In my previous article, I provided a Windows 10 Branches Overview, setting up the conversation on the Windows 10 Insider Preview Branch. This might be looked at for something only used by tech heads, but there is value to using it for gaining early insights into new features and potential issues that can arise from future branch upgrades. There are many nuances that should be understood before considering this branch.
Here at LANDESK, my colleague Rex McMillan, product manager extraordinaire, has been running on the Insider Preview for over a year. Much of the insights come from his experience.
Joining the Windows 10 Insider Preview is fairly easy. One simply goes into Settings > Update & security > Windows Update > Advanced options. Using a Microsoft account, you can register and configure your computer for the Insider Preview. Microsoft has simplified the process of becoming an insider. A growing community of insiders are testing and helping improve Windows. Insiders do receive invitations to special insider only events. There are also some incentives to encourage participation in the reporting of issues and the quests.
Fast or Slow?
With Windows 10 Insider Branch, there are two modes of delivery: Fast ring or Slow ring.
- Fast ring
- Updates are cumulative and release 1-3 times a month.
- Contain lots of changes and bugs as noted in build 14251 release notes, “I also want to reiterate once again that with the change to release builds faster to Windows Insiders in the Fast ring, bugs like the ones we had in the last build” … “are going to pop up. Sometimes it might be several builds before we get these bugs fixed. And there might be times where a build we release contains bugs we haven’t found in internal testing as well.”
- Slow ring
- Updates are also cumulative and much less frequent with releases every few months.
- More stable than the Fast ring with lots of bug fixes
Recently, we saw Release Preview which is a new insider track that was used with the latest Windows 10 for mobile. Release preview is more conservative than slow ring, still allowing early access but with reduced risk.
When builds are available, you will be notified and can proceed with an update. Now these are often big updates where the computer will have to download a lot of product, reboot into a Win PE mode, update, then boot to normal Windows. In a recent build, Rex and I observed that it took over 20 minutes to update his computer to the latest build in the Fast ring.
In speaking with Rex, he has many insights on using Insider Preview’s Fast ring. He has never been burned with a build, but has heard of people running into hardware compatibility. In the past year he experienced one build that was fairly unstable and has the occasional crash and bug. The biggest challenge is the time to update. He likes to plan on a hour of downtime just in case any issues arise.
When to Use
Looking at the instability, one might wonder why to use the Windows 10 Insider Preview. The greatest value for a business to run some computers on Insider Preview is early visibility into changes that may affect future Current Branch or Current Branch for Business builds. Insider Preview provides a Feedback Hub to review known issues and submit bugs. One could also run some systems on Current Branch and the bulk of other systems on Current Branch for Business to also provide early insight on potential conflicts to your end user environment.
The other (and probably bigger) reason to run Insider Preview is to get familiar with the never ending stream of new features that are coming your way.
Here’s the summary for Windows 10 Insider Preview:
- Comes in two update frequencies: fast (1-3 times a month) and slow (every few months)
- Can be used to test against system baselines for early warning of issues
- Will be disruptive and should only be used by highly technical users with strong connections to IT
- Should not be deployed widely on product systems
With Insider Preview covered, we will next move on to discuss Windows 10 Current Branch.