Microsoft’s Windows 8.1 update brought with it a gamut of new features and amendments to certain issues that users were not entirely satisfied with. It’s safe to say that the release has been nothing short of a success if we are looking at the positive reception in the tech blogosphere as the litmus test. With that said, a peculiar quirk of the previous Windows 8 was the inability to set up the Windows Mail Client without having a Microsoft account, which is also known as a Windows Live ID.
For many, this quirk wasn’t an issue. After all, this IS a Microsoft operating system and it only makes sense that you have a Windows Live ID to access some of its features, right? Besides, Google’s Android will not let you download apps without a Google/Gmail account but I suppose this is more email related and Android will let you set up an email from another email provider. From that perspective, Microsoft’s decision to restrict mail usage to Windows Live ID owners was peculiar to say the least.
Devices like the Surface Pro are powerhouse work machines. Most people would like to receive their work emails and chances are, they are on custom domains which of course are NOT Microsoft accounts. Can you see how much of an oversight this appears to be? Sure, alternatives exist, but something so core to computer use (email) should seamless.
Thankfully, with the release of Windows 8.1, someone upstairs finally came to their senses and decided to remove the restriction. You can now set up an email account on the Mail Client without having to a Microsoft account to run it. This is fantastic news and we’re going to take you through the process, detailing how to do it. It’s very simple and you should have your emails set up in no time!
When you launch the Windows Mail Client you’ll receive a prompt asking you to ‘Switch to a Microsoft Account on this PC’. The good news is, you can use your domain account (if it’s for work or your own personal business).
Before you follow this process, you need to make sure you are logged in as the administrator because the operating system will not allow you to make the changes we are about to make in the settings.
1. First you must launch the Local Group Policy Editor. There are a number of ways to do this. The quickest way is to type ‘gpedit.msc’ while you’re on the Windows 8.1 Start Screen. Another way to do this is to press the Windows + R key combination at the same time and type ‘gpedit.msc’ in the dialog box that pops up then press ‘run’. Alternatively you could just type ‘Group’ in the Start Screen and you’ll see a list of matching search results. From here, select the result that says ‘Edit Group Policy’.
2. The Local Group Policy Editor Windows should pop up. From here, we will turn off the feature that prompts the Windows Mail Client to switch your machine to a Microsoft account. In the left pane of the Local Group Policy Editor Window is a navigational tree. You need to follow this path:
Computer Configuration > Administrative Templates > Windows Components > App runtime
3. Once you’re here, you’ll see a list of settings. Select the one that says ‘Allow Microsoft Accounts to be optional’ by double clicking on it.
4. Enable this configuration and select ‘Apply’ and then click ‘OK’.
5. Now that you have disabled that default feature, you need to re-launch the Windows Mail Client and you should see a difference. It will no longer prompt you to switch your machine to a Microsoft account but rather, it’ll ask you to ‘sign in with your work account’.
6. If you or the company you work for do not publish your Email Server settings, then you may find that simply putting your Email address and password in the fields isn’t enough. You’ll need to enter those settings manually in order to get your emails set up on your device. You may need to contact your workplace’s I.T department if you do not know what these details are.
What you have to do is click ‘Show more details’ and you’ll see the requisite fields for entering the additional information you need for your email account to start working. These fields are: Email address, Server address, Domain, Username and Password.
This process can be used for virtually all Windows 8.1 devices – not just the Surface Pro. However, some Windows 8.1 devices, like my personal computer, do NOT have the Group Policy Editor feature. This Wikipedia entry will tell you whether you have the Group Policy Editor feature or not based on the version of windows you’re running on your machine.