Microsoft Made Major Setup Changes in Windows 10 Version 1909

Posted on November 19, 2019 by Paul Thurrott in Windows 10 with 37 Comments

Windows 10 version 1909 is, by all accounts, a very minor update. But there is one major change, at least for Windows 10 Home users. And it’s something you’ll only experience during the Out of Box Experience (OOBE) phase of Setup.

For those unfamiliar, Windows 10 Setup is split into two main sections, an offline interactive setup sequence (which businesses can automate via scripting and other tools) and the Out of Box Experience (OOBE), an interactive wizard for the customer. If you clean install Windows 10 using USB install media, you’ll have to deal with both parts of Setup. But if you buy a new PC or use Reset this PC (or other Windows 10 recovery tools), you will only need to deal with the OOBE.

And the OOBE has changed in Windows 10. It’s changed in somewhat minor ways for Windows 10 Pro users. And in one major way for Windows 10 Home users.

Indeed, I’m still trying to figure out how to handle these changes in the Windows 10 Field Guide, as I’ll need to update this book in some way. The issue is that the OOBE previously allowed individuals installing Windows 10 Pro and Home for personal use to choose between a Microsoft account and a local account (or what Setup called an “offline account”) during Setup.

Now, however, these two product editions handle this part of the OOBE differently.

Windows 10 Pro still lets you choose between a Microsoft account and a local account, and the “Sign in with Microsoft” screen hasn’t changed; if you would prefer to use a local account, you must click the subtle “Offline account” link in the bottom left.

What’s changed is that when you select this link, the OOBE shifts into a new “Limited experience” setup after prompting you with a new screen to once again reconsider and just use a Microsoft account already.

If you do accept this limited experience setup, you’ll be prompted to create a local account username and, optionally, a password. Then, you will see a more limited number of configuration choices than you would with a Microsoft account: You’re prompted about activity history (Timeline), your digital assistant (Cortana), and your privacy settings only.

The changes to Windows 10 Home Setup are more profound.

First, you’ll have to deal with Cortana scatting and screeching her way into your eardrums: Microsoft removed the pointless “Welcome” part of Setup in which you must sit through a painful Cortana monologue from Windows 10 Pro. But it’s still there in Windows 10 Home.

Worse, unlike with Windows 10 Pro, you are no longer even offered that “Offline account” link when you get to the “Sign in with Microsoft” screen: If you connected to a network previously in the OOBE, that option will not appear.

The key, of course, is to not connect to a network if you intend to create a local account. (I recommend creating a local account during Setup for a variety of reasons, even if you intend to later convert it to a Microsoft account.) And if you don’t connect to a network, Setup will, of course, bleat at you about that, too.

But the good news is, once you get by that—by choosing the so-called “limited experience” noted by the link at the bottom left—you can simply sign-in with a local account.

After that, you’ll be prompted with the same three configuration steps—activity history (Timeline), your digital assistant (Cortana), and your privacy settings—as we see with Windows 10 Pro.

But there is one more change.

If you don’t configure a network during OOBE but later do connect to a network, Windows 10 Home (or Pro, though this is more likely to happen with Home) will suddenly prompt you to complete the OOBE steps that were previously hidden from you because you had chosen an “offline” (or “limited”) Setup experience.

And yes, it’s Setup again, back from the dead.

That was never the case with previous Windows 10 versions. And you can just cancel it if you want, thankfully: Just select “Skip for now.”

Together, these changes represent a major shift from previous Windows 10 versions, especially if you’re using Windows 10 Home. You might view this as a “Microsoft giveth, Microsoft taketh away” moment since the software giant recently relented on its terrible policy of not letting Windows 10 Home users delay software updates, only to turn around and now prevent most Home users from even considering a local account.

More to the point, if you’re installing Windows 10 Home and do wish to use a local account, just be sure to not configure a network when prompted.

Finally, I had hoped to update the Window 10 Field Guide before posting about this, but figuring out how to squeeze this information into an already-dense installation chapter is proving a bit frustrating. I’ll get that updated as soon as possible.

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