ll want to enable ‘Hey Cortana.’ Here’s how.

To open Cortana click the little circle icon to the right of the Search Box.

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Cortana will open.

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Click the three-line menu icon at the top left.

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Then choose Settings.

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Under Talk to Cortana, switch on the button beneath Hey Cortana that allows Cortana to respond to your voice command. Or, if you don’t want Cortana to respond to voice commands, switch it off.  You can also prevent your device from sleeping when it’s plugged in, so it is always ready to respond to voice commands.

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Now you’re ready to talk to your PC.