Microsoft has announced a couple of changes to the Windows Insider Program. We take a look at what users can expect in the coming weeks.
Windows 11 Insiders will soon be able to switch from the Dev Channel to the Beta Channel directly
When the Windows 11 Insider Preview Program was announced last year, Microsoft imposed some restrictions for participants. If your computer didn’t meet the minimum system requirements, you could only opt into the Dev Channel or the Beta Channel. While that is fair, there was another limitation which posed a problem for testers.
If you install a Dev Channel build of Windows 11, you cannot leave it for the Stable version or even the Beta Channel, without completely reinstalling the operating system using an ISO image, aka a full format or a clean install. Microsoft is changing how this works, it says that users will soon be able to switch from the Dev to the Beta Channel, without having to start from scratch. This isn’t the first time the company has allowed this.
The Dev Channel has more bugs than the other channels, and is considered as unstable for daily use. Despite Microsoft telling users not to install the Dev Channel Builds on their main PCs, some people choose to ignore the warning. What’s worse is that some users fail to keep their OS updated, which in turn cannot prevent them from expiring, after which they end up with an unusable OS, i.e, updates are not available for the build. The announcement says that users can take advantage of the upcoming window period, in the coming weeks, to move to the Beta Channel.
Once you are in the Beta or Release Preview Channel, you have the choice to stop receiving Preview Builds, which will take you back to the Stable channel when a major update is released. That said, if you want to test Dev builds or even Beta releases, you should run them in a Virtual Machine. Why risk your main PC with unstable versions?
Windows 11 Dev Channel to get experimental features
Microsoft has been testing various features in the Insider Preview Builds, but some of these are not available to all users immediately. The company explains that it tests concepts among a small group, sort of like a limited beta experiment. If the A/B testing goes well, all users in the Dev Channel will get to test the features and can provide feedback to Microsoft, to fix/improve the software. The Android Apps preview for Windows 11 is a good example of the A/B tests.
Depending on how a feature is received by users, some additions could get the green light, while those that don’t are scrapped altogether. The Feature Experience Packs that receive positive feedback from users will graduate to the Beta phase, where it will continue to be tested on a broader scale. In the final phase of testing, the features that are promoted to the Release Preview Channel, before they eventually make it to the Stable Channel, i.e. general release.
That’s the reason why fixes and new features introduced in the Insider Preview Program take a long time to land on the Stable Channel. The only exceptions are, of course, security updates and patches for major problems, such as the recent fix for the SSD issues. The announcement article mentions that Microsoft will rely heavily on the Dev Channel for experimental features, which is likely why it is giving users a way out of the Dev builds, as things could get buggy as the OS evolves.
No new Insider Preview Build this week
Microsoft has confirmed on its social media channels, that the Windows 11 Insider Preview Build that was supposed to be released this week was canceled, as it didn’t meet their quality bar. A new build is expected to be released next week. On a sidenote, the company says that the new Media Player in Windows 11 is now available for users in the Beta Channel.