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Microsoft Accounts are the current iteration of the tech giant’s single sign-in service 5 Security Tips To Consider When Using a Microsoft Account 5 Security Tips To Consider When Using a Microsoft Account You can't use much of the new Windows 8 user interface without a Microsoft account. The account you for logging into into your computer is now an online account. This raises security concerns. Read More .

Previously known as Microsoft Passport, .NET Passport, Microsoft Passport Network, and Windows Live ID, the service was rebranded as Microsoft Accounts back in 2012 to coincide with the release of Windows 8 How Microsoft Overhauled User Accounts In Windows 8 How Microsoft Overhauled User Accounts In Windows 8 What's up with user accounts in Windows 8? It's not complicated - Microsoft wants everyone to use an online account to sign into their desktop operating system. Sure, they offer an offline equivalent, but they... Read More .

It allows users who have an account to log into a wide range of services and apps using one single account – but its greatest strength arguably comes when it’s used in conjunction with Windows.

But should you actually use one with the flagship operating system? And what about other benefits that derive from having one? MakeUseOf looks into the pros and cons…

The Pros

Settings Sync Across All Devices

You know what it’s like when you buy a new computer – it can take hours, days, or even weeks to get it set up exactly the way you like it. Operating systems are becoming more complex, which means the amount of settings to customize is near-endless, while the personalization of things such as the Start Menu How to Add Website Shortcuts to Your Windows 10 Start Menu How to Add Website Shortcuts to Your Windows 10 Start Menu Ever wanted to add shortcuts to websites right inside the Start Menu? In Windows 10, you can! Here's how. Read More , desktop backgrounds, and networking options cannot be easily bypassed.

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Logging into a machine with your Microsoft Account means that all this personalization moves with you and is automatically displayed on your new PC.

The syncing also extends beyond PCs. For example, if you use a Surface tablet Microsoft Surface Tablet Review and Giveaway Microsoft Surface Tablet Review and Giveaway The Surface tablet is a flagship Microsoft product -- its first foray into the tablet market as a hardware manufacturer. It’s almost as locked-down as the iPad - the only applications you can install and... Read More , a Windows Phone, or any other Windows-powered device, your customization will move there too.

Windows Store Apps

The Windows Store apps have been much-criticized since their introduction in 2012, but the truth is that they’ve improved immensely in the last four years – you can now find a whole host of useful, fun, and interesting apps The Best Windows 10 Apps The Best Windows 10 Apps Windows 10 Store apps have come a long way. Meanwhile, you can choose from a considerable selection, free and paid. We have picked out the ones worth your while. Read More hidden within the store’s confines.

In Windows 10’s early days, it was possible to use the Windows Store without a full-fledged Microsoft Account. Those days have passed. At least using your account comes with a lot of benefits.

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For example, if you install an app on your laptop, that app’s icon will be automatically placed on your desktop’s Start screen and you just need to click it in order to install it – it removes the need to search the Store for a second time.

Cortana

Cortana is Microsoft’s answer to Google Now and Apple’s Siri. It’s an “intelligent personal assistant” that’s designed to do everything 6 Coolest Things You Can Control with Cortana in Windows 10 6 Coolest Things You Can Control with Cortana in Windows 10 Cortana can help you go hands-free on Windows 10. You can let her search your files and the web, make calculations, or pull up the weather forecast. Here we cover some of her cooler skills. Read More from helping you find files on your computer to telling you best jokes of the day.

The catch is that Cortana needs you to use a Microsoft Account for it to function (though there are rumors online that this requirement will ultimately be dropped at some point).

As Microsoft writes on its own website, the reason Cortana currently needs you to use your account is because:

“Cortana works best when it can learn about you and your activities by using data from your device, your personal Microsoft account, third-party services and other Microsoft services.

To enable Cortana to provide personalized experiences and relevant suggestions, Microsoft collects and uses various types of data, such as your device location, data from your calendar, the apps you use, data from your emails and text messages, who you call, your contacts and who you interact with on your device.

Cortana also learns about you by collecting data about how you use your device and other Microsoft services, such as your music, alarm settings, whether the lock screen is on, what you view and purchase, your browse and Bing search history, and more.”

Scary, huh? We’ll come back to that later.

OneDrive

Using a Microsoft Account on Windows also unlocks the full potential of OneDrive How To Best Use Your 15GB Of Free OneDrive Storage How To Best Use Your 15GB Of Free OneDrive Storage OneDrive gives you a healthy dose of cloud storage for free. Let's take a look at what you can do with that. Read More .

The service started life as a cloud-based storage solution, but its list of features has grown exponentially and it now offers Microsoft Account users a lot of benefits that extend beyond instant access of their files.

For example, using your account will allow you to access all the files saved on your computer remotely from any other computer in the world, and you can even access network locations if they’re included in the PC’s libraries or mapped as drives.

