More Bad News From Microsoft

If you have kept up with privacy news at all in the past month or so, you would see that Microsoft keeps destroying privacy-related methods to do things. Let’s start with the most recent. Prior to accessing all the features of Windows 11 on a PC, users are required to input an email address associated with a Microsoft account. If you do not possess one, you will be prompted to create one before proceeding with the setup.

A common workaround to bypass this restriction involves entering a fictitious email address and password, leading to a failed link establishment between yourself and the account. This results in the creation of a local account, allowing users to avoid the necessity of setting up an official Microsoft account.

Numerous users opt for this approach, as a local account offers greater autonomy over their data and enhanced privacy. Nevertheless, the absence of a Microsoft account results in the loss of certain beneficial functionalities, including account backup and specialized features for applications like Copilot.

Starting around June 3, 2024, this conventional approach appears to have been rendered ineffective, as Microsoft has reportedly patched this approach. Rather than bypassing the account linking process, users now encounter a perpetual loop that only concludes upon entering the accurate email address. Previously, it was feasible to disconnect from the Internet via the Task Manager prior to creating an account. However, Microsoft has eliminated this workaround. Consequently, individuals who previously relied on this method are now compelled to input a valid Microsoft account email address and password or explore alternative solutions.

An alternative approach to circumventing the account restriction remains available, as of this post. By entering OOBE\\BYPASSNRO in the command prompt during the Windows 11 setup procedure, users can bypass the Internet connection and consequently avoid linking to a Microsoft account.

Another major recent issue, around June 24, 2024, is that OneDrive folder backup is now being activated automatically on Windows 11 without seeking explicit permission.

Microsoft has introduced a subtle change that may prove bothersome for Windows 11 users. Without any formal announcement, the company modified the initial setup process of Windows 11 to enable automatic folder backup without user consent. Consequently, individuals configuring a new Windows device as per Microsoft’s preferences (i.e., connected to the internet and logged into a Microsoft account) will find OneDrive already synchronizing content from folders such as Desktop Pictures, Documents, Music, and Videos upon reaching their desktops.

Depending on the volume of data stored in these folders, users may discover their desktops and other directories inundated with shortcuts to various items immediately after completing a fresh Windows installation. While automatic folder backup in OneDrive can be a valuable feature when activated intentionally and used appropriately, Microsoft opted to activate this feature without seeking user approval or providing prior notification. This unilateral action has led to a surge of complaints on platforms like Reddit, with users expressing confusion over the sudden appearance of green checkmarks next to files and shortcuts on their desktops.

To disable the feature that automatically backs up all items on your desktop or other directories, follow these steps:

  1. Right-click the OneDrive icon in the tray area, click the settings icon and then press Settings.
  2. Go to the “Sync and Backup” tab and click “Manage backup.”
  3. Turn off all the folders you do not want to back up in OneDrive and confirm the changes.
  4. If you have an older OneDrive version with the classic tabbed interface, go to the Backup tab and click Manage Backup > Stop backup > Stop backup.

Microsoft has a history of employing questionable tactics in its software and operating systems. Some time ago, it was observed that OneDrive required users to provide a reason before allowing them to close it (Microsoft later reversed this decision). A comparable occurrence was identified in the Edge browser, where Microsoft inquired about the reason for users downloading Chrome.

Just a friendly reminder, you always have the option to uninstall OneDrive and avoid all of this together (for now, at least). Please, please, please do not upgrade to or use Windows 11 - it is a privacy nightmare. Avoid Microsoft all together.

  • Image from PCMag.
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