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Windows 8 Tip: Convert a Local Account to a Microsoft Account

With Windows 8, its preferable to sign into your PC with a Microsoft account—or what we still call a Windows Live ID—to take advantage of SkyDrive-based settings sync and deep integration with several new Metro-style apps and other capabilities. But if you signed in with a local account for whatever reason, you can still take advantage of Windows 8’s Microsoft account integration. You just need to convert the local account.

It used to be easy. In the old days—i.e. before Windows 8—consumers and individuals would typically use a local account—an account that was tied to a single PC—to log on to Windows, whereas corporate and enterprise users would utilize centrally managed, Active Directory-based domain accounts.

In Windows 8, it’s still easy, but now the preferred sign in type for consumers and individuals is a Microsoft account, or what’s still referred to as a Windows Live ID. A Microsoft account is preferable to a local account for a few reasons. But the big one is that you gain seamless and automatic PC-to-PC settings sync capabilities, replicating your environment across each PC you use.

When confronted with Windows 8 for the first time, however, some people choose to use an old-fashioned local account for some reason; perhaps they’re confused about the benefits of a Microsoft account, or are suspicious of the software giant for some reason. Others aren’t given the opportunity to sign-in with a Microsoft account: Windows 8 Setup won’t provide this option if the PC is offline when it’s first set up, perhaps because Setup couldn’t detect a networking adapter or Internet connection.

Whatever the reason, if you originally set up Windows 8 to sign in with a local account, you can convert, or switch, that account to a Microsoft account easily enough. Here’s how.

Note: As with a domain account, you could choose to sign in to connected apps like Mail, People, Messaging, Calendar, Music, Video Xbox LIVE Games, and so on and not convert your local account to a Microsoft account. However, if you do this, you won’t be able to sync settings with this PC. If you’re still interested in keeping your local account, please refer to Method 1 in Windows 8 Tip: Sign In to a Domain and Still Use Live Services for information about simply signing into individual connected apps instead. But I recommend using a Microsoft account.

Sign in to Windows 8, and then navigate to PC Settings. You can do so via the Settings pane (WINKEY + I, Change PC Settings) or via the Charms bar (WINKEY + C, Settings, Change PC Settings).

Then, navigate to Users. As you can see, there’s a handy button named “Switch to a Microsoft Account”.


When you click this button, you’ll be asked to confirm the password for the local account. If you didn’t supply a password—shame on you—just tap Enter.

Then, you’ll be prompted to enter the email address of your Microsoft account/Windows Live ID, and then the related password, and the security verification info. These steps are identical to the process you’d undergo during Windows Setup if you had signed in with a Microsoft account in the first place.


When you’re done, you’ll notice some major changes.

First, your account name has been changed to a Microsoft account/Windows Live ID and the “Switch to a Microsoft Account” button in PC Settings, Users has changed to “Switch to a Local Account.”


Settings sync will be enabled, which you can verify by visiting PC Settings, Sync Your Settings. And all of the connected apps in Windows 8 will now sign-in automatically.

Voila! You’re done.

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