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Furthermore, if set-up correctly, you can automatically send a photo taken on your phone up to the cloud and then into the OneDrive folder on your PC. That’s both handy and time-saving.

Finally, it will also let you collaborate in real-time on Office documents.

Windows’ New Built-In Apps

Although it is possible to delete the newest “baked-in” Windows apps, they’re designed to remain part of the operating system and will presumably be getting major new features and upgrades as the years go by.

Such apps include Groove Music, Maps, Edge, and People.

Unsurprisingly, your experience on all these new apps is greatly enhanced if you use them in conjunction with a Microsoft Account. For example, if you use your account on Groove Music you will be able to listen to all your purchased music and uploaded music on any other device.

Other Microsoft Services

The nature of modern computing means that the boundaries between individual services are becoming increasingly blurred.

Previously standalone products such as Skype, Microsoft Office / Office 365, Bing, and Outlook are all now heavily integrated with both Windows and with each other.

The result is that logging into these services with your Microsoft Account leads to a fluid and seamless user experience, with your preferences and data on one app used to customize your participation on another.

For instance, you can interact with your Xbox friends 4 Cool Windows 8 Features For Xbox Owners 4 Cool Windows 8 Features For Xbox Owners Regular readers of mine will know how much I’ve made fun of Windows 8 and predicted doom and gloom for the child-like coloured tile interface that Microsoft is championing. But aside from the nonsense gestures... Read More on Windows via the app, sync your contacts from your address book with your contacts on Skype, or use your Bing search history Can Bing Surpass Google Search Through Windows 10 Integration? Can Bing Surpass Google Search Through Windows 10 Integration? Google eats Bing for breakfast. But Bing and Microsoft are a Phoenix in full-rebirth mode. As Google faces antitrust allegations and Cortana meets the Windows 10 Taskbar, Microsoft may soon turn the tables. Read More to improve Cortana’s machine learning.

The Cons

Privacy

There is one “con” that rises above all others when people discuss the downside of using a Microsoft account – privacy.

While it’s generally been well-received by critics, Windows 10 has come under scrutiny from some quarters for its approach to privacy and sensitive personal data. We’ve covered the wider points of privacy-based criticisms Everything You Need to Know About Windows 10's Privacy Issues Everything You Need to Know About Windows 10's Privacy Issues While Windows 10 has some issues that users need to be aware of, many claims have been blown out of proportion. Here's our guide to everything you need to know about Windows 10's privacy issues. Read More  previously, but the usage of a Microsoft Account undoubtedly raises its own concerns.

We mentioned the wording of the Microsoft Privacy Statement regarding Cortana earlier, and the wording of their Microsoft Account section isn’t much better. Here are a few snippets from their statement:

Signing in: When you sign into your Microsoft account, we create a record of your sign-in, which includes the date and time, information about the service you signed into, your sign-in name, your IP address, your operating system, and browser version.

Signing into Microsoft: If you add your Microsoft account to a Windows device (version 8 or higher), Windows will automatically sign you into services that use Microsoft account that you access on that device.

Signing into third-party services: If you sign into a third-party service with your Microsoft account… the third party can use or share your data according to its own practices and policies.

Connecting your personal Microsoft account to your social network accounts: If you choose to [connect your Microsoft account], we will store data about your social network accounts on our servers.

Using work or school accounts: If you sign in to Microsoft services with a work or school account, the owner of the domain associated with your email address may… access and process your data, including the contents of your communications and files.

There is clearly a juxtaposition here. While it is obviously true that reading the above can send a shiver down your spine, it is important for Microsoft to collect some data in order to provide you with a quality experience on the services you use.

Do they collect too much information? Possibly. Only you can decide whether or not the trade-off is worth it. And you can change several of Windows 10’s default settings 7 Default Windows 10 Settings You Should Check Immediately 7 Default Windows 10 Settings You Should Check Immediately Microsoft made some questionable decisions with Windows 10. Some of its default settings should not be left alone. We show you how to improve privacy, conserve bandwidth, reduce distraction, and lots more. Read More , including advertisements How to Ban Windows 10 Ads & NSFW Content from Your Desktop How to Ban Windows 10 Ads & NSFW Content from Your Desktop Windows 10 may be crossing a line with desktop ads and NSFW content. Microsoft and third-party developers can push promotional material directly onto your desktop. We show you how you can defend yourself. Read More , by using privacy tools Windows 10 Is Watching: Should You Be Worried? Windows 10 Is Watching: Should You Be Worried? Since its release, Windows 10 has been dogged by rumors concerning user privacy. Some of these are accurate, whereas others are myths. But where does Windows 10 stand on privacy, really? Read More .

Security

Almost as concerning as the aforementioned privacy issues are the potential pitfalls around security Does Windows 10's WiFi Sense Feature Represent a Security Risk? Does Windows 10's WiFi Sense Feature Represent a Security Risk? Read More .

