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When you first set up, installed or upgraded to Windows 8.1, the operating system obviously pushed you to use an online Microsoft account. If you succumbed to the pressure (or missed the ambiguous option to use a local account), your operating system is now linked to the cloud, which means your settings, apps and documents automatically upload to your Microsoft account. This arrangement naturally has its advantages, but not everyone is happy with their data floating in the cloud.
Automatic backups mark the most obvious advantage to your Microsoft sync, but a local backup solution effectively negates this benefit. Thus, having your data accessible to authenticated remote computers is the most functional benefit, which means you could nab a forgotten document from the cloud even when traveling away from home. Furthermore, if you meticulously configure your computer to suit specific preferences, this set up quickly mirrors those settings and installs previously acquired apps on secondary systems.
Using a Microsoft account, however, has one major drawback: It places your data’s security out of your hands and into the hands of Microsoft. This might not seem so risky until you’re reminded that Dropbox and iCloud have both been breached, which validates any concerns you may have with cloud-connected system.
The fact is even though breaking through Microsoft’s security might be unlikely, it’s still another security risk that needs consideration. If you use the cloud extensively and use multiple Windows computers, then the convenience probably outweighs the additional risk. However, if you only use a single computer, keep local backups and don’t regularly download apps, there’s no sense in exposing yourself. Fortunately, those of the latter mentality can painlessly switch to a local Windows account and avoid the cloud entirely.
To be clear, switching to a local account removes all benefits of a cloud-based system. This means no more online backups, synced settings or mirrored apps. It also means you can’t download apps from the Microsoft Store without switching back to a Microsoft account or choosing to sign in to each app individually. The latter option still requires a Microsoft account, but the credentials are only applied to the apps, rather than your entire system. Furthermore, some apps may cease to function when disconnected from a Microsoft account.
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TIP: If you ever decide to switch back to your Microsoft account, repeat the procedure but select “Connect to a Microsoft Account” from the Account Settings screen.
If you haven’t upgraded Windows 8 to 8.1, click “PC Settings” from the Charms bar, “Users” and then “Switch to a Local Account.”