Bypassing Windows 11 Account Setup

September 30th, 2023

I had the misfortune of setting up a Windows 11 machine and being confronted with creating a mandatory Microsoft account. I can’t concisely explain why being forced to create an account bothers me so much, but generally when a vendor tries this hard to get you to do something, it’s not for a user-friendly reason.

Anyways, after a bit of searching I found that Rufus is able to create a Windows 11 boot image that can bypass the account setup requirement; but for various reasons I just wanted to modify the OEM configuration.

After poking through the Rufus source code for a bit, I found the pointy end of the stick, applied the patch, and it worked.

Here’s my notes on how I did it — mostly so I have it someplace where I won’t lose it, but also maybe because someone else might find it useful. NB: Microsoft seems to have been paying attention and hardening their setup process against work-arounds to account setup, so the shelf life of this post might not be so long.

Assuming you have a brand new machine with a Windows 11 OEM pre-install, and you have not yet turned it on:

  1. On first boot, go to BIOS settings and turn off the TPM (and backdoors like Intel AMT, Absolute Persistence module, etc.), and allow third party OS boot. On my machine (a Lenovo laptop) this caused the screen to go black for quite a while on reboot as it undid the Bitlocker encryption on the pre-installed Windows volume. Decrypting the Windows volume is necessary for the next steps.
  2. Grab an Ubuntu install image, put it on a USB drive, and boot the Ubuntu image using the “Try Ubuntu” selection.
  3. Mount the C: volume (probably the biggest partition on the NVME drive). You may have to run ntfsfix on the volume first to make it writeable.
  4. Edit the file at …/Windows/panther/unattend.xml and insert some XML (exact incantation shown below).
  5. Unmount the volume and reboot.
  6. When the first dialog box appears during setup, hit Shift + F10 and type OOBE\BYPASSNRO into the command prompt shell that appears. This will disable the internet connection requirement, and force a reboot of the machine to restart the setup process.
  7. When you get to “Let’s connect you to a network” there should be an option now that says “I don’t have Internet”; click that, and the system should proceed to setup a local-only account.

During setup, I connected to the Internet using a wired Ethernet line, so I could easily cut the internet by pulling the cable out if things went wrong and I had to try again (if you do set up by wifi, it’s a bit more complicated to cut internet). In my trials I did end up connecting a couple times and allowing the system to update, and that didn’t impact my ability to pull off the procedure in the end.

The specific commands I used within Ubuntu to access the unattended installer manifest were:

sudo su
ntfsfix /dev/nvme0n1p3
mount /dev/nvme0n1p3 /mnt
nano /mnt/Windows/panther/unattend.xml

But the exact path to the Windows partition will probably be different depending on your OEM and hardware configuration. The right partition is probably the biggest partition, so you can use fdisk to inspect your disk and guess the exact path for your machine.

The XML I injected was this snippet:

<RunSynchronousCommand wcm:action="add">
<Path>reg add HKLM\\SOFTWARE\\Microsoft\\Windows\\CurrentVersion\\OOBE /v BypassNRO /t REG_DWORD /d 1 /f</Path>

Stick it in the first “settings” block, just after the “component” block. So overall, the top of the unattended.xml file on my machine ends up looking like this:

<?xml version='1.0' encoding='utf-8'?>
<unattend xmlns="urn:schemas-microsoft-com:unattend">
  <settings pass="specialize">
    <component name="Microsoft-Windows-Shell-Setup" processorArchitecture="amd64" publicKeyToken="xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx" language="neutral" versionScope="nonSxS" xmlns:wcm="" xmlns:xsi="">
    <RunSynchronousCommand wcm:action="add">
      <Path>reg add HKLM\\SOFTWARE\\Microsoft\\Windows\\CurrentVersion\\OOBE /v BypassNRO /t REG_DWORD /d 1 /f</Path>
  .... more settings blocks below ....

It’s not exactly a fast or convenient procedure, but unfortunately the “just unplug network during setup” hack that populates the front couple pages of Google searches on the topic was patched. Anyways, I always disable a bunch of the security theater/DRM and back doors installed by OEMs (in addition to running an overnight RAM test, hence the need to allow third-party/unsigned OS boot), so this was only incrementally more effort on top of what I was already going to do.

Name that Ware, September 2023

September 30th, 2023

The Ware for September 2023 is shown below.

Thanks to FETguy for contributing this ware!

Winner, Name that Ware August 2023

September 30th, 2023

The Ware for August 2023 is a viewfinder from a JVC Super VHS Camcorder, model number GR-SXM915U. I’ll give the prize to Jin because of the correct identification of the SOIC as the BA7149F. Congrats, email me for your prize! The exact model number of the originating camera should be harder to pin down, because a similar viewfinder was probably used across several models for some years.

The viewfinder featured as this Ware has found a new life as part of a pretty neat project by the Ware’s contributor, Adrian: it displays a composite IR + visible light image, which is generated by glitching a live analog video stream from a visible light camera with an analog signal derived from a Pi Pico using an R2R DAC (i.e., the Pi Pico generates an analog signal almost directly off its digital GPIO via a resistor network — no DAC chip required). The Pico reads the H/V sync pulses encoded within the analog video stream, and overlays the digital readout of a 2D IR sensor by injecting well-timed pulses into the analog video signal (if I’m understanding the project correctly). More details and video at Adrian’s Mastodon post!

Name that Ware, August 2023

August 22nd, 2023

The Ware for August 2023 is shown below.

Thanks to adrian for sharing this ware! Adrian sent me several wonderful photos, and the whole thing is actually pretty neat to look at. However, for better or for worse the parts in the ware are so unique that most of them resolve to an answer with a simple search query – even those of the most humble looking 16-pin SOICs. Hopefully this partial view of the ware makes it at least a little bit of a challenge to guess.

Winner, Name that Wäre July 2023

August 22nd, 2023

The Ware for July 2023 is a “KUP 10” by aditec. Also, thanks to FETguy, we now have a schematic of the ware:

The spirit of Name that Ware is about demystifying electronics and encouraging people to learn by taking things apart. Drawing a schematic from an image of a circuit board is a great example of this, so FETguy gets the prize this month. Congrats, email me for your prize!