If you use your Microsoft Account on Windows, a thief or would-be hacker could get access to all your apps and services, simply by knowing your password. Similarly, if you leave yourself logged in and haven’t correctly set-up the various timeout settings, someone could sit down at your machine and have free reign across all your accounts.

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Microsoft has tried to circumnavigate this by allowing users to set up a PIN code to logon to computers, rather than having to use their Microsoft-wide password, but there are clearly still inherent dangers.

Do You Use a Microsoft Account?

Which side of the fence do you fall on? Have you bought into the whole Microsoft-Account-meets-Windows experience, or do you prefer to do things the “old fashioned” way with a local account How to Delete Your Microsoft Account & Create a Local Windows 10 Login How to Delete Your Microsoft Account & Create a Local Windows 10 Login When you access Windows 10 with a Microsoft Account, you can store data in the cloud and sync it across devices. Does this sound concerning? We show you how to switch to a local account. Read More Perhaps we’ve missed some of the key pros and cons?

Whatever your situation and whatever your opinion we’d love to hear from you. You can get in touch via the comments section below.

  1. Tim
    September 15, 2016 at 8:34 am

    I found that logging into Windows with a Microsoft account vs a local account is slower and even lags at times. Also, I prefer a local account because it doesn't require a password to sign on to my desktop.

  2. GodSponge (EB)
    January 31, 2016 at 1:09 am

    Is it possible to disconnect an Windows account from Microsoft or would creating a new account be the only way?

  3. cmcollins001
    January 27, 2016 at 4:53 am

    The same pros and cons can be said about Chrome or ChromeOS. Everything is synced, extensions and apps automatically synced, all things Google (including Android) are synced. If someone gets access to your password and you haven't taken precautions, such as two factor authentication, then all of your Google stuff is just as vulnerable. And everyone already knows the amount of information Google has on us.

    Being able to sync across devices is very useful. I like the idea and log in with my Windows account on all my devices. Some have been set up with a PIN for login and others have been set up with password. I currently have 3 windows machines - my primary laptop which gets most of my time, a Surface 3 set up as a light desktop unit, and I have an ultrabook I'll toss in a bag when I'm headed out and I "might" need a laptop. I like the combination of synced Windows and synced Google. I have everything where I expect to find it.

  4. Daniel Przybylski
    January 27, 2016 at 2:54 am

    Windows Account integration is the most overlooked feature of Windows 8. Everyone couldn't stop crying about the start menu becoming a start screen, but being able to log onto Windows 8 and now Windows 10 and have calendars, contacts, email and OneDrive all synced is great. At least twice now, I've talked with someone who either got a new PC or rebuilt their PC and was ecstatic at how contacts etc. and usernames, passwords and bookmarks are all available instantly.

  5. Johng
    January 27, 2016 at 12:06 am

    I have 1 windows device, my desktop, so it's useless for me. Chromebook, Nexus 7 and Note 4 keep me in the Google world.

  6. Mendota
    January 26, 2016 at 11:24 pm

    I too live in a Windows world and I always sign into my Microsoft account. I like it a lot, especially the sync setting and OneDrive.

  7. Read and Share
    January 26, 2016 at 6:02 pm

    No Microsoft account for me.

    I use Win 10 on my notebook (basically my home computer). I like Window's versatility -- and Windows app selection is essentially limitless.

    But when outside or traveling, I much prefer Android phone and tablet. So right there, the usefulness of a Microsoft account --such as multi-device syncing -- is greatly diminished for me.

    I suppose I could use Cortana to help manage my life -- but as a retiree, I prefer to simplify life itself -- and eliminate the need of a "virtual assistant".

    OneDrive? It's good -- but Mega is even better (e.g. 50GB free just for signing on).

    Finally, I dislike rigid brand loyalty -- preferring to remain open -- including my choice of OS. I'll use whichever one is best for the particular device -- and nowadays, all OSes can run my standard data formats (.doc, .xls, .jpg, .mp3, .mp4, etc.). But they have to 'play nice' with each other -- which eliminates Apple for me.

  8. Andy1
    January 26, 2016 at 5:12 pm

    While I originally balked at the idea of signing in to an online account, I have since found it to be very useful. The only time I use local accounts is for administrator accounts on my various PCs.

  9. Randy
    January 26, 2016 at 5:05 pm

    I always sign in to all my devices with my Microsoft account. Since I'm in an environment totally dominated by Windows (phone, tablets, laptops, desktops, servers - both at home and at work) it works out really well for me. In fact, I've found only upside.

    Love it.

  10. JMH
    January 26, 2016 at 4:41 pm

    Generally speaking I think the advantages gained (convenient integration of apps, Cortana,etc) from all the information gathering done by Microsoft is worth the "compromise in privacy." What exactly are we afraid of here? I think there are bigger concerns to be dealt with, such as the telecommunications industry and the inflated prices we are subjected to for wireless mobile and our home internet connections.

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