Microsoft really wants people to use a Microsoft Account with Windows 11.
I have recently brought a desktop machine with Windows 11, and setting it up without a Microsoft account is very convoluted. It required unplugging the Internet connection, pulling up the terminal during the install via an esoteric key combination and typing in a magic incantation. This is ridiculous.
Now I have a new laptop that is running Windows 11 S. None of these techniques work. "Shift-F10" does nothing - you see the mouse cursor go busy, but nothing happens. So I ended up having to do something else, which I'll describe here. To cut to the chase of my work around, I created a unique disposable email account, to set up a Microsoft account. Once in I created a local account, then I could delete the Microsoft account. Doing do means that the machine is in no way tied to me and my email address. Kind of important if I'm trying to set up the machine for someone else, or if you want some kind of privacy.
Anyway lets get started...
Since we are going to setup a newly created Microsoft Account we will later dispose of, we can just connect to the Internet as setup asks. I would recommend connecting to your "guest" network if you have one. Then we hit "Unlock Your Microsoft Experience" page, we don't want anything it's offering, but since Microsoft has decided we must have its "experience" before we remove it, we need to go through the motions.
So click "Sign In". On "No Microsoft Account?" Click "Create One"
Now you'll need to have an email account, one that you can read an email from, as setting up the account requires you do so. For me I have a domain, where I can just generate aliases to my actual email account, so I can use the alias for setup and then delete it. If your email account has this option it isn't perhaps a bad way to go. You might want to just create a new "free" email account. Lots of sites seem to require giving a cell phone number. I would try to avoid that, although I don't know which services have this option. If you do create a free account and give your cell, then there is a way to associate the account setup with you, but it would require access to the service. For that reason I would recommend any non Microsoft (so definitely not Hotmail) service otherwise they do have a way of associating the machine with you.
Now it wants to know your name, and other details. All this stuff shouldn't be anything remotely related to you. So for example
Since we will creating a local account, none of this stuff actually is helpful other than to Microsoft.
Now verify the temporary email you use by adding the code emailed to your temporary email. Make sure to uncheck "I would like information, tips, and other offers about Microsoft products and services". You don't want that.
Now it asks you to create a PIN. Again you don't actually want this, but Microsoft is going to force you. You can remove it later. Come up with a PIN write it down, enter it and move on.
Now we have the "Choose privacy settings for your device". Basically unless you have some super compelling reason to want to keep any of these on I would recommend turning them all off. That means making them all not blue. Make sure you scroll down and set them all off.
On this system I'm setting up, it looks like it wants to send my email to Lenovo. Let's not fret too much about this after all we are going to delete the email and account after we have set up the local account. So just click "Next". On the next page of "Protect your device" you want to uncheck all the options.
On the "Let's Customize your Experience Page", click "Skip".
On "Use your Android Phone from your PC", click "Skip".
The next page is "Microsoft 365 Personal comes with your device". Yeah I don't want that, so click "remind me later". Well later remove it's incessant nagging.
We now get to "Checking for Updates", and "Getting Things Ready for You".
Okay you should now be in Microsoft Windows 11. So we now need to start the process of what we actually want to do - add a local account - and the removal of the stupid Microsoft Account that Microsoft decided we should be forced to have.
Lets now break out of windows 11 S mode.
Go to Settings > System > Activation
Click "S Mode", and then "Open Store".
Then click "Get".
You should now have left S mode.
On my system this brings up McAfee anti-virus . I'd argue you don't want this hot mess, so choose "Don't install protection and don't ask again". We'll sort out a different anti virus a little later after sorting Firefox.
So following Microsofts guide
Create the account with name and password and security questions.
We need to make this account an administrator. So click it once created and select "Change account Type", and select "Administrator".
Okay now lets reboot and login with the new account. On the login page you should see the local account, click that and enter the password. You'll now be greeted with the "Choose Privacy Settings" page we had before. I'd click all off as before.
