What is the Windows Insider Program?

Are you new to Windows Insider Program or probably hearing this for the first time? Let’s take a look at what it entails.

What is the Windows Insider Program?

This is an open source software testing program (i.e. initiative and not software) courtesy of Microsoft. Before Microsoft releases any updates to its users, various builds have to undergo testing thoroughly. Microsoft achieves this by allowing individuals to volunteer by allowing Windows to install these test builds in their system.

Hence, while these test updates are running on your system, Microsoft is able to collect diagnostics, crash reports, and other issues. This data is used as a basis to identify, investigate, mitigate bugs and improve windows experience to other users. This program is more suited for developers, enterprise testers and the more technically inclined users.

Insider program is available to the user who owns a valid Windows 10 license. Also available on Windows server 2016. Accessing pre-release builds was previously only available to software developers. Now anyone can be part.

Windows Insider program was introduced along with Windows 10 on September 30, 2014, and by the end of 2015, more than 7 million participants took part in the program. These tests are also carried out on Windows 10 mobile. The program simply lets you be part of developing Windows 10 updates.

Know all about the new Windows 10 Insider Build 18912!

Windows Insider

A Windows insider is a participant of the Insider program. Being a Windows Insider allows you to be among the first to receive and test the latest updates to the Windows operating system. This lets you experience the latest features before other users do and report any issues arising.

It is important to note that running pre-release builds will cause your system to be buggy since these updates are not yet stable. It is not recommended to enroll on a PC that you are dependent on. If you are so curious on switching your system to Windows 10 Insider program it is advised to do so on a virtual machine.

Microsoft provides a dashboard that shows a complete list of Preview build releases. If you are an insider, you can use this to locate builds and the particular ring it is in. The dashboard is called Flight Hub.  

What are Rings?

Microsoft uses a hierarchy of levels knows as rings to evaluate the quality of various builds. Each ring represents a different level of compliance and stability. When a build in a particular ring passes required tests, it is released (flight) to the next most frequent ring. Each build is usually evaluated over a set of criteria corresponding to the particular ring before progressing to the next ring. Each build must pass tests specific to that level.

Each ring has its own advantages and drawbacks. For example, being in the first most frequent rings (Slow ring) means you will experience fewer issues and less workaround in case one happens. Being in less frequent ring i.e. Fast ring means you will be among the first to receive update builds and provide feedback on the features introduced. Although you must be prepared to encounter many issues since the particular build is more unstable.

Related article: How to Switch Between Windows of the Same App on Windows 10?

How builds are evaluated and promoted between rings?

Before an update is released to the general public, it undergoes a series of levels called rings. When features of a build are tested, passed, and approved, it is released to the next progressive ring. Moving a build from a less frequent ring to a more frequent ring is called flight.

Let’s take a look at the various rings available for Insiders.

Canary ring

This is a ring that is not quite familiar to participants enrolled in the insider program. This is because it is an internal ring and you cannot use it unless you are working for Microsoft. Microsoft employees who have opted into the canary ring receive anywhere from daily to less frequent monthly builds for testing. After this beehive of activity is done, evaluated builds that are considered ‘good’ are pushed into the Windows Insider program for more testing and validation. The insiders enrolled in the Fast ring are the first to receive these builds.

Fast ring

This is the least frequent ring in the Insider program. This ring is riskier compared to other rings. When you use this channel to receive Windows 10 preview builds, be ready to experience countless performance issues and bugs. Reports on issues arising are sent to Microsoft engineers who find and make the bug fixes. Communication is achieved indirectly. This is the most advanced ring for releasing preview builds. Most suited for tech fanatics who are not worried about their system crashing. If you are using this channel, don’t use your system to store important data. Conversely, you can do all your insider gizmo on a virtual machine and spare your primary operating system.

Slow ring

After a build is tested, validated and feedback received from insiders in Fast ring, a release is now sent to the Slow ring. Build releases sent to the slow ring are more stable compared to the ones in the Fast ring. Therefore this ring is more frequently used by insiders. If you want to test new Windows features but want less risk and can’t wait for weeks or months for the official release then join the Slow ring.

Release preview ring

This is the ring where builds are released prior to the official release. Features, improvements, applications, and drivers contain lesser risk and issues. Enrolling to Release preview ring allows you to receive early access to public releases without taking the risk of moving to the development branch. So if you want to receive updates that are smooth without having to wait for months for releases, Release Preview ring is the best option.  

Development at Microsoft for Windows 10 builds happens in two branches:

  • Development Branch
  • Current Branch

Development Branch:

If you are enrolled on the Fast and Slow rings, you receive build releases from the development branch. You will receive the newest updates and features as well as changes. Although these builds are often very unstable.

Current Branch:

The Current branch contains builds that are considered to be usable by the public. These are builds that have undergone testing and fixes and have passed compliance. Builds delivered to the Release preview ring and the ones already in use by the public are contained in the current branch.

Essentially, Fast and Slow rings are classified in the development branch. While Release Preview ring and official releases/Public builds are classified in the Current branch.

Getting started with the Windows Insider Program

Enrolling to this program just requires a few steps as follows:

  1. Head over to settings menu. Click on updates and security. Select windows insider program on the side menu. Then click the get started button.
  2. Click the region having the plus button saying ‘link an account’.
  3. Now choose your Microsoft account, then click the Continue button.
  4. On the “What kind of content would you like to receive?” page, use the drop-down menu, and select one of the following:
  • Just fixes, apps, and drivers: Selecting this option enrolls you to the Release preview ring.
  • Active development of Windows:  Selecting this option allows you to choose whether you want to opt for Fast or Slow ring. If you have chosen this option, click the confirm button and proceed to the next step.
  1. On the next overlay window, click the dropdown menu and select one of the following options:
  • Slow: Enrolls you in the Slow ring. You receive features and changes with fewer bugs.
  • Fast: Enrolls you in the Fast ring. More issues and bugs.
  1. Click the Confirm button after selecting one of the options.
  2. Agree to the terms click confirm button again.
  3. Click the Restart Now button and you will be enrolled after your device restarts.


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