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Windows 11 Pro will soon require a Microsoft Account when setting up for the first time

Windows 11 OOBE create account
Windows 11 OOBE create account (Image credit: Windows Central)

What you need to know

  • Windows 11 Pro will require an internet connection during setup soon.
  • This behavior matches Windows 11 Home, which already enforces this requirement.
  • Users will also be required to sign-in with a Microsoft Account.

Microsoft has announced that later this year, users will be required to connect to the internet and sign-in with a Microsoft Account during the out of box setup experience on Windows 11 Pro. Microsoft has already been enforcing this requirement on Windows 11 Home since launch last October, and Windows 11 Pro is now expected to follow suit soon.

Previously, Microsoft was positioning Windows 11 Pro as the edition to get if you didn't want or couldn't set up Windows 11 with an internet connection. Now, users on both Windows 11 Home and Windows 11 Pro will be required to connect to an internet access point and sign-in with a Microsoft Account before they can start using their PC for the first time.

The news comes via a change log in the latest Windows 11 preview build:

Similar to Windows 11 Home edition, Windows 11 Pro edition now requires internet connectivity during the initial device setup (OOBE) only. If you choose to setup device for personal use, MSA will be required for setup as well. You can expect Microsoft Account to be required in subsequent WIP flights.

This is going to be frustrating for users who don't want to use a Microsoft Account, or don't have access to an internet connection. It's also going to be extra frustrating for users or developers who have an ambiguous email address, as Windows will automatically set up your user profile directory using the first five letters of your email instead of your first name.

I would often skip setting up a Microsoft Account in the out of box experience, setup a local account so that Windows names the user directory correctly instead, and then sign-in with a Microsoft Account once I hit the desktop because of this. Unfortunately, this is no longer going to be possible. Hopefully Microsoft changes the way the setup experience names your user directory when signing into a Microsoft Account soon.

On the shipping build of Windows 11, it was relatively easy to bypass the internet requirement on Windows 11 Home. However, the common workaround of killing "Network Connection Flow" via Task Manager no longer works in the latest Windows 11 preview builds, so users will have to find another way around the internet requirement, if there even is one.

The change is now active in the latest Windows 11 preview builds, which means this requirement will likely rollout to the shipping version of Windows 11 later this year, though Microsoft hasn't provided an exact time frame just yet.

Zac Bowden is a Senior Editor at Windows Central. Bringing you exclusive coverage into the world of Windows 10 on PCs, tablets, phones, and more. Also an avid collector of rare Microsoft prototype devices! Keep in touch on Twitter: @zacbowden.

