Logging In with Local vs. Microsoft Credentials

by Barry Dysert
(last updated November 28, 2016)

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If you've been using Windows 10 for a while, you may have experienced a surprise when logging in. I'm talking about the realization that suddenly you were being prompted to login using your Microsoft username and password instead of the local username and password that had been serving you fine for weeks. Unbeknownst to you, you got switched over to using a Microsoft account automatically – usually the first time you login to the Windows Store.

Personally, I find this behavior very unsettling despite there being some advantages associated with being logged in under your Microsoft account. (For example, synchronizing settings among different PCs; easy access to the Microsoft Store; personalized Bing search engine and MSN; free online storage via One Drive; etc.) Nevertheless, the unannounced automatic switchover to a Microsoft account is a little too Orwellian for me. So out of spite more than anything else, I wanted to switch back to my local account. If you want to learn how to switch back and forth between your local account and your Microsoft account, read on.

Go to Start | Settings and click on Accounts. You'll see a window similar to the following: (See Figure 1.)

Figure 1. Windows Account Settings.

You can see from the figure that I'm currently logged in using my local account, but the option is there to let me sign in with my Microsoft account. Go ahead and click the link "Sign In with a Microsoft Account Instead." You'll then be presented with a screen like this: (See Figure 2.)

Figure 2. Signing in to a Microsoft account, step 1.

Enter your Microsoft email address and the associated password, and click Sign In. You're then prompted for your current (local) Windows password. (See Figure 3.)

Figure 3. Signing in to a Microsoft account, step 2.

Enter your current Windows password and click Next. One more window will appear asking you to set a PIN. You can skip that. Now, without any fanfare or other windows to click through, you are now logged in under your Microsoft account. To verify this, again click Start | Settings and then click Accounts. (See Figure 4.)

Figure 4. Account settings when signed in under your Microsoft account.

As you can see, the settings here are different from what they were before. (I have redacted my Microsoft email account, which would appear directly under my name.) Note also that there's a link near the bottom to "Sign in with a local account instead".

You can continue working on your PC as before, except now you have access to the benefits mentioned earlier (synchronization, One Drive, etc.). Should you wish to return to using your local account, you do so by clicking the "Sign in with a local account instead" link. This leads you through a short wizard (be aware of what passwords are being asked for) and a reminder to save your work because this time you will be signed out and you'll have to login again. When you're presented with the login screen, enter your local Windows password and you're back in business.

 This tip (668) applies to Windows 10.

Author Bio

Barry Dysert

Barry has been a computer professional for over 30 years, working in different positions such as technical team leader, project manager, and software developer.  He is currently a senior software engineer with an emphasis on developing custom applications under Microsoft Windows. ...

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What is five minus 0?

2016-11-28 12:00:37

Henry Noble

The typical Windows 10 setup process makes it difficult for novices to avoid creating a cloud login. We understand why Microsoft wants to capture users in its world (as do Apple and Google), but its tactics are user-hostile.
Setup should give users a clear description of the sign-in options and make the choices obvious.
Because I use Windows 10 differently on phone, tablet, and desktop, it is unclear to me why synchronization of settings is desirable.
Your mileage may vary.


2016-11-28 09:22:32

Robert Henshaw

I wished I had seen or known this sooner. I recently bought a laptop with windows 10. What is a real problem is when you don't have internet access and I didn't initially create a pin number.

I worked from home most of the time but sometimes I have to work onsite. I didn't know my microsoft account password, only the local signon. It caused a real problem for me since my worksite is 90 miles from home.

I think HP should at leaset include with their getting started flyer instructions about this issue


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