Microsoft splits its Windows 11 beta in two, with new features switched off for some

Some Windows 11 Beta Channel Insiders are getting builds with new features switched on; others won't.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer
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Microsoft has released the latest build of the Windows 11 preview to the beta channel, but it's now split the beta channel into two groups: one gets a build with new features switched on – and the other doesn't. And no one gets to choose which group they're in, and testers may lose previously released features. 

Such is the life of a Windows Insider Beta guinea pig who signed up to the beta channel to get new features earlier than others, and may have forgotten they're also there to assist Microsoft build Windows 11 how it sees fit. That includes having previously gained new features yanked, which is what Microsoft is doing to some Beta testers even though it might annoy them.  

So, as Microsoft readies Windows 11 version 22H2, Microsoft thinks it's beneficial to split the Beta Channel into 'haves' and 'have-nots' for new features. 

Microsoft says it is splitting the Beta channel into two groups to test an enablement package to test and deliver new features. The group with new features on gets the enablement package, but the other does not. 

Microsoft says this enablement package "artificially increments the build number for the update with new features getting rolled out and turned on to make it easier to differentiate from devices with the update with features off by default." 

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The main new feature Microsoft is releasing to the Beta channel today is Suggested Actions, which it released to the Dev Channel in May when it split its Windows 11 test builds for the Dev and Beta channels. At this point, Microsoft closed off the option for users to switch from the Dev Channel to the Beta Channel.

Suggested Actions can make copy-paste and copy-call actions between apps faster by giving the user next-step prompts. For example, if a user copies a date, Windows suggests creating a calendar item, while copying a phone number will prompt making a call with that number. 

The other feature is OneDrive storage alert and subscription management in Settings. It began rolling out Microsoft 365 subscription management in Settings to the Dev channel in May

From today, Microsoft is enabling OneDrive Standalone 100GB subscriptions in the Accounts page within Settings, similar to the Microsoft 365 subscriptions. Users can view recurring billing, payment method, and OneDrive storage usage within Windows 11.

How Microsoft will handle the split Beta groups 

One group of Windows 11 Beta testers will get new features automatically in this and future builds thanks to an "enablement package". The other group without the enablement package has new features off by default. 

Today, Microsoft released Windows 11 build 22622.290 for the group that will get new features: the other group receives build 22621.290 with new features off by default.

This transition will presumably continue until at least the Windows 22H2 mainstream release, which is expected around October.

"A group of Insiders in the Beta Channel will receive Build 22622.xxx updates that will have new features getting rolled out or turned on via an enablement package like how we release updates for Windows 10 today," Microsoft explains in a blogpost

"A group of Insiders in the Beta Channel will receive Build 22621.xxx updates that will have new features turned off by default."

The majority of Beta users will get the build with features on by default, according to Microsoft. But no one gets to decide which group they fall into.

Microsoft acknowledges that insiders "will want to choose which update they get". For those who do get lumped in the off-by-default group, there is the option to opt-out of the feature-off update and into install the update with the features on. 

"Insiders who land in the group with new features turned off by default (Build 22621.xxxx) can check for updates and choose to install the update that will have features rolling out (Build 22622.xxx)," Microsoft explains. 

The split Beta groups allow Microsoft to see whether a feature is stable enough to deploy more widely or too buggy to release at all.  

"Based on this insight, it will help us make decisions on whether to make new features available for more Insiders by increasing their rollout or, in some cases, disable a feature to address bugs. The goal is to use the comparison data to ensure the best possible experience as we try out new features and experience with Windows Insiders in the Beta Channel," Microsoft explains.

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There's another potentially annoying change for some Beta testers. Some Insiders testers who previously had Windows 11 features "may see them disappear". Microsoft recommends installing the enablement package to restore the lost features. 

"We realize this isn't ideal, and we are learning how to best adjust our rollouts going forward to minimize disruption in previewing experiences," Microsoft says.   

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