Long time users of Windows who have now migrated to Windows 8 will notice a lot of subtle changes to the operating system. One particularly confusing aspect is the various user account types that are available to you. Should you set up a local user account or a Microsoft account? What about a domain account then? In this post, I’ll explain what these various Windows 8 user accounts are and what you need to do to change them.
Windows 8 User Accounts
Let’s first start off with what a user account is, and why you really need to have one. A user account is usually associated with your user profile and is your identity when you log on to your computer. Windows 8 features 3 types of user accounts; a local user account, a domain account, and a global Microsoft account.
Local User Account
A local user account is your profile that is stored on your local computer. So if you have customized your user account to have a certain background, window color or theme, or configured specific apps and taskbar options, you will be able to access all of them when you use that particular local computer. If you only use one computer to access your data, you can set up a local user account. However, if you use multiple Windows 8 based PCs such as a desktop at work, a laptop at home, or a tablet or mobile device on the go, you will not be able to access your settings with a local user account. You will need a Microsoft account instead.
Global Microsoft Account
A Microsoft account is a global account with your user profile stored in the cloud. This means that you can access all your local settings and customizations from any Windows 8 based PC located anywhere in the world, simply by logging in using the Microsoft account, and have the same PC experience on different devices. Any change made on one device will be synced to all your other devices too, provided you are logging into each of those devices with your Microsoft account. If you have a Windows 8 Live account or ID, a Live email address, or an Hotmail email address, you already have a Microsoft account. If you don’t have a Microsoft account yet, sign up for one now at www.live.com.
Remember, there are certain things that you cannot do with a Microsoft account. Activities such as accessing a program that you have installed only on one device, printing to a remote computer’s local printer, or using a webcam across devices is not possible because you are not accessing your computer remotely, just your user profile that’s on the cloud.
How to Change Account Types
To switch from a Microsoft account to a local account or vice versa:
1. On the Start screen press Windows Key+I to display the Settings Charm.
2. Select Change PC settings at the bottom of the Settings Charm.
3. Navigate to Users and on the right pane, select Switch to a local account or Switch to a Microsoft account and follow the prompts.
You can choose what settings you want synced on your user account across devices. In the PC Settings page, scroll down and select Sync Your Settings. In the right pane, choose your sync options.
If you have a PC that belongs to a group of computers on a network that have a common database and security policy, you will have a user account on the domain, you can log on to any PC that is on the domain with your password and other credentials. You can also connect your Microsoft account to your domain account and access your settings and customizations. Domain accounts are mostly used at workplaces so if you use a domain account at your workplace, just connect your Microsoft account to it and access your personal computer settings from that PC.
To connect your Microsoft account to your Domain user account:
1. Press Windows key + I to access the Settings Charm.
2. Select Change PC settings.
3. Select Users.
4. In the right pane, click Connect.
5. In the wizard that pops up, select the settings you want to sync to and then click Next.
6. Enter your Microsoft account credentials and click Next.
7. Enter your password and click Next.
8. Enter your security info and then click Finish.
Now you can use your access your personal user profile on your domain account.
Now that you know the various user account types, go ahead and set up the right Windows 8 account for your computer.