Future Windows 11 Pro releases will annoyingly mandate Microsoft account login during Setup
Microsoft released Windows 11 Build 22557 to the Dev Channel yesterday with a slew of new features including Start Menu folders, drag and drag support for the taskbar, new touch gestures, updated Task Manager, system-wide live captions, and more. In the midst of all these developments, a potentially unwelcome and frustrating change missed most people's attention.
So far, only Windows 11 Home required mandatory sign-in with a Microsoft account during Setup whereas Pro and Enterprise users could make do with a local account. Now, Microsoft notes that even Windows 11 Pro users will require signing-in with a Microsoft account to complete setup. This means your PC will have to be connected to the internet just to get the OS up and running after a fresh installation.
According to Microsoft,
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."
Contrast this with setting up macOS with a local account or even running Chrome OS as a guest, and you can quickly understand why this can soon become an annoying experience. When this change becomes public, Windows 11 Enterprise will probably be the only version that can allow local account creation during Setup. It is not clear if this change also applies to Windows 11 Pro for Workstations.
While this is unlikely to affect in-place upgrades from a previous installation or domain-joined PCs, it can be quite a hassle for those who constantly perform fresh installations often without access to a network. Also, this mandate can be a royal pain in the you-know-where for users who would not prefer syncing their new installation with existing cloud settings when setting up everything from scratch. We do expect some nifty workarounds for this, but their effectiveness down the line is anyone's guess at this point.
Changes in the Dev Channel usually end up in upcoming major releases of the OS, but finalized features may also make their way to public builds via cumulative updates. For now, the current public builds of Windows 11 Pro will continue to offer local account setup as usual.