When building a new computer, installing Windows can be a big challenge. You could be hampered by not owning a copy of the operating system yourself, or it could be because you have specific needs for your machine. Luckily, Avram has some ways to get Windows 11 for cheap and to install Windows without the usually required Microsoft Account.
For most, Windows comes with your existing computer. However, if you build your computer yourself, where does Windows come from? Microsoft would like you to pay $129 to buy Windows, but that's a lot of money. You could be building a $500 PC, but if you have to add another $129 for the OS, there goes the budget. What we know is that HP and Dell spend a lot less than that, so why can't you?
Everyone can download Windows and create a bootable USB drive to install it. However, without a product key, you'll get a message in the corner of the screen and you won't be allowed to change your wallpaper (without tricks). Luckily, that's not a huge problem, but it can be annoying. An easy way to get a product key is to grab it off of an older machine. If you don't have an old copy of Windows, you can purchase in the OEM market, from sites such as Kinguin, for $18-30 for Home and $35 for Pro.
There are requirements to install Windows 11 on your computer, such as TPN 2.0, Secure Boot, and 4 GB of RAM. However, you can bypass these requirements by making a small addition to the system registry. To do this, press ctrl-f10 in the setup process and edit the registry by typing regedit. Then, head to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE -> SYSTEM -> Setup. Here you will add a new key called LabConfig. From here, you can add new values to bypass certain checks, such as TPMCheck, SecureBoot, and minimum RAM.
However, what if you don't want to skip connecting a Microsoft Account to your machine and just use a local account? For example, what if you're building it to give away to charity, a friend, or to sell? It's not an obvious process, but it can be done.
When you get to that screen, remove the internet connection to the computer. You can do this by disabling your wifi card, unplugging an ethernet cable, or unplugging your router or modem. You can also go back to the command prompt to release your IP address by typing ipconfig -release.
However you accomplish it, once you've gotten rid of the internet connection, you can then go back and enter local information. You will hit the back arrow and enter a name and password without the need for a Microsoft Account. You can also enter email@example.com as the email address and any password and you can create a local account, though that could change in the future.
All of this currently works for Windows 11 Pro, but that feature is planned to be retired in the next major version.
Scott is a developer who has worked on projects of varying sizes, including all of the PLUGHITZ Corporation properties. He is also known in the gaming world for his time supporting the rhythm game community, through DDRLover and hosting tournaments throughout the Tampa Bay Area. Currently, when he is not working on software projects or hosting F5 Live: Refreshing Technology, Scott can often be found returning to his high school days working with the Foundation for Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST), mentoring teams and helping with ROBOTICON Tampa Bay. He has also helped found a student software learning group, the ASCII Warriors, currently housed at AMRoC Fab Lab.
Avram's been in love with PCs since he played original Castle Wolfenstein on an Apple II+. Before joining Tom's Hardware, for 10 years, he served as Online Editorial Director for sister sites Tom's Guide and Laptop Mag, where he programmed the CMS and many of the benchmarks. When he's not editing, writing or stumbling around trade show halls, you'll find him building Arduino robots with his son and watching every single superhero show on the CW.