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Should You Use a Microsoft Account on Windows 10

Find out if you should use a Microsoft account or a local account on your new Windows 10 laptop.

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Should You Use a Microsoft Account on Windows 10

With the release of Windows 8 and continuing with Windows 10, Microsoft introduced a new type of account – the Microsoft Account.  This was yet another type of account you could use to sign on to your computer, and it was designed to make things easier.  So fast forward to today and now we have two types of accounts that can be used to sign on to your Windows 10 PC – a local account and a Microsoft account.  But which do you use?  Should you opt for the new Microsoft account or just stick with a local account when setting up your PC?

These new options are actually great, but whether or not you choose to use them really depends on your particular situation.  Knowing and understanding both types of accounts and the benefits and drawbacks of both will help you decide which account you will use.  Today we will explore both types of accounts and why each one of them has their place in the world of the Windows desktop.  Once you understand the differences, you should be able to make the right decision for your current or future laptop purchase.

First, let’s begin by talking a little about each one and then we will move a little more in depth on each so you can make the right account choice for your computer.

Types of Accounts

There are two main types of accounts on your PC running Windows 8 or Windows 10.  They are:

  • Local Account – A local account is an account that is unique to that particular PC. If you go to another machine you have in your home, that account will not be there unless you set one up just like it on that machine.
  • Microsoft Account – A Microsoft account is an account setup online through Microsoft that can be added to each computer running Windows 10 or Windows 8. This account only has to be setup once and then each device can be linked to the account.

A Closer Look

Now let’s take a closer look at each account and what they can and can’t provide for you when you choose them as your account type of choice.

Local Account

First, let’s begin with the local account.  This is the type of account that many of you will be most familiar with, as it is the account type that Windows has historically used for many years now.

A local account is setup on each individual PC separately, meaning no two PC’s are truly alike.  Nothing gets synced online or to the cloud in this setup and backups of your data and settings have to be done manually.  These accounts are perfect to use if you don’t want to sync across multiple devices or you aren’t worried about automatic backups of your settings.  They are great in business environments, especially small business, who don’t have a full domain running Active Directory on their machines but they want to make sure their business stays separated from Microsoft in every way possible.

Microsoft Account

And now let’s examine a little more closely the Microsoft Account.   This is a relatively new account created by Microsoft when they introduced Windows 8 and their line of tablets.  Microsoft realized that people would want an easy way to sync their documents and settings across their laptops, desktops and even their tablets and smartphones.  So, the Microsoft account was born.  In this setup, you create an account at Microsoft and link it to your PC.  You use that account to log on and it records many of your settings and will even help you backup and sync your data if you want it to do that.  How much it does and doesn’t do is up to you.

This setup makes it easy for anyone to sync up all their devices with just a few clicks and is really handy if you need to switch to a new laptop or desktop because one fails or you just did an upgrade.  Think of it as a central hub for all your settings.  With just a few clicks, your favorite apps and data can easily be synced onto a new device without you having to spend hours manually backing up and then reinstalling on a new device.

Choosing the Right One For Your Needs

Now that we know what each one does, it is time to look at which one is right for you.  Now, this can be the most difficult part of the process and sometimes it is hard to decide which one is the choice.

Who Should Choose a Local Account

So who should go with a local account?  Let’s take a look at a few situations where a local account just makes sense.

  1. Users with One Machine – If you just have one machine, the need for a Microsoft account is pretty low, as one of the main benefits are the sync features. It is simpler and easy to setup so you can start using your laptop much faster.
  2. Businesses – Small businesses that make use Windows machines but don’t have a full domain with Active Directory can make good use out of a local account, especially if they don’t want Microsoft poking their nose into their machines.
  3. Security Concerns – If what you do requires that you uphold the tightest security possible, a local account is definitely the better choice to make. In a local account, the account is unique to only that one computer, making it more difficult for hackers to get ahold of your account without you knowing.

Who Should Go With a Microsoft Account

Now that we see the benefits of the local account, let’s take a look at the newer account type.

  1. Users with Multiple Devices – So many of us have multiple devices today. If you have multiple Microsoft devices, such as multiple computers, tablets or even a smartphone, using a Microsoft account just makes sense.  With it you can sync all your data and settings across all your devices so you can easily access them from anywhere you go.
  2. Backup and Restore – If you want to make sure our data and settings are backed up and easy to restore if something happens to your laptop or desktop, then a Microsoft account makes it very easy. All you have to do is sign up and use the account on your computer and your work is done.
  3. One Account – Users who want only one account for everything they do with Microsoft will make great use out of a Microsoft account. It gives you one account that you can use across all your devices and if you need to load a new laptop, all you have to do is enter your account and wait.
  4. Home Users – In many ways, using a Microsoft account just makes sense especially if you are a home user who subscribes to some of Microsoft’s software on a monthly basis. With this one account, you can easily sync everything including your software so you never have to worry about what is loaded on your laptop ever again.

Can You Switch Later?

One of the biggest questions about accounts are can you switch between the two or opt to go with one or the other later.  The answer to that is most definitely yes.  If you start with a local account, you can always transform that account later to a Microsoft account by linking it with your existing Microsoft account.  On the other hand, if you are using a Microsoft account but want to switch to a local account, you will have to create a new account locally on that machine and then begin logging in on that account.  While not as easy to do, it is every bit as effective.  No matter what, you aren’t locked into your decision so if you find that you would prefer to log in with a different type of account, that can always be arranged.  So don’t be afraid of making the wrong choice when you begin setting up your new Windows 10 laptop.

Final Thoughts

Well there you have it.  We have covered everything I believe concerning both types of accounts.  My hope is that once you understand these differences, you can choose the account that works best for you.  Now I will say, I love using the Microsoft account.  It just makes life easier and everything will just work.  Even if you switch machines, all your account details can easily transfer between your home pc or your travel laptop.  Still, there are situations where a local account just makes much more sense.  In the end, there is nothing wrong with either account choice.  It all comes down to choice and how you use your machine.

Regardless of what type of account you choose, make sure you always select a password that is very secure.  Avoid common words and plain text that can be easily hacked or stolen from you.  Make sure you select passwords that use a combination of upper and lower case letters, symbols and numbers, and the longer the better.  The more secure your password, the safer it will be.

The Microsoft Account is one of the best ways to sync all your devices together and it will make your life much easier, especially if you have to reformat your hard drive or if you get a new computer.  Still, you may want to stick with a local account, especially if multiple devices or worry about reformatting doesn’t really apply to you.

So what do you think?  Which account type do you prefer to use on your computer running Windows 10 or Windows 8?  Let me know which you prefer in the comments below.

By Matt Garrett

Matt is an IT professional with over fifteen years experience supporting network infrastructure and computers. An avid gamer, Matt enjoys his time playing and writing about his experiences both in the IT world and in the gaming communities. You can find more of his writing on our sister ShopNinja sites where he enjoys talking about anything and everything tech.

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