There are many elements of Windows 8.1 that are tied to a Microsoft account. You can log in to Windows 8.1 using a Local account, but when you do so you lose much of the syncing and integration that make Windows 8.1 useful–especially when you’re using a Surface Pro 3 as a tablet as opposed to a Windows PC.
I wrote about the options for logging in to Windows 8.1 for today’s post in the 30 Days with Surface Pro 3 series:
You might have noticed that the series isn’t called “30 Days with Windows 8.1”. The focus of today’s post, however, is Windows 8.1 because—just as it was when I reviewed the original Surface Pro—how you choose to log in to the Windows 8.1 operating system affects your Surface Pro 3 experience as well.
Local vs. Microsoft Account
When you create a new user account in Windows 8.1 you can choose to set it up as a Local account, or using a Microsoft account profile. Microsoft assumes—and strongly recommends—that you will use the Microsoft account.
A Local account stores your username and password only on the local PC. If you use a different Windows PC it will have no knowledge of the Local profile on your PC, and you won’t be able to log in. If you prefer a Local account you have to click “Sign in without a Microsoft account”, and click through a confirmation screen.
I agree with Microsoft, though. Much of the value of Windows 8.1—and in particular the value it brings to the Surface Pro 3—is a function of logging in using a Microsoft account. When you do so you gain integrated access to OneDrive cloud storage, and your desktop settings, apps, and other account features are synced online so you can log in to a similar experience from any Windows 8.1 system.