Windows 11 has been out for about six months now, and while it has required an internet connection for the Home edition since launch, Microsoft left the offline option for Windows 11 Pro, given that it's the version of the operating system used by IT professionals – but those days are ending.
In the latest Windows 11 Preview build, Microsoft notes that Windows 11 Pro now requires an internet connection when you're first setting up your device. Right now, that's where it's left, but Microsoft does note that in the future "you can expect Microsoft Account to be required".
It's not exactly clear when this update is going to be delivered to the actual live version of Windows 11, but it's likely to be some time this year. So, if you have a device that you want to have a completely offline installation of Windows 11, you might want to install it soon.
Analysis: doesn't everyone have internet? Who cares?
These days, now that so many of the services we use every single day are online, it's easy to wonder who this would actually effect. However, not everyone has internet.
This could negatively effect users in parts of the world without reliable internet, and for IT professionals that like to have total control of the devices they deploy to their userbases.
Windows 11 Home, because of its required internet connection, is already a nightmare for users in either of these situations, but now that the requirement is being moved to Windows 11 Pro as well, it narrows the appeal of the operating system.
It's another move that will give Microsoft more access to data, which makes a lot of sense. But it comes at the cost of convenience for a ton of people. And, there are definitely folks that will be stuck with Windows 10 devices due to their lack of access to stable or reliable internet connections.
I use Windows 11 Pro on my test bench in the lab, precisely because I can install it without an internet connection, and don't have to go through a lengthy sign-in process to get it running. For hardware reviewers like me, this change will just mean a lot of wasted time, though I will likely just keep install media for an older version lying around, then update the system post-installation. Hopefully that will get me around it for a while.
Via Windows Central