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Windows 11 Pro will force you to create a Microsoft Account

Published Feb 18th, 2022 7:31AM EST
Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio
Image: Christian de Looper for BGR

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Microsoft is planning a significant change for the Windows 11 Pro version of its latest PC operating system release. The company will now force users to create a Microsoft Account and have an active internet connection when they set up a Windows 11 Pro computer.

Microsoft disclosed the new requirements in the release notes of a new Windows 11 Insider Preview version that beta users can test. Making the Microsoft Account mandatory for activating a Windows 11 Pro might not seem like such a big deal in a world where you need similar accounts to use other operating systems. But the decision is already seeing some backlash online, as Microsoft makes its Account mandatory.

Apple and Google have user accounts that are quite handy at managing the various apps, preferences, and cloud services across devices. But you can still choose to set up an Apple or Google account at your own convenience when activating an iPhone, iPad, Mac, Android, or Chrome device. Some device functionality might be limited without logging into an account with either company. But you can activate devices.

You can then use these devices without having those accounts, and there might be people who prefer it that way. Even if that means not getting the most of an operating system like iOS or Android.

That’s what makes Microsoft’s decision to mandate Accounts for Windows 11 Pro so strange. If anything, it’s really mobile devices that benefit the most from user accounts. But it’s different on a desktop, especially Windows. The PC experience doesn’t depend on having access to any Microsoft app and services tied to an account.

The Windows 11 Pro Microsoft Account requirement

Microsoft doesn’t explain the decision to mandate Microsoft Accounts for Windows 11 Pro. But the change mimics the Windows 11 Home behavior. Here’s what Microsoft says about it in the Windows 11 Insider Preview 22557 changelog:

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.

The change will not impact users who have Windows configured with a local account. Or those people who already log into Windows using their Microsoft Accounts. If you rely on other Microsoft products, such as the Microsoft 365 suite, you already have a Microsoft Account. You also need one for the Microsoft Store on Windows 11 and the Xbox.

Microsoft Accounts aren’t bad

That’s to say there are benefits to managing all your Microsoft products, including Windows 11 Pro or Home, via a Microsoft Account. And Windows 11 Home has the same requirement in place.

But it’s still annoying to see Microsoft pushing its Account so aggressively without explaining why it’s doing it.

Getting more people to sign up for accounts might help Microsoft sell more software and services. It’ll help the company advertise products like Microsoft 365, Xbox games, cloud storage, and other apps. It’ll also help Microsoft collect more user data, as the Microsoft Account also handles Edge, Bing, and Cortana access.

The good news in all of this is that you don’t have to pay a subscription to get Windows 11 Pro. And you can create a local account after activating a new computer.

Hopefully, Microsoft will explain the change in future updates. The company can also change its mind and make the Microsoft Account optional during activation.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.