Still possible, just well hidden.
Microsoft has been pushing us to use Microsoft accounts to sign in to our Windows computers for some time. In recent versions of Windows 11 setup, it appears as if there’s no choice.
While it may be well hidden and obscure, the choice is still there. And it’s not even that difficult.
I’ll show you how.
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Windows 11 with only a local account
To set up Windows 11 with only a local account, select “Set up for personal use” during setup and then “Sign in” at the Microsoft account prompt. Enter “email@example.com” (or the email address of any locked Microsoft account) as the email, type a random password, and proceed despite the error. You can then create a local account with a username, password, and security questions.
The magic incantation
Run Windows Setup (or Reset This PC) normally. At some point in the process, you’ll arrive at the following screen.
Click on Set up for personal use and then click Next. You’ll be invited to “Unlock your Microsoft experience.”
Even though this appears to be all about Microsoft accounts, click on Sign in anyway. You’ll be asked to sign in using a Microsoft account.
“Let’s add your Microsoft account”? Let’s not.
The catch is that the email address has to correspond to a Microsoft account; it just doesn’t have to be yours. In fact, it should not be. Do not enter your email address here.
Instead, enter “firstname.lastname@example.org”. Seriously. Then click on Next. You’ll be asked for a password (not shown here). Enter a few random characters and then click on Sign in. Now you’ll get an error.
The “something” that went wrong is that the account email@example.com has been locked1 because too many people — people like us, perhaps — have entered an incorrect password.
Perfect. Exactly what we want. Click Next. You’ll be asked for a name.
Here’s the magic. This is the username for your local machine account. Enter your desired username — I typed LeoN, as I typically do. Click Next.
You’ll be asked for a password. Enter a password for your new local account.
You’ll then be asked to set up three security questions for possible future account recovery. While I don’t like using security questions, it’s the only option we have here, and I recommend you set them up properly and record your answers somewhere secure.
Next, you’ll select an assortment of privacy settings, after which the setup will complete, possibly rebooting a time or two along the way.
The result? You’ve set up your machine with a local account.
And, like any initial account on a fresh setup, it’ll be administrator-capable.
Why? Why not?
Why would you want a machine with only local accounts and no Microsoft accounts?
Most of the time, you probably don’t. Using a Microsoft account gets you access to several different features, of course, but my favorite is that account recovery doesn’t require access to your machine. If you lose the password to your Microsoft account, you can reset it from any machine. Once reset, you can sign in to any PC on which you use that Microsoft account to sign in.
However, not everyone feels that way. Some feel that Microsoft is too intrusive and that using a Microsoft account gives them more access to your activities. Some feel that there’s just no reason to tie your machine to an online account of any sort just to use it. Some find local accounts simpler and easier to comprehend.
Either approach is good. (Unless, of course, you’re Microsoft with an agenda to push Microsoft accounts.)
If I had a recommendation at all, it would be this:
- Set up your machine using a Microsoft account.
- Add a local user account that is also an administrator.
Use whichever makes the most sense for you for your day-to-day work, knowing you have the other as backup.
But if you want to set up a machine completely Microsoft account-free, now you can.
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Footnotes & References
1: To be clear, any account that has been locked in this manner will do. If firstname.lastname@example.org doesn’t work, you can create a new account on another computer, fail the sign-in enough times such that the account is locked, and use that here instead.