Microsoft has annoyed some of its 900 million Windows 10 device users after apparently removing the ‘Use offline account’ as part of its effort to herd users towards its cloud-based Microsoft Account.
The offline local account is specific to one device, while the Microsoft Account can be used to log in to multiple devices and comes with the benefit of Microsoft’s recent work on passwordless authentication with Windows Hello.
The local account doesn’t require an internet connection or an email address – just a username and password that are stored on the PC. ZDNet’s Ed Bott argues the local account is inferior from a usability and security standpoint.
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But Windows 10 users are annoyed that Microsoft has hidden the local account option when setting up a new PC or reinstalling Windows 10. A user on a popular Reddit thread notes that the local account option is now invisible if the device is connected to the internet.
“Either run the setup without being connected to the internet, or type in a fake phone number a few times and it will give you the prompt to create a local account,” Froggyowns suggested as a solution.
So there is a way around the obstacle but as Reddit user Old_Traveller noted: “It’s such a dick move. I’ll never tie my main OS with an online account.”
Some users report that setting up a local account after reinstalling Windows 10 is still a visible option, but Microsoft is discouraging users from taking it.
“They changed the wording and made it sound like it was the worst choice I could make but it let me do it,” wrote ExiledLife.
Microsoft’s push against local accounts isn’t new. However, user reports suggest Microsoft may be ramping up its efforts to get everyone on a Microsoft Account.
Computerworld’s Mark Hachman wrote in July that the Windows 10 October 2018 Update 1809 made it a lot harder to create a local account.
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Windows 10 version 1809 doesn’t actually prevent users from creating a local account but it does urge users to connect the PC to the internet and doesn’t state upfront that the local account option is not displayed once it is connected. Microsoft dialed back the behavior in the Windows 10 May 2019 Update, version 1903.
But as a user on Hacker News wrote, Microsoft has changed the name of the local account option to ‘Domain join instead’, which then allows admins to create an offline account.
Windows 10 users are accusing Microsoft of employing ‘dark-pattern’ techniques to usher them off local accounts, referring to tricks on websites that software makers use to choose an option that benefits the seller.
ZDNet has contacted Microsoft about the local-account option and will update this article if it receives a response.