Microsoft offers an “Xbox Insider Program” that works a lot like the Windows Insider Program. Join it to get access to new versions of the Xbox system software and apps before everyone else does.

How the Xbox Insider Program Works

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The Xbox Insider Program is actually a little more complicated than the Windows Insider Program. While anyone can join the Xbox Insider Program, there are different “rings”—or tiers—of membership. New Xbox One features and app updates appear in the Alpha ring first before making their way down to the Beta, Delta, and then Omega rings. The Omega ring is open to everyone, but the Delta, Beta, and Alpha rings are progressively harder to get into.

Here are the different rings:

  • Omega: Anyone who signs up for the Xbox Insider Program can be part of the Omega ring. The Omega ring receives Xbox One system updates shortly before everyone else does.
  • Delta: You must be an Xbox Insider for at least one month and reach Xbox Insider Level 2 or higher to join the Delta ring. This ring often receives updates before the Omega ring.
  • Beta: You must be an Xbox Insider for at least three months and reach Xbox Insider Level 4 or higher to join the Beta ring. This ring receives preview updates shortly after the Alpha ring.
  • Alpha: This ring is invite-only, and receives preview updates first. There’s no public criteria for joining it—you just have to be invited by Microsoft. Presumably, being an active member of the Beta ring is a good start.

So, in addition to the membership time requirement, you must reach a certain “Xbox Insider Level” to gain access to the Delta and Beta rings. You gain XP points towards your Xbox Insider Level by performing tasks in the Xbox Insider app. These tasks include answering surveys and polls, providing feedback, and completing quests that involve testing new features—all things that make you useful to Microsoft as a tester.

In other words, the Xbox users who provide the most feedback to Microsoft get progressively better access to the new stuff before everyone else. You can find information about available updates on the official Xbox Wire news site.

You can leave the Xbox Insider Program at any time, but doing so might require a factory reset of your console to restore the older system software. This won’t delete your apps and games, but you’ll have to go through the first time setup process again.

How to Join the Xbox Insider Program

Whether you just want to play with the Omega ring or you’re beginning your quest to ascend through the ranks, you can do so via the Xbox Insider Hub app.

To install it on your Xbox, head to the Store on your console, hit the “Search” button, and then search for “Xbox Insider Hub.” Select the “Get” or” Install” button on the app’s page to download it to your console.

Launch the newly installed Xbox Insider Hub app, and then select “Join” to get started. You’ll be prompted to agree to the terms of service.

Select “Insider content” on the left side of the screen to view available previews.

Select a preview you want to join. For example, select “Xbox One Update Preview” under System to receive system software updates.

After selecting the preview you want, click “Join” to make it happen. According to Microsoft, it might take up to 72 hours before your registration is complete. When it is complete, your console automatically downloads the preview software.

The hub app also shows you information about the preview you’re a part of. For example, you can view news on the “Announcements” page and known problems on the “Known issues” page. The “Quests” and “Surveys” tabs contain tasks that allow you to gain Xbox Insider XP.

Note: You can also earn XP with Quick Polls, which are available on the Xbox Insider Hub’s main page. That main page shows your current XP and Xbox Insider Level.

After joining, you can select “Manage” from the “Info” page to view which update group you’re in and choose your preferred group. For example, if you’re only eligible to be part of the Omega ring, you may only see an Omega option here. If you’re a member of a higher ring, you should be able to choose any ring below your highest level.

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You can also join the Xbox Insider Program by downloading the Xbox Insider Hub app from the Microsoft Store on your Windows 10 PC. This gives you access to new Xbox gaming features on your Windows 10 PC, as many of those built-in Windows 10 gaming features are Xbox-branded.

How to Stop Participating in a Preview

If you no longer want to participate in a preview and would rather use the standard, stable Xbox software, launch the Xbox Insider Hub, select the “Insider content” option, and then select the preview you’re currently participating in.

On the resulting page, select Manage > Unenroll > Done to leave the selected preview and downgrade to the stable software.

If you’ve installed a preview version of the system software, your Xbox One console may be factory reset to remove it. You’ll have to go through the initial setup process again, but any apps and games you’ve installed remain on your console.

If you’re no longer actively participating in any previews, that means you’re using the standard software. You don’t have to leave the Xbox Insider Program to get back to the stable Xbox system software. And you can always install one of the previews again, if you want.

However, if you’d also like to leave the Xbox Insider Program altogether, you can. Open the Xbox Insider Hub, head to Settings > Manage devices, and then remove your console from the program if you see it in the list. You can uninstall the Xbox Insider Hub app afterwards.

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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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