Windows Insider Preview Header

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 22H2 before its official, stable release.

Read These Warnings First

If you have a Windows 10 or Windows 11 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 will probably have to perform a clean install of Windows if you want to stop getting preview builds and revert to the stable Windows 10 or Windows 11 build in the future.

Note: The Settings app got a major overhaul in Windows 11 and looks fairly different from the Windows 10 Settings app. If some of the screenshots look a little different from what you see, don’t worry too much about it — the fundamentals are the same.

How to Join the Windows 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.

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. Click “Register” to 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.

Note: You’ll need to click through a few pages of terms and conditions before you’re actually enrolled.

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. On Windows 11 PCs, open up the Settings app, then navigate to Windows Update > 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.

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. Sometimes the problem might be related to your hardware, especially if you’re trying out a Windows 11 build.

Windows Insider Program options.

Other times, the problem is more easily fixable. For example, disabling optional telemetry in Windows 11 will prevent you from opting in to the Windows Insider Program.

The Windows Insider Preview window displaiyng an error message. You cannot join the Windows Insider Program with optional telemtry disabled.

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.

If you’re not sure which one you want, start with the Release Preview channel. It is the best for day-to-day use, and you can always opt into the Beta or Dev channels later.

As of August, 2022, the Dev channel has the latest experimental features for Windows 11 (most notably a Game Pass widget), the beta channel has more rigorously tested Windows 11 builds and features, and the Release Preview channel has a new build for Windows 10 22H2, and a new build for Windows 11.

Select the Insider Channel you'd like to use.

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.

RELATED: How to Switch From Insider to Stable Builds of Windows 11

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 completely reinstall Windows 10 or Windows 11 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. If you are on a Release Channel build, you can also just opt-out of updates and wait until the version you’re running is officially released.

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

Profile Photo for 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 and Reader's Digest, 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 more than one billion times---and that's just here at How-To Geek.
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Profile Photo for Nick Lewis Nick Lewis
Nick Lewis is a staff writer for How-To Geek. He has been using computers for 20 years --- tinkering with everything from the UI to the Windows registry to device firmware. Before How-To Geek, he used Python and C++ as a freelance programmer. In college, Nick made extensive use of Fortran while pursuing a physics degree.
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