Microsoft makes it difficult — but not impossible — to run Windows 8.1 without a Microsoft account.
There are ways around Redmond’s demands, but only if you know the right path. Plus, solving other problems with the Win8.1 upgrade.
As anyone who has upgraded to Windows 8 — and now Windows 8.1 — knows, Microsoft really wants you to have a Microsoft account. There are, of course, good reasons to sign in to Windows 8/8.1 with a Microsoft account. It can, for example, automatically sign you in to SkyDrive, Mail, the Windows Store, and other online accounts. And there are less obvious but still important reasons.
For example, I recently had to refresh a Dell tablet running Windows 8.1 RT. Unfortunately, I didn’t know that the machine had Windows’ BitLocker encryption enabled. I also didn’t know initially that Microsoft had automatically saved the BitLocker key to SkyDrive. Simply signing in with my Microsoft account let me safely refresh the system and keep all my files. I did not have to disable BitLocker, as recommended in various blogs such as Felipe Binotto’s post, “Refreshing a BitLocker enabled computer.”
On the other hand, there are times when you want to run Windows without a Microsoft account — for example, when you want to ensure that users save their files locally or limit access to cloud-based services. You might also have concerns about privacy. When you sign in with an MS account, Microsoft can track searches on your PC. (See the section, “Some Windows 8.1 ‘features’ best avoided,” in the Sept. 19 Top Story.)
For whatever reason, you can create a local account that doesn’t require an MS account username and password.
In Windows 8, Microsoft made the process of setting up and using local accounts somewhat obtuse and complicated. It’s especially confusing when upgrading from Win8 to Version 8.1; you must agree to set up an MS account, even though you want to keep your existing local account.