Becoming a Window Insider was a big problem, reserved only for the biggest fans of Microsoft and the most dedicated developers. But while we eagerly await the launch of the first beta versions of Windows 11, it’s a much simpler process.
If you’re curious about becoming a Windows Insider with the intention of trying Windows 11, look no further. Here’s what you need to know about the program and how to sign up when you’re ready.
What you need to become a Windows Insider
To become a Windows 10 Insider, all you need is a Microsoft account and a PC running Windows 10. We’re assuming you’ve already upgraded to Windows 10, although you can Upgrade Windows 10 for free if you haven’t already.
You will need to create recovery media (for Windows 7) or USB recovery key (for Windows 8) before you begin. Assuming you are using Windows 10, you must first create a restore point which you can come back to if things go wrong. And whatever operating system you’re on, it’s a good idea to back up all important data before you jump in. In the worst case, you may need to reinstall Windows from scratch.
Be careful. Windows Insider versions should not be run on production or mission-critical PCs. Expect bugs! Blue screens of death (BSOD) are unlikely, but possible.
A few more warnings, coming directly from Microsoft: Only join the preview program if you don’t mind the many updates and sudden changes, if you are comfortable with troubleshooting, if you can handle the backup and restore of an operating system, and if you know what an ISO is and how to use it. Microsoft also recommends installing preview only on a PC that is not your daily driver.
Realistically, we’re all playing a bit of CYA here. Insider versions of Windows 10 shouldn’t do much damage to your PC, especially for the more stable preview options Microsoft has offered (more on that soon), and the reversion to the main version. Windows 10 is pretty easy. But as always, you better be prepared.
How to install Windows 10 Insider builds
With all of that in mind, let’s get started. You don’t need to visit a separate website to join the Windows Insider program. Instead, you can do everything in Windows 10. Go to the Windows 10 Settings menu, then click Update & Security> Windows Insider Program. Click the Start button. However, you will need a Windows account to register as an Insider, as a local account will not work.
For here, follow the next steps. Don’t worry if the process isn’t exactly as we describe it, because Microsoft is constantly adjusting Windows.
- One final warning: if you haven’t backed up your important files, now is the time.
- Watch one of Microsoft’s latest attempts at spooky warnings, which we touched on above.
- Restart your computer.
Choose a Windows Insider channel
Once you’ve integrated the Windows Insider program, you can choose from three levels of preview builds, ranging from the most stable with the fewest new features, to the least stable with many quick changes. You will need to be on the dev channel to receive Windows 11. Also make sure your PC meets Windows 11 hardware specifications if you join an Insider channel specifically to get Windows 11.
Here’s how Microsoft describes the different channels:
- Version Preview: Great if you want to preview fixes and some key features, and get optional access to the next version of Windows 10 before it’s generally available globally. This channel is also recommended for commercial users.
- Beta channel (recommended): ideal for first-time users. These Windows 11 builds will be more reliable than our Dev Channel builds, with updates validated by Microsoft. Your comments have the greatest impact here.
- Development channel: ideal for highly technical users. Be the first to access the latest versions of Windows 11 early in the development cycle with the most recent code. There will be rough edges and poor stability.
Note that by default you are subscribed to the beta channel, but you can change channels at any time. Just head to the Windows Update menu in Windows settings, select Advanced options, and adjust the slider near the bottom of the screen. In practice, however, it’s harder to revert to more stable channels like Release Preview if you’re on the Dev Channel, because Windows thinks you’re trying to go back to a less secure, less secure version.
In this case, you may need to visit Microsoft’s page and download an ISO file for another channel. Download it, right-click the file, and select ascend or Classes to load the new operating system.
Stop the train, I want to get off
Want to go back to the main and stable version of Windows 10? It’s easy, or at least it’s meant to be. Return to Settings> Update & Security> Windows Update, then select Advanced options. You will see an option for Stop insider preview builds.
A pop-up will appear, with an option to reactivate Insider Preview builds in one, three, or five days. Alternatively, you can click Stop receiving Insider Preview builds to stay on the main version of Windows indefinitely.
As Microsoft itself warns, this method may not work in all cases, so it’s a good idea to set a restore point first. If all else fails, you can reinstall Windows 10 from scratch, and hopefully transfer all the precious that you dutifully saved earlier.