Microsoft has always preferred that you log into your computer using a Microsoft Account, and it’s become increasingly difficult to avoid. Instead of offering an option to create a local user account on a new PC, Microsoft now pushes you to log in with a Microsoft Account—with seemingly no option to create a local one. There is, however, a workaround.
This has made headlines on and off again over the past year or two, and while Microsoft has been playing down local accounts for a while, the method by which it does so has changed with each new version. While a Microsoft Account does have its advantages—like being able to sync your settings between PCs—some people would prefer not to link their account to the cloud. Here’s what we can deduce from our own testing using the latest Windows 10 installer.
If You Have Windows 10 Home
If you install the latest version of Windows 10 Home—version 2004, aka the May 2020 Update—on a new PC, you will be prompted to log in with a Microsoft Account at the end of the setup process. Unlike some older versions of the installer, we saw no visible option to create a local account on our test machine.
If you click Learn More, Microsoft will recommend that you sign in with a Microsoft Account, then remove it from the Settings app later, which is not exactly ideal.
There was only one workaround that allowed us to create a local account in our testing: disconnect from the internet. You can do this by choosing I don’t have internet during Wi-Fi setup, by unplugging the Ethernet cable, or by putting your laptop in Airplane Mode using a hardware switch (if your laptop has this option—mine had it on a function key in the top row).
In the case of Wi-Fi, this will present you with a small button in the corner that says Continue with Limited Setup. If you unplugged the Ethernet cable, you should be able to press the back button on the account-creation page, at which point you’ll be greeted with a new screen that allows you to create a local account.
Once you’ve finished the setup process, you can reconnect to the internet after being dumped to the Windows 10 desktop.
If You Have Windows 10 Pro
In tests with Windows 10 Pro—using the latest installer available from Microsoft—I was able to click the Offline Account option in the lower left-hand corner of the screen. This will, however, present you with another screen convincing you to sign in with Microsoft, and you’ll have to click the small Limited Experience button in the corner to continue with a local account.
Some users have reported that the Offline Account button doesn’t appear, instead replaced with a Domain Join button instead, which—despite its confusing wording—should also allow you to create a local account as well.
If, for some reason, these buttons aren’t available to you, you can still use the internet-disconnection workaround in the section above as well.
Some users have reported that using a fake email address or phone number to create a Microsoft Account brought up a prompt for local accounts, but this didn’t work in our testing. Disconnecting from the internet should work in just about every situation, though, so it’s the easiest way to bypass Microsoft’s insistence on an online account.
It’s disappointing to see Microsoft take such a strong-arm approach to Windows setup. It was one thing to stuff the local account option under a link in the corner; it’s another thing entirely to hide it from users. That’s just hostile.