Microsoft gives its Windows Insider testing program a makeover

Microsoft is changing the way its Windows Insider testing rings will work. It's also giving the rings new names, in keeping with the recently changed Office Insider ones.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor
Credit: Microsoft

Microsoft is changing the naming and operation of its Windows Insider testing program. Officials announced the changes June 15, ahead of the expected commencement of the testing of Windows 10 20H2 and Windows 10 21H1.

"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," said Windows Insider chief and Principal Program Manager Lead Amanda Langowski in a blog post today. "Our intention is to ensure Insiders will continue to receive frequent updates no matter which channel they've chosen."

Microsoft is renaming its Windows Insider rings in a way that is similar to how it recently changed the Office Insider test rings

Later this month, the Fast Ring (and former Skip Ahead Ring) together will become known as the Dev Channel. The Slow Ring will become the Beta Channel and the Release Preview Ring will become the Release Preview Channel.

The targeted groups for each of these remains basically the same, with the Dev Channel being the ring for technical users who don't mind being on the bleeding edge; the Beta Channel for early adopters and IT pros who care about providing feedback specific to particular upcoming releases; and the Release Preview Channel for those who need stability and release validation.

The Dev Channel will get builds that Microsoft says are not matched to a specific Windows 10 release. The features they will test may show up in any build update or servicing release, officials said. Meanwhile, the Beta and Release Preview channels will get builds, which are tied to specific upcoming releases, such as 20H2 or 21H1.

Microsoft will be moving Insiders who are on the Fast, Slow, or Release Preview rings automatically to the new Dev, Beta, or Release Preview Channels with no action required on their part. Insiders also can change channels manually if they want to do so.

June is when Microsoft will be finalizing the set of features that are part of its "Manganese" wave. The Windows engineering team will begin working on the next set of deliverables this month, with the targeted cut-off date of December 2020, which will be part of the following wave, codenamed "Iron." 

Since last year (if not before), the Windows engineering team has been using the same "semester" schedule for building Windows as Azure has been using. This means there wasn't necessarily a direct correlation between features developed in a given semester and the particular Windows 10 feature update where they were/are released. 

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