My eyesight isn’t what it used to be, Dave, and I turned on Windows Narrator hoping it’d help me get around on the Internet. In fact, it’s super annoying. How do I turn it off?
Assistive technologies are hard to get right, as so many people who need them have learned over the years. From getting that beep at the street crossing to be informative to real time subtitles that are accurate to what’s being discussed to making the font larger on a computer screen, it’s tricky. One of the most frustrating on the Windows side is that Windows Narrator. I get questions all the time from people just like you who have tried the Windows Narrator and now can’t figure out how to disable it. Some tell me that they’ve suffered for years with that blue box in the middle of their screen. Ugh.
The challenge is that there appear to be multiple settings and preferences screens that control the Narrator, some of which are modern and part of the Windows 10 Settings area, but others of which are rather tucked away and hard to find. Heck, they were hard for me to find as I was writing this tutorial!
So let’s just jump in. I’ll show everything for Windows 10, but I believe you’ll find most all of this similar in earlier versions of Windows too. To begin, a Cortana / Windows search:
You can see on the left side, a search for “narrator” produces quite a few options, including how to turn Narrator on or off (sort of), Select Narrator audio output device, Change Narrator voice, and many more. The best match shown, however, is the Narrator Desktop app. Choose “Open” or double click to launch that.
Ah, there’s that pesky blue box I was talking about. You’ll see, it keeps showing up in the various screen captures I have in this article. More importantly, though, notice a few of the key shortcuts shown in this message. The most important one: Ctrl + Windows logo + N opens up the Narrator settings. You can just click on “Turn off Narrator” here, but that’s not going to guarantee it’s fully disabled.
Click or tap “OK” then press Ctrl + Windows logo + N to open up Narrator settings:
These are all big, complicated windows. And yes, that blue square showed up again (and wasn’t even exactly the right dimensions. Oops). On this screen, turn off Narrator by clicking the “ON” toggle to off. You might also uncheck the “Allow the shortcut key to start Narrator” and definitely make sure it doesn’t start up again on the next login (the two checkboxes under “Choose when to start Narrator”).
Now before you close this window, turn the Narrator back on with the toggle switch. Trust me, you’ll see why in a second!
It’ll start up and start voicing what’s on screen, but look closely at the TaskBar:
This is where it gets confusing, because there’s nothing on screen that shows you the Narrator is working (other than the blue box), but if you click on the “Narrator Settings” in the TaskBar, surprise, a window pops up!
I believe this is the old settings window that’s mostly superseded by the new Windows settings, but it’s smart to double check everything, and these are the settings from within the app, not the generic Windows assistive tech settings. Click or tap on “General” to get to the General Narrator settings:
In fact, as you can see, there are quite a few different additional options and settings you can change, including playing audio cues, hear words you type, hear characters as you type, and so on. You can also – perhaps redundantly – enable or disable the Narrator launch shortcut.
What I encourage you to check out, however, is what you find when you click on the “Control whether Narrator starts when I sign in” link near the bottom. Hopefully that would lead back to the first Settings window, right? Yeah, um, no. It doesn’t:
And so, finally, now you can see the other place you can turn on or off Narrator. Note here that, as it says, “When you select these tools, they will automatically start each time you sign in.”
Now we have everything we need. Uncheck the boxes in this window, then go back to Narrator Settings and make sure that’s all set as you want and click the “Save changes” at the bottom. Finally, go back to the original settings window and turn OFF Narrator and close that window. Hopefully you’ve now completely and fully disabled Windows Narrator. Double check by logging out and logging in again, and good luck!
Pro Tip: I have written hundreds of Windows tutorials here on the site. Please take a few minutes to check them out!