How to Become a Windows Insider and Test New Windows 10 Features

Windows 10 has been released to the wider world, but the “Windows Insider” program is continuing. Testers will get access to new Windows features before everyone else, just as Windows Insiders could use Windows 10 for months before the rest of the world got it.

If you have a Windows 10 PC, you can opt into the Windows Insider program to get preview builds. This isn’t permanent — you’re free to opt out whenever you like. As with the initial insider program, this is intended for people who don’t mind experiencing and reporting bugs.

Warnings

As with any form of beta software, you’re opting in to receive new software before everyone else. This software will likely be buggy and incomplete, so be aware of what you’re signing up for. Microsoft doesn’t recommend using this software on your main PC — it’s ideal for PCs you just want to experiment or test things with.

As Microsoft warns you when you enable this feature, you may have to perform a clean install of Windows 10 if you want to stop getting preview builds and revert to the stable Windows 10 system in the future. It should be possible to uninstall preview builds for 30 days and revert to Windows 10, just as you can uninstall Windows 10 and revert to Windows 7 or 8.1 for 30 days after installing it.

How to Join the Insider Program

Being part of the insider program requires you sign into your PC with a Microsoft account, not a local user account. That Microsoft account must also be part of the Windows Insider program.

First, ensure you’re signing into your PC with a MIcrosoft account. If you’re not, you can visit the Setting app, select Accounts, and use the option here to convert your local user account to a Microsoft account.

Visit the Windows Insider Program web page in your web browser and sign in with your Microsoft account. Join the program from the web page — yes, it’s free. This registers your Microsoft account as being part of the insider program, allowing you to receive insider builds — should you choose to enable them on a PC.

Once that’s done, you can open the Settings app on a Windows 10 PC you’ve logged into with your Microsoft account, select Update & security, and select “Advanced options.” Scroll down and click or tap “Get Started” under “Get Insider builds.” If you haven’t logged into your PC with a Microsoft account that’s part of the insider program, you’ll be asked to do so first. You’ll have to agree to a warning message before this is enabled. After it’s done, it will restart your PC.

Is the “Get Started” button grayed out? Visit Settings > Privacy > Feedback & diagnostics and ensure “Diagnostic and usage data” is set to either “Full (Recommended)” or “Enhanced.” If it’s just set to “Basic,” you won’t be able to enable and use insider builds. Microsoft wants that diagnostic information if you’re using pre-release versions of Windows 10.

Choose the Fast or Slow Update Ring

With the insider program joined, you can once again visit the Windows Update page in the Settings app, select “Advanced options”, and use the options here to control which builds you receive. Under “Get Insider builds,” you can choose either the “Slow” or “Fast” ring. The fast ring receives builds more frequently and more quickly. Builds are only released to the slow ring after they’ve proven to be reasonably stable on the fast ring.

Install the Insider Hub

The Insider Hub app isn’t automatically installed if you join the insider program, but you’ll probably want it. To install it, open the Settings app, select System, select Apps & features, and select “Manage optional features.” Scroll down, locate the “Insider Hub” in the list, select it, and click or tap the Install button.

After you do, the Insider Hub app will appear in your All Apps list. The hub includes a variety of “quests” which direct you to test things in Windows 10, announcements about changes and issues you may encounter with new insider builds, alerts for you, and information about your insider profile.

Give Microsoft Feedback

If you encounter problems, Windows will automatically report a variety of information back to Microsoft. But you can also leave your own feedback using the Windows Feedback application. This same application is available on all versions of Windows 10 and allows users to report problems, request features, and vote on other issues.

Stop Getting Insider Builds

To stop getting insider builds, you can simply visit the “Advanced options” page in the Windows Update settings again and click “Stop Insider builds.” You’ll be thanked for participating and your computer will reboot. You don’t actually have to leave the insider program with your Microsoft account. Windows will only install insider builds on PCs you’ve specifically activated them on, not every PC you log into with that account.

A warning message when you enable the insider preview builds warns you that you may have to reinstall Windows 10 from scratch if you do this. If you’ve installed insider builds, you may be able to visit the Recovery pane under Update & security and uninstall the build. The warning message when you enable the insider preview links to this page with more information.


Initial features that will appear in the Windows Insider program include browser extensions for Microsoft Edge, built-in messaging apps with Skype integration, and Cortana support for new countries. Big updates to Windows 10 like the forthcoming “Redstone” will hit Windows Insider PCs before the rest of the world.

Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Google+.