38 Comments
  • Like the author I also do the same thing so I can name my user directory with a proper name instead of some partial email address. If Microsoft would fix that user profile naming issue or simply allow the user to choose I wouldn't care.
  • Same here. Been doing that since Windows 8 iirc.
  • If it's gonna be anything like the Home edition, it will be easily bypassed. However what are businesses who wish to join on-premises Active Directory supposed to do? Pay extra for the Enterprise Edition or deal with all the extra hassle? How will the unattend.xml answer file work? It just seems like another dirty push towards Azure and away from on-premises systems. I can't believe that businesses will now be forced to jump through hoops or hack the out of box experience just to get on with preparing work machines.
  • You choose if it's a personal account or a domain-connected account. So not an issue for users on an on-premises domain.
  • In some cases there may be a need to perform some work before joining a domain, such as when creating a custom WIM file. Joining a domain during an OOBE isn't a great solution. This also doesn't answer what happens to an answer file that demands a local non-domain account... After some googling it seems it is being respected for now, in which case an answer file will be one of the new workarounds for consumers lol.
  • Big business is fine, but this can be an issue with small business who don't need or even a budget to setup domain even for Azure. And for Manage Service Providers which is will have to come up to convince their clients to setuo MSA that somehow for work even this MSA requirement is supposed to be only for personal use. Home is understandable, but forcing this to Pro may have some ramifications on small business. Not every business will need to be on Azure AD and maybe just need to be managed by some simple 3rd-party device management service, without an on-premise server.
  • There are data-protection and privacy reasons for not using Azure/Azure AD/Intune as well, not that Microsoft cares.
  • "It's also going to be extra frustrating for users or developers who have an ambiguous email address, as Windows will automatically set up your user profile directory using the first five letters of your email instead of your first name." EXACTLY F-ING THIS!! Every windows install up til they started doing this had my name, so when I migrated, reinstalled, whatever, I didn't have to remap shortcuts or other settings that relied on this. The LEAST they could do is let you configure this instead of just hacking a name off your email! is there a uservoice/feedback on this one somewhere? needs to be upvoted for sure now.
  • To deal with the user directory issue, my workaround has been to sign in with my MS account, create a new local account with a username that will result in a user directory I like, log in with that new account, and then delete the original account. It's kind of a pain, but it's worked so far. Hopefully they woke break that method or will allow choosing a user directory as others have mentioned. I don't want to have to resort to creating a symlink between the user directory I want and the one MS gives me.
  • Symlink is a good fallback option if all else fails. Hadn't thought of that.
  • Is MS that desperate to get people using a MS account? No doubt they will come out with all the good things about it and the normal rubbish. There is still a way of getting around not setting up a MS account on Windows 11 home, it is a pain, but it works. I just wonder what happens where people have Wi-fi on their computer and Windows 11 have no drivers for it as default, that will be fun. I presume if people update from Windows 10, then nothing will change. but MS is certainly pushing me more towards a Mac, even Apple don't force people to have an Apple I.D on their mac.
  • Go to a Mac then. Noone is keeping you here.
  • I am waiting to see what Apple does with the Mac mini when they update it, not going to buy it now and then in a couple of months they stick a faster processor in it.
  • Are they assuming Ethernet and Wi-Fi are always recognized and installed? What if drivers are missing?
  • I set up a lot of new laptops and have never seen an issue with this as default/generic Wi-Fi/Ethernet drivers are now part of the builds. It's not like the old days.
  • But i bet it will happen to someone, a strange Wi-fi chip set that no other machine uses, or desktops where people use Wi-fi and they have some strange Wi-fi card or usb Wi-fi. I use Ethernet, but I do also have a USB TP-link Wi-fi adaptor and I know full well that Windows 11 don't have drivers for that.
  • Were you setting up new laptops with OEM images or fresh Windows install, because I have definitely seen plenty of cases where WiFi adapter drivers was missing or even Ethernet in some other cases with Clean Windows installs.
  • I hate to invoke the Lword but this is a bridge too far.
  • Next thing you know, smartphones will require this too. Makes you wonder.
  • Sometimes I just want to sit in my cave off the grid or work on secret stuff without prying 👀s
  • But smartphones don't, you can still use them without an account, my brother had an Android phone for years with no account. When I set up his new phone, asked him what his Google account user name and password was, that he told me he did not have one. and I looked on his old phone and nope, no google account. He never bothered with apps, in fact, I wonder why he had a smartphone in the first place.
  • To be honest, I think some people own smartphones because they are more prevalent, even most cheap phones are smartphones now so if someone just goes into a shop to buy a phone they aren't going to see an old button phone on display, so they won't think to buy it.
  • I thought Microsoft had avoided being evil, keeping themselves out of the ranks of Google, Facebook, Amazon, and even Apple, but it seems they can’t resist being a member of that club. Why, Microsoft? Why can’t you just do right by your users? Policies like this might deliver short-term gains for adoption of a few new MS accounts (that won’t get used), but result in long-term losses due to customer frustrations, not to mention damage to company reputation and trustworthiness. It’s just wrong and evil.
  • They surpassed that club. Neither apple, nor Google require an online account at setup, they only heavily encourage one.
  • When setting up, you can choose the option for local account or setup cloud account later which automatically allow the local account setup. I don't see that changing so please don't get yourselves worked up.
  • Seems that is exactly the option that is going away.
  • The article suggest that options may be going away or become more obscurely difficult for Windows 11 Pro SKU. I can understand on Home edition, but Pro SKUs are used for organizations especially smaller ones that can't justify to setup a domain just for small number of machines, also for machines that are not assigned to a specific user and just being built for more specific purposes, depending on organization or small business requirements. There is an IT industry that relies on these Pro licenses for small businesses for their clients. And typically don't require MSA. Kiosk for example should not require one, desktop server, receptionists, shared PC, guest/public PC, etc.
  • I don't understand it on home versions either, there are lots of people who may have Home version on laptops and may not want an MS account. I don't know why they are doing, they don't make money from a free amount, unless they are data grabbing. Maybe they hope people will pay for the pro account and pay out for more stuff they don't really need.
    Ms will come out with the same rubbish they have done for years, ease of use and security, that is what they will tell people, so they will accept it, security.
  • that is changing in a few days or a week
  • I feel like they are doing this as a money grab, so they can gain more from advertising. I will just create the account they demand, then create a local account with Administrator, then either delete the original account or ignore it forever.
  • When a PC is used by several people for a shared task, for instance print server, this will be irritating. I guess even small companies will need to switch to Enterprise versions. Sounds like a money grab to me.
  • Who cares, it gives a better experience. Apple and Google do the same. Im sure one day Linux will have the same.
  • you say it gives a better experience, but I have yet to see how. There are many people, myself included that use their computer to run software they want to run, not all us want to use MS services. As for Apple, you can use a MAc without an Apple I.D, they push it maybe, but they don't force it. Android you can use without an account, sure you can't install apps and use some services, but then you are looking at something different.
    Android have never been an open system, it has always had a store, I have said for years that MS is trying to make windows into a Mobile OS.
  • I am surprised and disappointed at this if it is true. Regarding this specific change, how does it interact with separating out an account with elevated privileges to login to when needed and keeping user accounts solely with user privileges? Will the admin account now need an attached online account, too? If so, the idea is ridiculous, and rather less secure than previously. Having Edge rammed down my throat at every opportunity - why does Microsoft want to win some pointless brower wars, for pity's sake? What is the point of it? Pride? Because they can? And a growing layer of cruft that is hard to remove (Xbox, Skype, Teams, etc.), I appreciate many find this useful or even fundamental. But many or perhaps most don't. Make it installable, rather than soldered in, please. Windows somehow seems no longer as easy to use, nor as clean as it was in some hazy days of 7 through to 10. I feel many of the OS changes in Windows are now being driven by the marketing department, which has set itself number based targets which unfortunately don't amount to anything worthwhile. That and a belief that Mac, Android or Chrome represent the epitome of modern design. Sure, take their best elements, but don't waste time on trivia.
  • What if I install from a backup? Will I need to login online to authenticate?
  • I hope they change this decision as it wasn’t popular the first time. This just made think of considering Linux and running any MS applications I might need. I already use MacOS for personal use and two reasons I use Windows is for work and gaming.
  • You can easily get around this - I have been doing it with Home Edition for some time. When you get the point where you're asked to sign in with a Microsoft Account, simply type some gibberish in the e-mail address - like b@b.com and some gibberish for the password. It will give you an error like "Oops, something went wrong" and then you create a Local Account. Problem Solved.
  • I wonder if you could just go with the Home version and upgrade to a Pro without the need of a MSA account. I think I did that with Windows 10, but unsure about Windows 11.