One of the advantages users concerned about their privacy appreciated about Windows 10 Pro was that they could set up a local account without an internet connection, theoretically not sharing any personal information with Microsoft except for unavoidable telemetry.
It appears those days are set to come to an end however, as Microsoft confirmed in the latest Windows 11 Insider build 22557, with Microsoft saying:
“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.”
The limitation does not yet apply to PCs set up as enterprise devices and given the need for speed and automation this is unlikely to be an issue in the near future.
Microsoft has also fixed workarounds that previously allowed users to bypass this limitation.
The Microsoft Account on your PC can always be deleted, but of course by then Microsoft has already tied that account to your hardware signature.
The change is currently in the Dev builds of the Windows Insider programme, which means it will be many months before it percolates into mainstream stable builds. Privacy-concerned Windows users may want to keep some Windows 11 Pro ISOs around for when the change will ultimately become mandatory for all.