In Settings go to "Accounts" > "Sign In Options"
At the bottom of that page there are "Additional Settings" of "For improved security only allow Windows Hello sign-in for Microsoft accounts on this Device". We don't want a Microsoft Account or a Microsoft PIN, so disable this.
Now you can't remove your PIN just yet. Windows 11 UI is a bit broken, so you have to quit the Settings and then go back to the "Sign In Options" page. Now you will find "PIN (Windows Hello)" has made the "Remove" box available. So click that.
I'm assuming here you have followed these steps and you are logged in as a new local user.
Start > Settings > Accounts > Other Users
Click the Microsoft Account. If you click "Remove", it can say "Can't delete account. The person needs to sign out... ".
That's weird because I signed in with a local account, and it doesn't appear to think it's signed in. So lets shut down and login via the local account again...
When I did that I got "Welcome to Microsoft Edge". Follow the Edge section below to disable all the tracking rubbish. This all seems very dubious. I already logged in as this user and set Firefox as the default browser. Why is Edge appearing? Asking me the same stupid questions again.
Now when I go to "Other Users" I'm able to click "Remove" and then when the blue dialog appears I click "Delete account and data".
Start edge and unclick "Stay up to date by regularly bringing in your browsing data" (!). On "We can help you import your browsing data from Google". No! Click "Continue without this data" On "Lets make the web work for you" (or more accurately against you and for Microsoft), uncheck "Make your microsoft experience more useful to you".
If you see "Add widgets to a board", click the cross in top right corner.
This is optional, but I would absolutely recommend Firefox over the other browsers including Edge and Chrome. It has much better privacy, and gives you control over adverts (by removing them!) and auto play, and other things that make the Internet unpleasant.
Start Edge, and in search bar enter "Download Firefox"
The search results will now gas light you about how you don't want to do that! Just scroll down and select the mozilla.org link. On my machine hilariously that is just spinning.... as if Microsoft is trying to stop you. Wait around you will eventually get there.
Click the download and install Firefox. When it starts
On "Different Device. Familiar Firefox", click "Skip this step".
On "Hop from laptop to phone and back again", click "Skip this step"
Click "Start Browsing".
Now we want to change some of the settings. Click the box in top right corner that has 3 horizontal lines and select settings.
Click "Home" and select a homepage and new window as something appropriate like "https://duckduckgo.com". I'd also make the New tabs "Blank page", but you don't have to.
Uncheck "Sponsored shortcuts".
Click "Search", change the default ending to "Duck Duck Go".
Click "Privacy and Security". I'd select "Strict".
Scroll down and you'll get to permissions. I normally turn all these off, as I can always turn them off if I need to. Ones I'd definitely change
Scroll down to "Firefox Data Collection and Use", uncheck them all.
Deceptive Content and Dangerous Software Protection. For a sophisticated user I would definitely disable. For others it's probably fine to keep on.
Finally I like have the menu bar. Hold down Alt and release and it should appear. Click "View" > "Toolbars" > "Menu Bar".
Finally lets install some extensions. Click "Extensions & Themes" at bottom left of settings page. Type in the names and click install. I enable in "privacy mode" too but there are pros and cons around that.
You might now want to install an Antivirus. I've been using AVG for a while, but unfortunately they have got more abusive in trying to get you to start paying for their service.
Go to avg.com and download the "free" option.
Click "customize" (under the huge green INSTALL button).
I'd uncheck everything. All we want is the Antivirus we don't want or need anything else.
Decline to install Google Chrome.
Click "Continue with Free".
First lets remove widgets from the task bar.
Arguably they should be switched off more fully in the registry as described in the article, but I'll leave that as an exercise for the reader.
Windows 11 search, from the start menu. OMG who want's this?
How to disable Web results in Windows 11 Start
In "Privacy & Security" > Search Permissions
In "Cloud Content Search"
In "More settings"
Go to startup Apps, disable
I additionally removed Lenovo Welcome from "add/remove programs" in Settings as it was pestering me.