Understanding Account Types


Windows 8 lets you sign in using three different types of accounts: domain, local, and Microsoft.


Domain Accounts


Domain accounts are used by corporations that utilize an Active Directory infrastructure running on top of Windows Server. The account is centrally managed by your employer, as are whatever permissions and capabilities you may be able to enjoy.

You connect Windows 8 to a domain as you did with previous Windows versions, using the advanced system control panel. Once the domain is configured, you reboot the PC and then sign in with your domain account’s username and password. In use, Windows 8 works almost identically to a local user account, but you lose some of the integration pieces that are special to Microsoft account sign‑ins. As we’ll see in just a bit, there is a simple way to mitigate that issue.


Local Accounts


In Windows XP, Vista, and 7, most home users signed in to their PC using a local account, or an account that is, literally, local to that one PC. Local accounts are typically one of two account types, administrator or standard. An administrator essentially has complete control of the system and can make any configuration changes they want. A standard user can use most application software and many Windows services, but is prevented from accessing features that could harm the system. For example, standard users cannot install most applications, change the system time, or access certain Control Panel applets.


You can bypass this limitation by entering the credentials for an administrator account. You do so using a feature called User Account Control, which we’ll examine later in this chapter.


In previous Windows versions, most people simply used an administrator‑type account because standard user accounts were so limiting and annoying. But with the move to multi‑PC households and the PC‑to‑PC sync capabilities one gets with using a Microsoft account instead of a local account, our expectation is that the vast majority of Windows 8 users will no longer use local accounts. It’s still supported, of course, but it’s just depreciated.


Microsoft Accounts


Signing in to a Microsoft account is now the default, and preferred, way of doing things. A Microsoft account provides you with all of the benefits of a local account–simplicity and the ability to have both administrators and less privileged users–plus the benefits of the multi‑PC settings replication of a domain account, and, of course, integration with Microsoft’s online services and third‑party services like Facebook, Twitter, and more.

But the Microsoft account is more than a nicety. It’s required for many of the Metro‑style apps that are built into Windows 8, including the productivity apps–Mail, Calendar, People, and Messaging–the digital media and Xbox apps–Xbox Music, Xbox Video, and Xbox LIVE Games–and more. Windows 8 was designed to integrate deeply with a Microsoft account, much like Windows Phone before it. And a Microsoft account is super easy to use.

For these reasons, we believe that signing in with a Microsoft account is the obvious choice for most Windows 8 users. Furthermore, we pretty much assume that you’re using a Microsoft account throughout this book because of the advantages of doing so.

There’s just one problem. In some cases, you can’t sign in to your PC with a Microsoft account the first time you set up Windows 8. For example, if your PC is offline the first time you use Windows 8, a Microsoft account won’t even be offered. But the more obvious example, perhaps, is a work PC: There’s no way that corporate will let you or other users bypass the built‑in security features of their carefully crafted policies and sign in with your personal Microsoft account.

If only there was a way around this limitation.


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