Cue the scene: The holiday gifts are unwrapped. You’re crowing happily about a new laptop or desktop PC. You boot the PC for the first time, and Windows asks you to create an account and set up a password. Your first instinct is to try evading the prompt, so that you don’t have to deal with remembering login info.
In the background, your family’s designated tech person lets loose a deep, primordial scream inside their head.
A password is your first (and best) line of defense against unwanted access to your computer—a particular risk for laptops, which can be easily lost or stolen. That’s especially true if you’re running a newer version of Windows and sign in using a Microsoft account. You’ll be able to use Find My Device to try to locate your PC, and on compatible systems, your data will also be automatically encrypted.
For most people, these safeguards should be a default in theory, since you’re presumably setting up a PC with Windows 11—and the process makes a Microsoft account for sign in seem like an unavoidable fate.
But that’s not necessarily case with Windows 10, which you can still find on some PCs, particularly if they’re a DIY build. Setting up the system with a local account that lacks a password is easy. And even for Windows 11, it’s simple to look up how to create a local account instead of signing in with a Microsoft account. Or how to later disable a Microsoft account and use a local account instead. (Please don’t do this.)
The smarter move: Set up a password for your PC, preferably one tied to a Microsoft account, and then add an another, easier login method, like a PIN, security key, or biometric authentication. (The last option is only available to laptops with hardware that supports fingerprint or facial recognition.) You’ll stay protected, make your life simpler overall, and allow your family tech support person to rest at night.
Alaina Yee is PCWorld’s resident bargain hunter—when she’s not covering PC building, computer components, mini-PCs, and more, she’s scouring for the best tech deals. Previously her work has appeared in PC Gamer, IGN, Maximum PC, and Official Xbox Magazine. You can find her on Twitter at @morphingball.