Windows 11 will soon force everyone to have a Microsoft account

Windows 11
(Image credit: Microsoft)

Update: Microsoft may be preparing to add ads to File Explorer in Windows 11

Windows 11 appears poised to get a bit more restrictive, as Microsoft is in the process of releasing an update that will eliminate the option for Windows 11 Pro owners to install the operating system without logging into a Microsoft account. 

This matters to anyone who wants to install Windows 11 on a PC without having to worry about connecting to the Internet or giving Microsoft more personal info than necessary. Windows 11 Home has required owners to create or log into a Microsoft account in order to finish the installation process, but those of us who don't enjoy that requirement had the option of paying extra for the Pro edition, which doesn't have that requirement.

However, the preview build of Windows 11 (Build 22557) that Microsoft issued to Windows Insiders on the Dev Channel this week includes a note that from here on out, Windows 11 Pro users will be bound by the same Microsoft Account requirements as the rest of us Windows 11 Home users.

Windows 11 start menu

Setting up a fresh Windows 11 install is about to become a bit more of a hassle for Pro users. (Image credit: Microsoft)

"Similar to Windows 11 Home edition, Windows 11 Pro edition now requires internet connectivity during the initial device setup (OOBE) only," reads an excerpt of the Windows Insider blog post Microsoft published alongside this Dev Channel build. "You can expect [a] Microsoft Account to be required in subsequent WIP [Windows Insider Program] flights."

This is a small but unwelcome change that's likely to upset many Windows 11 customers. It's not just irritating to those of us who value privacy and anonymity in our personal computing, either; I spend a lot of time installing and reinstalling Windows 11 Home for work, and I've found it deeply frustrating to have to log in with my Microsoft account every time. 

Worse, it can cause serious roadblocks when trying to reinstall Windows 11 on a problematic laptop. If the PC you're installing Windows 11 on doesn't have an Ethernet port and lacks the appropriate Wi-Fi drivers, you're going to have a very tough time installing the necessary software on it without being able to log into Windows. It can be done, but I don't recommend it, and now Microsoft appears ready to force those types of Windows 11 headaches onto its Pro userbase.

Windows 11 changes

It's not all bad news — we're also getting folders in the Pinned Apps section of the Start menu, just like iOS and Android. (Image credit: Microsoft)

However, this Windows 11 Insider build isn't all doom and gloom. It also includes a slew of new features for Windows 11 testers, including a big Start menu upgrade to save you time by letting you add folders to its pinned app section. The Task Manager is also getting a slick redesign that adds some new functionality (including a much-needed dark mode), plus there are some new gesture controls for those who use it with a touchscreen.

Note that features appearing in Dev Channel builds may well never make it to the Windows 11 proper, so there's a chance Microsoft could reverse course on this controversial decision. Who knows, it may even see sense and start allowing anyone to install Windows 11 with just a local account, eliminating the requirement that you have an Internet connection to use Windows.

Moving to Windows 11 might be worth all this fuss, as it could get tabs for the File Explorer in the next major update. 

Alex Wawro
Senior Editor Computing

Alex Wawro is a lifelong tech and games enthusiast with more than a decade of experience covering both for outlets like Game Developer, Black Hat, and PC World magazine. A lifelong PC builder, he currently serves as a senior editor at Tom's Guide covering all things computing, from laptops and desktops to keyboards and mice. 

  • RickyO
    That one's going to bite them in the seat of the pants. People will just not update. Not well thought through; and why would they pick a fight with their installed base/ Sounds like something Putin would do.

    We bought v.10.0.22000 for a new graphics workstation we built. We have far too many problems with Search/Indexing and Indexing when an external backup drive is attached; don't need to have to lose more billable time dealing with MS' registration nonsense.