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New preview build adds Microsoft account requirement to Windows 11 Pro

New preview build adds Microsoft account requirement to Windows 11 Pro

Now that Windows 11’s first major post-release update has been issued, Microsoft has started testing a huge collection of new features, UI changes, and redesigned apps in the latest Windows Insider preview for Dev channel users. By and large, the changes are significant and useful—there’s an overhauled Task Manager, folders for pinned apps in the Start menu, the renewed ability to drag items into the Taskbar (as you could in Windows 10), improvements to the Do Not Disturb and Focus modes, new touchscreen gestures, and a long list of other fixes and enhancements.

But tucked away toward the bottom of the changelog is one unwelcome addition: like the Home edition of Windows 11, the Pro version will now require an Internet connection and a Microsoft account during setup. In the current version of Windows 11, you could still create a local user account during setup by not connecting your PC to the Internet—something that also worked in the Home version of Windows 10 but was removed in 11. That workaround will no longer be available in either edition going forward, barring a change in Microsoft’s plans.

While most devices do require a sign-in to fully enable app stores, cloud storage, and cross-device sharing and syncing, Windows 11 will soon stand alone as the only major consumer OS that requires account sign-in to enable even basic functionality. Apple’s Macs still allow for local account creation during setup, and you can skip signing in when you set up iPhones and iPads (an Internet connection is sometimes required for device activation, though). Android likewise needs an Internet account for activation but doesn’t require signing in to get you to the home screen. Even Chrome OS has a guest mode that you can use to enable basic browsing without a user account.

This change shouldn’t affect anyone who has already configured Windows with a local account, nor will it affect people who use a workplace-provided username and password to log in to their work PCs. But it’s a frustrating change for people who regularly set up new Windows installations for development or testing or anyone trying to set up a new PC in a place without an Internet connection. There are some hacky workarounds available, usually involving connecting to and then disconnecting from the Internet during setup, but my experience with these has been hit or miss. For those who want to use a local account, the best solution is to create a burner Microsoft account for use during setup and then to either create a new local user account or sign out of your Microsoft account once the OS is up and running.

We don’t know when the Microsoft account requirement for Windows 11 Pro or any of the other changes in this build will be released to the general public. The company has said that it intends to make “continuous” changes to the operating system but also that some features tested in the Dev Insider channel might never see a public release.

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