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FAQ: Why you should join the Windows Insider program

FAQ: Why you should join the Windows Insider program
Written by insideindyhomes

Windows Insider allows users to sign up for pre-release versions of the operating system – read our updated answers to the most frequently asked questions here.

Windows Insider – what is it exactly?

In the Insider program, Microsoft makes beta or pre-release versions of its software available for testing. This involves both future, unfinished versions of Windows 11 and test versions of cumulative updates for Windows 10 and 11. Microsoft uses the latter to test updates that are not security-critical in nature, but errors or problems with stability and operation correct and the like.

If you want to test Insider pre-release versions, you pay a price – not with money, but with data. Microsoft wants to know exactly what you do with the PC, i.e. which apps you use and how fast and stable the system is running, in case of doubt also which buttons you click and how long you scrolled around to find the button. Every now and then the “Feedback” app asks you to send your opinion about an app or function you have just used to Microsoft – this applies in principle to Windows 10 and 11, although Microsoft’s curiosity about Windows 11 is now much more pronounced in our opinion. The app asks, for example, why you have switched off the daily changing Spotlight desktop background or how well you find the calculator app. In the feedback app, you can also report problems and suggestions to Microsoft and agree to problem reports already submitted by other participants with one click.

It is therefore self-defeating to use an insider installation with any kind of sensitive data, let alone business data. New Insider versions come to the PC via Windows Update. Microsoft distinguishes them based on the build number, which you can press with the Windows key, winver, Enter key can read. Therefore, it has become established to speak of “insider builds”.

Joining the Insider program is a few clicks in the Settings app.

Joining the Insider program is a few clicks in the Settings app.

More from c't magazine

More from c't magazine

More from c't magazine

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Why should you join the Insider program?

Pre-release versions of Windows should have a very practical use for developers who want to test their programs with future interface and SDK versions. For users, insider builds can be exciting to satisfy curiosity.

The insider program for company admins is less important. With Windows Update for Business, they can test new versions of Windows as soon as they are released and then distribute them gradually – no need to deal with unfinished versions. Nevertheless, Microsoft also offers an insider program for business customers who want to test the new features in their infrastructure as early as possible.


Windows 11 is known to have tough system requirements like TPM, fairly new CPUs, UEFI boot and so on. Does this also apply to the Insider program?

Yes. Insider installations of Windows 11 have the same system requirements as the regular version. If you want to avoid them, you have to resort to more or less sophisticated tricks that we have described in .


Do I need a separate PC to participate in the Insider program?

No, not necessarily. You can also run pre-release versions in a virtual machine (VM) or as a parallel installation to a productively used system on the same computer. However, keep in mind that with the Insider program, you consent to extensive collection of telemetry data. At the latest when business data is located on other partitions of the system, you should ensure that it is not visible from the Insider installation, for example through encryption.

Examples of suitable virtualizers are Hyper-V, which is included in Windows from the Pro versions, as well as Oracle VirtualBox and VMware Workstation Player. Your PC should have sufficient resources; it makes sense to have at least 8 GB RAM and four CPU cores – the VM itself should have at least two cores and 4 GB. In the case of Windows 11, you may have to do some tricking during installation to avoid unfulfilled system requirements.

The Feedback app is not only useful for getting rid of suggestions and reporting problems, but also for acknowledging bugs reported by others.,

The Feedback app is not only useful for getting rid of suggestions and reporting problems, but also for acknowledging bugs reported by others.,

The feedback app is useful not only for throwing out suggestions and reporting problems, but also for acknowledging bugs reported by others.


Do I need a Microsoft account to install Insider builds?

Yes, and before you can start, you must register the account once for participation in the Insider program and confirm the participation conditions. Above all, they state that Microsoft is allowed to collect extensive telemetry data from the installation. If you already have a Microsoft account, it’s a good idea to create a separate account for the Insider program – that way insider data doesn’t end up in your regular account.

