Windows 11 will ship in two different editions for home use

Windows 11 Pro and Windows 11 Home will each receive major feature updates just once per year, rather than twice. (Windows 11 Home in S Mode will also be available, though we haven’t tested it.) It appears that Windows 11 Pro will leave the functional differences between Windows 10 Home and Pro intact, offering features like BitLocker encryption, Hyper-V virtualization, Remote Desktop Connection, and Windows Sandbox.

Though we didn’t try out Windows 11’s Remote Desktop Connection, we confirmed that the Hyper-V virtualization capabilities worked, generally. Windows 11 was unable to find an Ubuntu ISO that Hyper-V downloaded, but it opened and installed a saved Windows 10 build just fine. Windows 11 also opens a copy of Windows 11 (rather than Windows 10) with Windows Sandbox, a nifty-though we suspect little-used-virtualized OS that you can use to surf the gray areas of the Web. In all, the reasons to upgrade (or not) to Windows 10 Pro seem to carry over into Windows 11 Pro.

There’s a significant new reason to consider Windows 11 Pro now, however. The Windows 11 Pro edition will be the only edition to allow local accounts, which Microsoft now calls “offline” accounts. Windows 11 Home requires you to initially sign in with a Microsoft account. We’ll talk about this a bit more in the next section. This potentially makes upgrading to Windows 11 a pricey hassle for people already using local accounts, however. If you own a Windows 10 Home PC, and you want nothing to do with a Microsoft account, it appears you’ll need to pay $99 to upgrade to Windows 10 Pro, and then on to Windows 11 Pro.

Windows 11’s installation experience

Both of our test PCs used an in-place upgrade to test Windows 11, which means that we didn’t get to fully experience the Windows 11 installation process, or the “out of the box experience (OOBE),” as Microsoft characterizes it. Instead, we installed the Windows 11 ISO via a virtual machine to see how that process plays out.

In general, installing Windows 11 feels very similar to installing Windows 10, though with a rather lovely, streamlined installation process guiding you throughout. For example, Microsoft eliminated overt options to install Microsoft 365, Cortana, and Your Phone during the setup process-at least as part of the setup process we tried out, anyway. Microsoft has tried out “personalized” setup processes before, which means that yours may be slightly different.

The most significant change is the elimination of local or “offline” accounts within Windows 10 Home-a fact that we were told in July and appears still to be the case. At present, Windows 11 Home PCs must be set up and administered with a Microsoft account, though local accounts can also be added later for additional users.

To enable local accounts as part of the initial setup, you’ll need to install Windows 11 Pro, either via an in-place upgrade from Windows 10 or a clean installation. During the setup process, you’ll be prompted for your Microsoft account information. Simply click the “sign-in options” link instead. The next page will offer you the option to sign in with an offline account.

We need to be clear: the “router trick” that Windows 10 allowed has vanished. Windows 11 Home doesn’t even offer you the option of proceeding without connecting to a network, and then doesn’t allow you to bypass the account login screen, either. Windows 11 Pro does.

Microsoft Windows 10 Pro | Download

(While Windows 11 tolerates local offline accounts, expect to see numerous little passive-aggressive nags here and there to “change to a Microsoft [or “online”] account.” Incidentally, you’re perfectly free to go online with an “offline” account. You simply won’t be able to access Microsoft services like OneDrive cloud storage, which is keyed to your Microsoft account.)