One of the benefits of being in the Windows Insider Program is getting to see and test new Windows features before they are generally available. For example, one rather prominent feature includes getting the latest Windows 11 operating system.
When you enroll in the Windows Insider Program, you can join one of three update channels. The channel you choose dictates what updates you receive and the amount of risk you are willing to take when it comes to bugs, incompatible software, unsupported hardware, or incomplete features. The three update channels are described in the table below.
|Release Preview Channel||This channel gives you features before they are generally available to the masses. This is the only channel that Microsoft supports should you experience problems and is the least likely of all channels to encounter bugs. This is an excellent channel for early adopters to enroll their devices.|
|Beta Channel||This channel receives updates before the Release Preview Channel. Devices enrolled in this insider channel are not supported by Microsoft and are more susceptible to bugs and issues. This is an excellent channel for early adopters, but best to only enroll test or secondary devices into this channel.|
|Dev Channel||This channel receives updates before the Beta and Release Preview Channels. As a result, this channel has the potential for the most bugs, incompatible software, unsupported hardware, and incomplete features. This channel is intended for developers, and it is recommended only to enroll test devices on this channel.|
Note: At the time of writing, Windows 11 is only available if enrolled in the Dev Channel. As an example of bugs and incomplete features in the Dev Channel, the taskbar currently does not stretch to multiple monitors. Windows 11 will eventually be available to all insider channels.
How to enroll in the Windows Insider Program
To enroll a device in the Windows Insider Program, select the Start Menu and pick Settings (gear icon). From the Windows Settings dialog, choose Update & Security and pick the Windows Insider Program tab.
Before you enroll in the Windows Insider Program, you need to make sure your device has optional diagnostic data enabled. Enabling this feature sends additional diagnostic data back to Microsoft for review. If it is currently disabled, you will receive the following warning.
To manage the Windows Insider Program settings for your device and allow it to stay in the Windows Insider program, you'll need to turn on optional diagnostic data.
To fix, click the link titled Go to Diagnostics & Feedback settings to turn on optional diagnostic data. Then, from the Diagnostics & feedback dialog, select the radio button Optional diagnostic data.
Note: Selecting optional diagnostic data also sends websites you visit, device activity, and app usage to Microsoft. If you do not wish to send this information to Microsoft, do not enroll your device in the Windows Insider Program.
With the optional diagnostic data set, navigate back to the Windows Insider Program tab (Start > Settings > Update & Security > Windows Insider Program). The prior error about optional diagnostic data should be cleared. Click the Get started button.
You will then be prompted to link a Microsoft account to this device. This account will be used to register into the Windows Insider Program. Click Link an account.
Once linked, click Register. You also have the option to switch accounts if you want to use a different Microsoft account or cancel if you no longer wish to join the Windows Insider Program.
On the Join the Windows Insider Program popup, click the Sign Up button.
You will then be prompted to accept the terms of the agreement to join the program. Microsoft will also provide links to the Windows Insider Program agreement and the Microsoft Insider Privacy Statement. Once you have read and accepted the terms, click Submit. Note that you can also click Close to cancel the registration to the program.
Once registered, you will receive a dialog stating that you are good to go. Click Close.
After a brief loading screen, you will then be prompted to select your insider channel. For more information on each channel, refer to the table in the previous section. For this article, we will choose the Beta Channel (Recommended). Click Confirm.
Note: You can change your insider channel at any time by revisiting the Windows Insider Program tab under Start > Settings > Update & Security.
On A better Windows for everyone dialog, you will be prompted to confirm once more. Click Confirm. You can also click cancel if you wish to select a different channel.
You will then be prompted to restart. Click either Restart Now to finalize entry into the program or, Restart Later if you cannot restart your device right away. Note that you will not get the insider updates until you restart your device.
Once restarted, Windows Update will include the latest insider builds.
Validate or change your insider channel
To check which channel your device is currently enrolled select Start > Settings > Update & Security > Windows Insider Program. The insider program dialog will indicate which channel you are currently enrolled in and which Microsoft account you are using for the program. From the screenshot below, we can see our device is part of the beta channel.
You can also use this screen to temporarily opt-out of major builds without leaving the program. To do this, toggle the slider to On under the Stop getting preview builds section. To resume the major builds, toggle the slider back to Off. Note that you will still get minor insider updates with this toggle set to On.
To change the channel, click the currently specified channel, in our case Beta Channel (Recommended). Then, on the Your Insider settings dialog, pick a new channel. If you do not wish to make a change, click the back button.
Getting the Insider Program Builds
Getting the insider builds is as easy as launching Windows Update. Navigate to Start > Settings > Update & Security > Windows Update, and you should see the latest builds available for download and installation. At the time of writing, if you enrolled in the Dev Channel, you will see the option to download and install Windows 11.
As previously mentioned, the Dev Channel is intended for developers, and you should only enroll test devices in this channel. This channel will be prone to bugs, incompatible software, unsupported hardware, and incomplete features. Windows 11 will eventually become available to all channels. If you wish to have a smoother experience, it is better to get Windows 11 once it releases to the Release Preview Channel.
How has your experience been in the insider program? Drop a comment below or join the conversation on Twitter @SuperTekBoy.