Technically, it’s entirely possible to use an Insider install without a Microsoft account, simply by downloading an Insider prerelease ISO and doing a clean reinstall. But it’s pointless, because the charm of the insider program lies in the fact that new versions can be installed directly via Windows Update. In order for this to work, you must be logged in to the installation with a Microsoft account and have registered the installation in one of the three insider channels.


Dev Channel, Beta, Release Preview? I’m sorry, what?

Microsoft operates three so-called channels for insiders, through which different new versions are usually distributed. The first is the dev channel and designates versions from the current development – it contains the latest innovations that Microsoft has released for the participants. According to Microsoft, the versions offered are not tied to a specific future Windows version and may also contain functions that will never make it into a finished release. But as a rule of thumb, what’s brewing in the Dev channel will sooner or later move to the next channel labeled Beta.

Of the beta channel delivers what Microsoft hopes to release as the next official version of Windows. As a rule, there are hardly any changes to the functionality of the beta versions. Microsoft usually provides them with the new version designation, for example “Version 22H2”.

in the Release Preview Channel Microsoft offers, which will be released to the general public a few days or at most a few weeks later. These are mostly cumulative updates for the current Windows 10 or 11 release. Microsoft does not have every update tested in this way – but our impression is that it is mainly non-security-critical ones that are intended to correct a particularly long list of errors. But new versions of Windows also end up in the release preview channel shortly before they are released.


Which channel is best to choose?

Satisfying curiosity is best done in the Dev Channel, which is where new things are most often seen. The beta channel is more interesting if you prefer to know specifically what the next official version of Windows will look like.


I want to try an insider version. How do I proceed?

As a basis you need a regular Windows 10 or 11 – Attention: Windows 10 can only be used in the release preview channel. First click on “Get Started” in the settings under “Windows Update/Windows Insider Program”. You need to link the feature to a Microsoft account so that you can then select the channel you want. After agreeing to the terms and conditions and restarting, Windows Update should find the insider version.


Can I also install an Insider build directly from the ISO file, or do I need to install a regular build first and then update to the latest Insider release via Windows Update?

Microsoft offers ISO files for Insider builds – but not for every new release, only a new one every few weeks or even months. So there’s a good chance that even if you install from the Insider ISO, you’ll get a newer version right away via Windows Update.


Can I read what’s new for Insider builds online?

Yes, Microsoft documents the respective changes, innovations and corrections in detail in individual blog posts; for finished releases, Microsoft also lists the respective changes compared to the previous version. However, there is no such list for Windows 11, because so far Microsoft has only released its original version for the general public. That should change in autumn 2022. You can also find out which channel is currently being provided with which build number in the “Flight Hub”.


Can I change the Insider channel without reinstalling everything?

Switching between channels is usually possible when you want to switch from one of the slower to a faster channel, for example from Release Preview to Beta. Changing to a slower channel, such as from Dev to Beta, is only possible if both channels are supplied with the same build number. For example, at the time of writing this FAQ, it’s possible to switch from beta to dev and vice versa – both channels will be served the same builds for a couple of weeks.


I would like to have a regular Windows on a PC again. Do I have to reinstall Windows?

Probably yes, because downgrade installations are not provided by Microsoft and usually the insider version should have a higher build number. An exception is when the installed insider version is an official release.

In the insider settings of beta and release preview issues you will find the switch “Stop receiving preview versions”. If you press it, the subscription to new Insider Builds will be terminated. This also works if no regularly released version is currently running on the PC. But: Windows Update will then continue to install new editions until your system lands on a final release. This can take weeks or even months. If you want to get rid of the insider software quickly, there is no way around a new installation.


Besides Windows, are there any other Microsoft products that I can beta test for?

The Windows 11 Insider Previews have the same minimum requirements as the regular version - and the same tricks to circumvent them.

The Windows 11 Insider Previews have the same minimum requirements as the regular version - and the same tricks to circumvent them.

Windows 11 Insider Previews have the same minimum requirements as the regular version — and the same tricks to circumvent them.

Yes, even some – for example for Windows Server, Office, Skype, Xbox and Edge. Unfortunately, Microsoft no longer has an overview page, but a web search will quickly reveal whether there is an insider program for a specific product.

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