Microsoft Gives Another Makeover to Its Insider Program – Bids Farewell to “Rings”


Microsoft is changing its Windows Insider Program offering more clarity on how things will work going forward. Earlier in the year, as the Insiders in the Fast ring finished testing Windows 10 May 2020 Update and started receiving the new builds, the Windows maker had said that those new builds were no longer tied to a specific version of the operating system. That sounded a little confusing and now we know why...

Microsoft is no longer using the term "rings," replacing it with "channels." The company will move the Fast and Skip Ahead rings to a new Dev Channel, the Slow to the Beta Channel, and the Release Preview ring to the the Release Preview Channel.

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"We are transitioning and converting our current ring model, based on the frequency of builds, to a new channel model that pivots on the quality of builds and better supports parallel coding efforts," Amanda Langowski, the Windows Insider chief and Principal Program Manager Lead wrote in today's blog post. "Our goal is to not only make it clearer for existing Insiders to choose the experience that’s right for them, but also for new Insiders to pick the right channel as they join."

Target audience remains the same - Microsoft shifts focus from frequency to quality

Even though you are now part of a channel and not a ring, the replacement caters to the same groups of Insiders. For example, the Fast ring insiders are usually okay with some instability and bugs as long as they get to test the newest features. This would still remain possible through the Dev Channel. Similarly, the Beta Channel will continue to receive stable builds whereas the Release Preview Channel is still for those Insiders who need release validation.

One big difference in the new model is how the builds in the Dev Channel aren't tied to any specific version of the OS. This has already started as the builds being currently tested by the Fast ring Insiders come with an alert that they aren't tied to any version and their features could end up in any future release. The Beta Channel (currently the Slow ring) is where the builds will get matched to specific versions, such as 20H2 or 21H1.

Microsoft said that it believes the best way to tailor the flighting experience to Insiders' needs is "to shift focus from frequency to quality."

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Insiders can pick a channel that represents the experience they want for their device based on the quality they are most comfortable with. Our intention is to ensure Insiders will continue to receive frequent updates no matter which channel they’ve chosen.

Do Insiders need to do anything?

No! Microsoft will automatically move you to the right Channel. If you are in the Fast ring, you will be moved to the Dev Channel; those in the Slow ring will be moved to the Beta Channel, and the Release Preview ring Insiders will be automatically moved to the Release Preview Channel. You aren't required to take any action. However, as before, you do have the option to switch between Channels through Settings > Update & Security > Windows Insider Program.

Currently, Microsoft is recommending the Dev Channel for "highly technical users" and the Beta Channel for early adopters and IT Professionals.

The move helps Microsoft align the terminology with its Office Insider Program. While both the programs still remain separate, it would makes things clearer for those who are part of both these programs to understand the different terms being used.

Microsoft is currently finalizing Windows 10 Manganese (or 20H2, however, the matching of Fast ring builds hasn't yet happened). The Dev Channel will then move on to test the builds from the "Iron" set of features, some of which will likely end up in Windows 10 21H1.