Microsoft Made Major Setup Changes in Windows 10 Version 1909

Posted on November 19, 2019 by Paul Thurrott in Windows 10 with 38 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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Comments (38)

38 responses to “Microsoft Made Major Setup Changes in Windows 10 Version 1909”

  1. djross95

    You must have the patience of a saint, Paul... :-)

  2. IanYates82

    It took me 20 minutes the other day to find where to domain-join a fresh Windows 10 Enterprise 1909 install... That setting has moved in every single Windows 10 release, getting pushed further and further behind popups and misleading windows/prompts. I get why they're trying to drive the cloud adoption thing, but it wouldn't hurt to still make the option quite prominent - put it next to the link/button you click to join to Azure AD... Someone doing that work is *very* likely to know the difference and would appreciate the distinction.

  3. Jarrett Kaufman (TurboFool)

    I'm rather confused at what's changed. This precisely describes the behavior in 1903. I setup Windows 10 computers on a regular basis and every single issue you described is how 1903 operated. No visible Offline Account option whatsoever unless you don't connect to a network, and it instantly prompts you to try to get you to setup a Microsoft Account the moment you do connect to the network later. I've been going through this for many months now. I think you somehow missed this prior.

    • robinwilson16

      In reply to TurboFool:

      Yes same here when installing 1903 Home. I don't think it happened initially but seemed to change at some point although I install Pro more often so I suppose it's possible it's always been that way since 1903 released and I just didn't notice.

      I usually forget and connect to the network and then have to unplug the router so it will let me create a local account - very annoying. Doesn't cover the scenario that you may be fixing the PC for someone else and not have their Microsoft account details.

  4. JaviAl

    With Windows 7, with a Local Account, i have a full complete experience and all full features of the OS instead of the limited experience and limited features with Windows 10 with a Local Account.

  5. codymesh

    so...I guess Microsoft has gone 90% chromebook in their setup experience then

  6. justme

    I tend to take the view that this is heavy-handed (credit - Paul's phrase, but I like it) on Microsoft's part. Having just run the OOBE on a Home version of Windows for the first time in a while (1809->1903->1909), I have to say - I dislike it. I wouldnt mind if the option were there to use an MSA or not and I had a *clear* choice, but you dont. As ever, to get setup to act the way you want, you have to come up with a workaround. I see this as Microsoft chivvying you into their way of doing things whether you want to initially or not.

  7. fourbadcats

    Thank you for the timely writeup of this! I anticipate needing to know this with the family IT support needed in the coming holiday season.

  8. madthinus

    The limited setup and prompt for more oobe after you run it without network is not new in 1909. That was there in 1903 already. It also ask you at that time to switch to an Microsoft account.

  9. Greg Green

    Are loot boxes next? Need to save a file, buy a loot box for the File-Save option. Or optionally send a friend’s user data to Microsoft and get the loot box for free.

    It’s like a divorce custody battle as to who gets the PC, me or MS. MS has custody and I get limited visitation right to my own PC.

  10. ebraiter

    Odd. I started an upgrade from Win 7 to Win 120 on Sunday for someone. I walked away once the installation began [percentage screen]. Told the guy I'd come back in about an hour - instead of twiddling my fingers. He called about 40 minutes later saying there was a message on the screen. Something like:

    "Please remove the media used. Press Yes if you want to upgrade or No if you a fresh install."

    • Matt Kelly

      In reply to ebraiter:

      That can happen if you've used the USB media to perform the update from Win 7 to Win 10. The trick is to yank the media as it restarts after that initial installation screen. Sometimes things need a babysit for the best outcome.

  11. Patrick3D

    With Pro just use "Set up for an organization" and choose the domain join option instead, it will immediately prompt for a local username and password to be created and move on with the wizard. It doesn't require the system to be domain joined during the OOBE.

  12. prettyconfusd

    I'll admit that the determination to have a local account with Windows 10, especially for home users, continues to confuse me. My family IT support requests have gone down exponentially since I started logging them in and setting them up using their MSA - everything is backed up via OneDrive and synced and it's so much easier to deal with if they do any damage to their PC or when they get a new one - just sign in and done - everything's back.

    So much less configuration and so much less support required, from my experience of the past five years and far more family and friends than I can think of, anyway.

    For my needs it works better too as I pay for Office 365 so sign in and everything just works.

    And at work, I've got everyone signing in using their AAD accounts and again, support requests have gone down since that happened.

    I'm sure individuals here must have good reasons for sticking with local accounts so if anyone is willing to share their reasons I'd love to hear them and try to understand them, genuinely - I'm not being snarky, could be part of the puzzle I'm missing! :)

  13. RobertJasiek

    @prettyconfusd: The major reasons for no MS account and no OneDrive are: privacy, data protection, compliance with EU and German privacy and data protection laws, independence from MS servers, no requirement for always having to be online even when the internet is unavailable, independence from usage terms for MS account and OneDrive, unaffected by arbitrary MS decisions disabling services or softwares linked to MS account or OneDrive (just today, I have read somebody experiencing a killed Office license because access to his MS account was killed because the MS account itself was killed by MS), avoiding MS's preemptive identification of alleged crimes motivating police arrests and investigations, avoiding US servers, avoiding access by US secret services and gouvernment agencies etc. to MS servers in the USA and likely elsewhere in the world, better security by not involving MS accounts, OneDrive and related servers, avoiding telemetry affecting MS account data, avoiding telemetry affecting OneDrive, cleaner Windows installation, better security during the Windows installation and configuration etc.

