Last year Microsoft announced that all editions of Windows 11 (Including Pro) will be requiring an online connection and a Microsoft account upon installation.
It will only be required once when you are initially logging in, but you can make a local account after-the-fact and remove the initial account. However, I'm fundamentally against any Operating System requiring an online account (and internet connectivity in general, excluding the traditional "buy/activate w/ X days and that's it approach) in order for it to be used, especially if you are paying for the software. The same principles apply for any games, launchers, etc that I own or am going to purchase (hence me no longer supporting Steam, or purchasing any games that require an online connection or any other forms of DRM). Services like GOG or games like Grim Dawn are fine and they are an excellent role model of how business should be conducted, and the way that consumer's rights should be respected.Similar to Windows 11 Home edition, Windows 11 Pro edition now requires internet
connectivity during the initial device setup (OOBE) only. If you choose to setup
device for personal use, MSA will be required for setup as well. You can expect
Microsoft Account to be required in subsequent WIP flights.
For many years I've used either Windows XP Pro, Windows 7 Ultimate, and now Windows 10 Pro. Due to these editions, and specifically for Windows 10 Pro, I was able to avoid having to create a Microsoft account since Windows 10 Pro allows one to "Use a local account" in the OOBE stage. Windows 10 Home required the online connection / Microsoft account, but you could of course use the old workaround of unplugging your Ethernet cable (and/or not connecting to wifi). These techniques also worked with older versions of Windows 11, and there are a variety of other methods to bypass this requirement that people have discovered (OOBE\BYPASSNRO, and also replacing the Windows 10 ISO's WIM and other files with the Windows 11 versions allow one to even install Windows 11 on non supported hardware). To be clear, this entire methodology is also the same thing Microsoft implemented for the Xbox One X as well, and is also the same reason why I completely divested from the platform. To re-iterate, if I paid for your hardware, and I paid for the game (let's say physical discs in this case), I shouldn't need to "activate" or "unlock" or "sign in" upon first boot. Just like how traditional consoles were when I was growing up. Using a NES, SNES, N64, PS1/PS2, GB/GBC/GBA/DS, Xbox and Xbox 360 did not require any sort of mandatory online connection or verification. You just paid for your hardware and games, and you were off to the races.
People will continue to find techniques to bypass these sort of requirements, but I refuse to entertain this idea and I'm not going to actively fight against my own Operating System. This is one of the main reasons I even moved to Linux/FreeBSD anyways on my main machines (privacy/security, ability to avoid forced upgrades and telemetry being some of the other reasons). Over the past few years, I've primarily only been using Windows on my gaming computer, however, at this point, I'm not going to be moving to Windows 11, not as long as Microsoft keeps that mindset and philosophy for their OOBE. Windows 10 22H2 support ends on October 14, 2025, and that will be the last day that I use Windows 10 on real hardware, or at least with an internet connection. I will need to think about my strategy moving forward when it comes to PC gaming since I like using Windows for gaming so I'm not going to change that and use Linux. I like being able to just sit down, the same way I did when I was a kid, double click the program, and have it run exactly the same way that Windows behaved for that program. Let alone all of this reverse engineering work I do for D2 requires me to have a Windows machine to get the exact same environment, exact same ASM instructions, etc. So I'll probably either:
- Have Windows 10 on real hardware and just not use an internet connection, I could just transfer files to it from my other machines over the LAN network.
- I could downgrade to Windows 7 on some other machine since most of the games I play are probably going to work on Windows 7. This also means I won't be buying any new games on PC that require Windows 10 or Windows 11+. Due to this reason, Windows 10 will probably still remain my ceiling since I know all of the games I have in my library now will definitely work on Windows 10. For any games that have weird glitches due to them being old, I can virtualize them in either Windows XP or Windows 7.
- Use Linux (or FreeBSD via bhyve if it supports it for Windows by 10/2025) but virtualize Windows 10 using GPU passthrough. It seems GPU passthrough technology is continuing to improve and it's more easily possible now to just use your integrated CPU's graphics as the main card for the host output, and then just pass in my AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT to the Windows VM directly.
- Something else
With all of that said, I will be exiting Windows development completely once Windows 10 reaches end of life (10/14/2025). This may primarily affect Cactus since it's using .NET 4.6.2 (but it also works for Windows 7 perfectly fine on .NET 4.6.2 as well, and I am still maintaining my Windows XP SP3 and Windows 7 SP2 images). However, I will try and continue maintaining all of my projects as much as possible by using Windows 10 or lower within a virtualize environment. Windows 11 will definitely not be supported, not even within a VM due to that OOBE online requirement / Microsoft account requirement. Diablo II is old enough that the game seems to run relatively ok (or well) within a virtual machine. The game runs great in Wine so I may just decide to play D2 specifically in Wine on FreeBSD/Linux, and do the reverse engineering work within a Windows VM, given that for those cases, I'm not actually playing the game, but just need the process to run so that I can attach X32DBG to it and do what I need to do. We'll see what happens as the years go by and it all fleshes out. But I wanted to post this message now and give everyone a clear picture of where my mind is at well ahead of time.