New Windows 11 Pro Edition Installs May Require Microsoft Accounts
Microsoft this week offered a hint that it plans to impose a Microsoft account (MSA) requirement on new installations of the Windows 11 Pro edition.
The implied MSA requirement for out-of-the-box experience (OOBE) new installs of Windows 11 Pro can be found in this Wednesday Windows Insider program announcement. It mostly outlines some interesting and useful features in the Windows 11 preview build 22557.
However, the announcement also included the following note, toward the end:
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.
Microsoft currently requires Windows 11 Home edition users to have an Internet connection and an MSA when setting up a PC for first use. Advice on trying to set up a Home edition machine by disabling an Internet connection is available on the Web, but this attempt to avoid the MSA requirement for Home edition users isn't thought to work.
Microsoft's statement above is somewhat ambiguous because it's couched within the Windows Insider program. However, most media accounts describing it are reading the statement as saying that all Pro edition Windows 11 users now need to set up machines initially using an Internet connection and an MSA.
There are reasons to not want to use an MSA during the OOBE setup process. Some IT professionals do benchtesting of PCs, for instance, so they'll have more hoops to jump through. Some users actually may not want to connect to the Internet. Privacy issues haven't been too transparent for end users as well. A good summary of the rationales to avoid MSAs can be found in this updated ExtremeTech article.
Microsoft's statement does indicate that the MSA requirement applies to using Windows 11 Pro edition for "personal use," so possibly there will be an opt-out choice. However, Microsoft in the past has just made the whole process of using a local account with Windows 11, instead of an MSA, tricky and confusing, so getting an opt-out option would seem unlikely, or it'll involve steps baffling to everyday users.
There are also arguments for using MSAs. Their use synchronizes services and makes it easier to recover access to Microsoft's services, and they add two-factor authentication, according to Microsoft Most Valuable Professional Andre Da Costa, in this 2021 article on the Windows 11 OOBE:
A Microsoft Account provides numerous benefits such as two factor authentication, Find my device support, file syncing using OneDrive if you have multiple devices running Windows 11 or Windows 10.
Da Costa added that it's still possible to switch and use a local account after the initial OOBE setup, even for Home edition users.
Reaction to an MSA requirement for Windows 11 Pro editions didn't seem to elicit too many positive reactions. For instance, Microsoft Most Valuable Professional Sami Laiho and correspondents didn't seem too happy, per this Twitter post and thread.
Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.