Internet connection now required for Windows 11 Pro Insider setup

No more local accounts on bleeding-edge build, and you need a Microsoft account too

Microsoft has slapped an internet connectivity requirement on the Dev Channel version of Windows 11 Pro setup and warned that a Microsoft account will be required for future builds in the Insider programme.

The notification was dropped in at the end of the impressively long list of tweaks in build 22557, of which the most eye-catching for us was the updated Task Manager.

In all honesty, we didn't notice until we put the build on a sacrificial Intel PC and noticed something different during the out-of-box experience (OOBE). Scroll down the epic list of changes in this build, and there it is:

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.

We're not completely sure what Microsoft is playing at here; this might be something specific to the Windows Insider programme or it might be a glimpse into the future of the operating system (after all, just because something turns up in the Dev Channel, there is no guarantee it will go anywhere the mainstream version).

Making users unable to set up without an internet connection or a Microsoft account is more than a little annoying (even if the intent is as innocent as pulling down updates). This will particularly be the case for the sort of user who regularly does bare-metal installations.

There is some good news, though. It looks like a Windows 11 Insider installation already running with a local account – the workaround if you don't sign in with a Microsoft account – will keep ticking over, and the requirement will only be for personal use, which means that users running a corporate account shouldn't be affected.

However, the move is still odd. We can set up a sacrificial Apple Mac with a local account, for example. The more exotic macOS services do require one to sign in, but this isn't required to get to a desktop. But Windows 11, it seems, is moving in a different direction. While there is much to be gained from a Microsoft account (access to OneDrive and such like), forcing it upon users leaves a bad taste.

We contacted Microsoft to better understand its thinking behind the change, but the company has yet to respond. In the meantime, this change is currently limited to the Dev Channel of the Windows Insider programme. As with all things Dev Channel, it may never reach non-Insiders. ®

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