  14. doon

    Based on my experience(s) with Windows updates, I can tell you that, in my house, OOBE means "Out of Body Experience". Which is what these updates have turned into for me. And while I'm not certain, I think I have figured out what's going on with MS: It's a little like that Stephen King story, the world is disappearing behind us. (Run to next OS! get new hardware!)

    They seem to be sun-setting support for older software and hardware as they update the OS. I know this because I have, on various occasions, replaced the SSD, the video card, and the wireless card, in addition to numerous firmware and driver updates. And all of this effort to get an OS that I never asked for, to work properly. And I already have a Microsoft account. What are these people thinking about? This process needs to be waaaayyy more seamless. Or I need the option to pass on the "improvements".

    I left the Apple galaxy of fandom (at a dead run) primarily because they charge too much, and routinely turn their backs on their customers (keyboards anybody?). And I get that older hardware and software eventually needs replaced but I'm running a Core-i7, it's not that old!

    Over the weekend, I heard Leo Laporte say to wait as long as possible to update to 1909. Yikes!

  15. kawaidon

    I experienced this for the first time today. I did a clean install for a friend on his laptop, and decided to log in using my Hotmail account. Then, once I had completed setup, I changed to a local account only and removed my Hotmail account. That worked fine - except that my Hotmail profile picture stayed. So, still some awkwardness.

  16. RobertJasiek

    Paul, how not to connect to a network on the Sign in with Microsoft page? Simply click Next?

    Microsoft is cheating and disgusting again.

    • CobolPgmr

      In reply to RobertJasiek:

      Or just unplug the network cable before starting setup

    • Paul Thurrott

      In reply to RobertJasiek:

      The network sign-in page is before the "Sign in with Microsoft" page in Setup.

    • lvthunder

      In reply to RobertJasiek:

      How is that cheating and disgusting? Try to setup a phone without an account from the OS manufacturer. No one complains about that.

      • RobertJasiek

        In reply to lvthunder:

        Cheating during the process:

        • They create an impression of the internet only becoming available if setting up an MS account.
        • They try very hard to let the user overlook his option towards a local account, although it ought to be the preferred option because an MS account provides extra, optional things not everybody needs.
        • They leave it unclear whether one can change between local and MS account after the setup process.


        • This promotion for an MS account is tied to extra commercial MS services, such as Office. From the legal consequences in the USA and the EU of the browser war and recent EU anti-trust actions, MS knows that such behaviour violates anti-trust and fair competition laws. MS demonstrates that it has learnt nothing from history.
        • Unnecessarily, the setup process is by far too long and complicated.
        • Recently, MS has been making Windows 10 somewhat more consumer-friendly. Now, as soon as they have rebuilt some scope of reputatition, they use it to fall back into consumer-hurting behaviourable patterns.

        Phones with other OS manufacturers:

        • Bad behaviour by others is never justifcation for bad behaviour by someone.
        • I do also complain about other manufacturers and do not buy an Android or iOS phone also because of similar disgusting practices by their (OS) manufacturers.


        • Yes, unplugging the network cable is the first thing I do before installing Windows.


        • Thanks for the explanation and keeping track of the local account during setups!
    • Winner

      In reply to RobertJasiek:

      Microsoft is cheating and disgusting again.

      Again? When did that ever change in the first place?

  17. chump2010

    I wonder if this will end up as another scandal that people will blast Microsoft for. To me it seems clear, that Microsoft is trying to pressure users to setup an online account, in order to get your data. We, the users, are now the product that Microsoft is selling. I am not sure how many people would be happy with that.

    I assume what will happen is what always happens. Microsoft creates bad options in Windows. Users create an outcry. Microsoft retreat and change said option back to the way it was, and try to claim it is a new and profound way of doing things.

  18. Winner

    Just more Microsoft OS trying to force you to practically beg not to use their online services. The same behavior that started when they coerced and then misled customers to upgrade from Win 7/8 to 10 against their will.

    Just remember that you are their captive product and they are dying to get more money out of you.

    Such a great OS that you got to upgrade to for FREEEEEE!!!!!!!!

  19. Matthew Burkhart

    I ran into this over the weekend, another way to get around it is to put in fake info for the MSA sign-in. Once it realizes it can't authenticate it'll prompt you to set up a local account. This avoids the problem of plugging back into the network and being hit with setup again.

  20. SWCetacean

    I wouldn't mind signing into a Microsoft account by default if only they allowed you to choose what the name of the local account was. I don't want my local user directory to be named after the first 5 letters of my email address. Like I wouldn't mind it if they used your first name from the Microsoft account, or the entire part of the address before the @, or even first.last. But naming the user directory after the first 5 letters and having no way to change it is the annoying part for me.

  21. brettscoast

    Thanks for the heads up there Paul these are indeed changes that are noteworthy and bear closer inspection. Your advice about setting up a local account and then configuring your Microsoft account later makes sense to me especially when setting up a new PC.

  22. canamrotax

    I have to endure this nonsense on every PC I repair in my shop. I always create local accounts for my customers, if they convert to a MSA at home, that's up to them. I hope this workaround continues to be available.

  23. duncandai

    How can i use wsim answer file skip oobe stage when i install windows 10 pro 1909 and have not network ?

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