The Insider Program's Ninja Cat mascot riding a unicorn
Microsoft

Microsoft uses the “Windows Insider” program to test new Windows features. Think of it as the Windows beta program. For example, testers can use the program to use Windows 11 before its official, stable release.

Read These Warnings First

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. This is intended for people who don’t mind experiencing and reporting bugs.

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.

How to Join the Insider Program

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

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First, ensure you’re signing into your PC with a Microsoft account. If you’re not, you can visit Settings > Accounts > Your Info 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, head to Update & Security > Windows Insider Program. Click or tap “Get Started” to begin. You will be asked to sign in with a Microsoft account that has joined the program on the web.

Note: If there’s something preventing you from joining the Insider program, you will be informed of the issue. The Settings app will help you change any necessary settings.

Windows Insider Program options.

Choose an Update Channel

When joining the Insider Program, you will be offered several different channels. Microsoft provides descriptions of them. The Dev channel is the most unstable one, the Beta channel has received more testing, and the Release Preview channel will get updates shortly before they become stable.

As of June 28, 2021, the Dev channel had the earliest Windows 11 builds, the beta channel had more tested Windows 11 builds, and the Release Preview channel was still being used to test updates for Windows 10.

Insider Settings options.

Once you’ve chosen a channel, your PC will get updates for that channel via Windows Update.

Stop Getting Insider Builds

To stop getting Insider builds, just head back to the Settings > Update & Security > Windows Insider Program page. Choose “Stop Insider Builds” to get your PC off the Insider track.

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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.

In some cases, you may have to clean install Windows 10 on your PC after leaving Insider builds. In others, you may be able to roll back to the latest stable version of Windows. The Settings app will give you a variety of options to choose from.

RELATED: How to do a Clean Install of Windows 10 the Easy Way

Chris Hoffman Chris Hoffman
Chris Hoffman is Editor-in-Chief of How-To Geek. He's written about technology for over a decade and was a PCWorld columnist for two years. Chris has written for The New York Times, been interviewed as a technology expert on TV stations like Miami's NBC 6, and had his work covered by news outlets like the BBC. Since 2011, Chris has written over 2,000 articles that have been read nearly one billion times---and that's just here at How-To Geek.
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