Microsoft switches Windows Insider rings to channels to focus on quality

Martin Brinkmann
Jun 16, 2020
Windows, Windows 10

Microsoft Principal Program Manager Lead Amanda Langowski announced a change in the structuring of Windows Insider releases on the official Windows Experience blog yesterday.

Microsoft introduced a ring model for Windows Insiders when it released the Windows 10 operating system. The Windows Insider system can best be compared to beta and development channels of web browsers. Most users run stable version of the operating system but those who are interested in upcoming changes may join the Insider program and pick one of the available rings for that.

Initially, users could choose between the Fast and Slow ring. The Release Preview ring was introduced a year later to provide users with early access to servicing updates.

In the early years of development, builds for all channels came from a single product release. Recently, teams at Microsoft began to work on builds from different releases.

The decision was born to switch from the ring model, which outlived its usefulness according to Microsoft, to a channels model.

Each ring is moved to a channel of its own, and nothing will change on devices that run one of the rings/channels.

windows insider channels

Here is the list of rings and the corresponding channels that the rings do get migrated to:

  • Fast Ring (cutting edge) -- Dev Channel
  • Slow Ring -- Beta Channel
  • Release Preview -- Release Preview Channel

And here is Microsoft's description for each of the channels:

Dev Channel: Right for highly technical users. Be the first to access the latest builds earliest in the development cycle with the newest code. There will be rough edges and some instability.

These builds are not matched to a particular Windows release. New features and changes may be released to a Windows 10 version when they are ready.

Beta Channel: Right for early adopters. Get builds tied to a specific upcoming release. Your feedback has the greatest impact here. These will be reliable with updates validated by Microsoft.

Release Preview Channel: Right for those who want stability and release validation. Have access to the upcoming release of Windows 10 prior to it being released to the world, with advanced quality updates and certain features. These builds are supported.

Microsoft will align Windows Insider Channels with Office, and plans to introduce similar models for Microsoft Edge and Microsoft Teams.

Closing Words

Why is Microsoft making the change? One of the core reasons for making the change is to focus on the quality of experience as Microsoft puts it and no longer on the frequency of release as it is currently the case. All channels will be updated frequently according to Microsoft.

Now You: What is your take on the change?

Microsoft switches Windows Insider rings to channels to better focus on quality
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Microsoft switches Windows Insider rings to channels to better focus on quality
Microsoft Principal Program Manager Lead Amanda Langowski announced a change in the structuring of Windows Insider releases on the official Windows Experience blog yesterday.
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  1. FedUpWithMs said on June 18, 2020 at 10:31 am

    The end users are tired of MS use of Agile Methodology. Its making the product look like a dumpster fire every time they do an update. I hate updates because I don’t know whats going to break next. We never had this many issues when there were only service packs.

  2. ineuw said on June 18, 2020 at 10:17 am

    Microsoft “to focus on quality” in the caption, is the best I heard this past week.

  3. ULBoom said on June 17, 2020 at 4:17 am

    The Dev Channel I understand. The other two seem the same, one with advance (not “advanced!”) quality updates and some other stuff.

    WTF is a Principal Program Manager Lead? Part of the Committee Club Association Group? Yikes!

    I guess progress is being made: “Experience” appears nowhere.


  4. leland said on June 16, 2020 at 10:35 pm

    The unpaid testers do manage to find issues. If only Microsoft would listen to their input and fix them before release. This has happened multiple times. Shows how much they care about Windows these days…

  5. DVDRambo said on June 16, 2020 at 6:11 pm

    Focusing on quality, but not hiring back some of the 10,000 QA Engineers they fired years ago? I don’t think so.

  6. Doom said on June 16, 2020 at 11:53 am

    If you really want to improve quality then you would pay for testers like everyone else does, don’t use users as free ones. Plus, as has been seen over and over, even when users report serious bugs they still gets through as it gets lost in the sea of trivial things so the system just doesn’t work.

  7. microfix said on June 16, 2020 at 10:44 am

    Got to laugh at the ‘beta channel’, which, is already provided for ALL users irrespective whether one is an ‘insider’ or not, pertinent to post ‘feature updates’ historically or current.

  8. Bobo said on June 16, 2020 at 10:39 am

    Not a decade too soon! Looking forward to enjoy the benefits of this in 2050! Go Redmond Go!

  9. Gerold Manders said on June 16, 2020 at 7:54 am

    So, byte by byte, Microsoft seems to head back to a once a year service pack release that gets tested more properly. The same system that was abolished around 2015 with the Windows 10 release…because “new”.

    Microsoft did change their winning team. Like this or not, it is irrelevant. That update scheme brought them ever improving Windows versions, so that was their “thing” that made their bank.

    Should considering a change be a good thing? Yes.
    Should such a change be tested to see if the change is an improvement? Yes.
    Should the test results be owned, even if those tests show a lack of improvement? Yes.
    Should management be man enough to return to the ‘schtick’ that made the war chest fill up? Yes.

    To change just for change…it divided house Microsoft. A house divided cannot stand and loses relevance much quicker than anyone in that house realizes. The old system made Windows grow, the new system didn’t do that as well as was expected. Better cut your losses at that realization and think of something else that might satisfy both camps in house Microsoft and produce actual growth.

  10. fse said on June 16, 2020 at 7:21 am

    so aside from some word changes… what’s the difference between ring and channel?

    1. Jozsef said on June 17, 2020 at 10:24 pm

      Well, let’s see, you can’t buy a channel at the jewelry store. You also can’t pierce your nose and put a channel in it. I could go on but that would be about as useful as what Microsoft has done and we don’t want to encourage anyone to look there for inspiration.

    2. Corky said on June 16, 2020 at 1:46 pm

      Who knows, hard to believe someone gets paid simply to rename things TBH. ;-)

  11. Anonymous said on June 16, 2020 at 7:09 am

    Such innovation. /sarcasm

  12. sadsa said on June 16, 2020 at 6:54 am

    This is definitely a change for the better.

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