Microsoft has announced big changes to the Windows Insider program. They will help the company start testing builds of the next version of Windows, "Windows 12". For that, Microsoft has created the new Canary channel that will host experimental unstable builds with bleeding edge features.
Builds for the Canary channel will include various changes to the platform that require extensive Insider testing. These changes include drastic changes to the Windows kernel, new APIs, and more. Canary will in many ways resemble the old Dev channel, which means that not all of the changes presented will make it to the final release.
For now, Insiders on the Canary channel will receive builds from the 25000 branch. Dev, Beta, and Release Preview build numbers will be lower.
Since Insiders in the Dev channel are already running 25000 builds, they will automatically be moved to the Canary channel to continue receiving new builds. Information about this change will be sent by email and as a toast notification in Windows. To switch to another channel, Insiders will need to completely reinstall the operating system.
The change also applies to customer devices managed by Group Policy, Windows Update for Business, or Microsoft Intune.
Please note that builds for the Canary channel will be released shortly after compilation without much internal testing. This means that builds may contain critical bugs that will prevent you from fully using the operating system. Moreover, in some cases you may need to reinstall Windows to resolve problems.
The Windows Insider team will not publish a blog post for every build on the Canary channel. This will only happen if the build includes new features. Documentation for builds in the Canary channel will be limited.
Dev channel (Recommended by Microsoft)
Microsoft recommends the Dev channel for those Insiders who want to try out new features and changes, but still want to encounter critical issues as little as possible.
There really aren't many changes in the Dev channel. This is still the place where Microsoft will test new features and functionality not tied to specific versions of Windows . In some cases, changes may never make it to the release version of Windows, or they may appear in future versions of the system when they are ready for it.
It is possible that new features will first appear on the Canary channel, and then become available to insiders on the Dev channel. But it's important to understand that builds on the Dev channel will be built on a more stable platform, which is why Microsoft recommends that most Insiders join this update channel.
Insiders in the Dev channel will begin receiving builds from the 23000 branch soon.
Build numbers in Windows Insider channels
- Canary Channel: 25000 series.
- Dev Channel: 23000 series.
- Beta Channel: 22000 series.
- Release Preview: Released versions of Windows 10 and Windows 11.
Insiders cannot move to a channel that releases builds with a lower number than the installed version of the system . For example, you won't be able to move from Canary to Dev or from Dev to Beta. To make this transition, you need to reinstall the operating system from scratch.
New feature releases
Microsoft releases individual features and capabilities using Controlled Feature Roll-outs (CFR). It allows the company to gradually implement changes by monitoring feedback and stability of the OS, as well as testing different variants of the same feature (A/B testing).
Thus, Microsoft may release a build to the Dev channel with a new feature enabled, but deliberately disabled in the Beta and Canary builds. The new feature will be activated as soon as the Windows Insider team is ready to do so.
Microsoft will only share details about features that are specifically included for Insider testing.
Current Insider Channels
- Canary Channel (new): Ideal for highly technical users. Preview the latest platform changes early in the development cycle. These builds can be unstable and are released with limited to no documentation.
- Dev Channel (rebooted): Ideal for enthusiasts. Access the latest Windows 11 preview builds as we incubate new ideas and develop long lead features. There will be some rough edges and low stability.
- Beta Channel (unchanged): Ideal for early adopters. These Windows 11 builds will be more reliable than builds from our Dev Channel, with updates validated by Microsoft. Your feedback has the greatest impact here.
- Release Preview Channel (unchanged): Ideal if you want to preview fixes and certain key features, plus get optional access to the next version of Windows before it’s generally available to the world. This channel is also recommended for commercial users.
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