Ahead of the upcoming Windows 10 November 2019 Update release, Microsoft has shuffled its preview rings and will now no longer offer Skip Ahead.
Previously, Microsoft offered the Fast Ring (less stable), Slow Ring (more stable), the Skip Ahead ring, and the Release Preview ring.
Skip Ahead was restricted to a limited number of users who opted in to that part of the Windows 10 preview program. It was intended for enthusiasts who wanted very early Windows 10 builds from Microsoft's dev branch.
But with Tuesday's release of the Windows 10 Insider Preview Build 19018 from the 20H1 branch for Windows Insiders in the Fast ring, Microsoft is going to push Skip Ahead users back to the Fast Ring. And in future the company does not intend to offer Skip Ahead as an option for Insiders to sign up for.
But why kill the Skip Ahead branch? Microsoft only says it wants all users in the Fast ring to have the latest preview builds of Windows 10.
"Our goal is to provide everyone in the Fast ring the freshest builds at the same time," explained Brandon LeBlanc, a senior program manager for the Windows Insider Program.
The change also means Insiders will no longer see Skip Ahead under Settings > Update & Security > Windows Insider Program.
The closure of the Skip Ahead ring follows a plan announced in April, just ahead of the May 2019 Update, to merge Skip Ahead and Fast Ring testers into a single group that would test Windows 10 20H1.
It meant users in the Fast Ring would skip previews of the 19H2 branch, or the November 2019 Update, and go straight to 20H1.
At the time Microsoft announced this shift, it also announced major changes to how it would roll out Windows 10 feature updates in future, offering users more control over when a new feature update would be installed.
That was part of its response to the October 2018 Update, or version 1809, wiping some users' files, causing Microsoft to halt the rollout for five weeks, and the lack of control Windows 10 Home Edition users have over installing feature updates.
The company has since then also changed its approach to the twice-yearly Windows feature updates.
As of the May 2019 Update, Microsoft has moved to a model where H2 updates targeted for release in October or November are smaller and will be delivered as Cumulative Updates for users on the most recent version of Windows 10. Meanwhile, the larger H1 updates are targeted for March.
Additionally, to reduce the load on Windows 10 enterprise admins, Microsoft decided to give H1 updates 18 months of support, while H2 updates have 30 months' support.