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Issue #676: July 5-11, 2020

Q: My basic question is how do I configure my three desktops so that they do not force me to use a password? When I set them up (at three different times) I deliberately did not want them to require passwords. I leave them on all the time and they get automatic Windows updates. This was fine for a long time. Then they began (not all at the same time) to require a password. I googled the issue and found various suggestions. I followed them and some worked and some didn’t. I finally got to the point where one let me choose a password, another wants me to use my Microsoft password, and the third let me select a PIN. So, I can use all three but I really would like to not have to use any password. I live alone and am the only person to ever use these machines.

 – James Y.
Fort Walton Beach, Florida

A:  I have something beyond a basic answer for your basic question, James.  And I don’t have various suggestions.  I’ll tell you in clear concise language exactly how to set up Windows so that it doesn’t require a password.  Let’s get there by exploring the situation you’ve found yourself in.

Let’s start with basic security.  I won’t chide you too badly for wanting to bypass the built-in Windows security, primarily because you say you live alone.  However, if the occasion ever arises that you decide to take a computer on travel, or you have houseguests, or otherwise allow someone access to your computer, you might consider making a quick change to what we’re going to set up for you.  I will also remind you that the primary account that you use to access any Windows PC should not be an Administrator account.  That goes double if you’re going to set it up to not require a password.

So. It sounds like you have three different machines that wound up with three different types of login.  You have one with a password for a local user account (an account that is local to a single PC, and all account data resides there).  You have another that is using a Microsoft account.  And you have third that’s configured to use a personal identification number, or PIN.

The local user account is the classic Windows sign-in.  It is this type of account that usually allows you to share a PC with other members of your household, while still keeping all your music, pictures, documents, etc. separated.  This type of account is also what allows you to have an Administrator account that’s distinct from your normal user account.

The Microsoft account is Microsoft’s attempt at a universal sign-in that can be used to access any Microsoft device or service.  With a Microsoft account, not only can you sign-into Windows, but also Xbox LIVE, OneDrive, Microsoft Office 360, Skype, Outlook, and more.  Furthermore, when signing into Windows PCs with your Microsoft account, your system settings can be synchronized, so no matter which of your multiple devices you sign-into, the look and feel is automatically the same

The PIN is likely a part of Windows Hello – which is the way Microsoft offers multiple sign-in options to Windows, including facial recognition, fingerprint readers, and, of course, the aforementioned PIN.

There is no way of knowing for sure how or why any of these mechanisms were enabled over time on your PCs.  The most likely scenario is that it happened when you were installing Microsoft software, or accessing a Microsoft service for the first time.

Switching the sign-in to not require a password is quite easy.  Open the Run box by pressing the key combination WinKey+R.  In the “Open:” box, enter “control userpasswords2” without the quotes, then click “Ok.”  Uncheck the box that says “Users must enter a user name and password to use this computer.”  When you click “Ok” you will be prompted for the username and password that will automatically be used for future sign-ins.  Click “OK” and you’re all set.  Next time you boot your PC, rather than stop at a username prompt, it will go straight to your desktop.

When you wrote-in, you asked further questions about a separate, but related topic.  I’m out of room for this issue, but I’ll handle them in a future column.

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