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Microsoft’s Windows Insider program, launched in 2014 to solicit public feedback on the development of Windows 10, has undergone a restructuring of its testing channels. Microsoft has renamed one channel and introduced another, making changes to better suit Windows 11’s update schedule.

Previously known as the “Dev” channel, it will now be renamed the “Canary” channel, dedicated to testing Microsoft’s most experimental features.

The Canary channel will offer Windows Insiders early access to hot-off-the-press builds with little validation and documentation before release. This means users should expect to encounter unstable and untested features, including significant changes to the Windows kernel, new APIs, and more.

No more daily builds

The new public Canary channel “won’t receive daily builds,” but possibly ramp up release builds. Canary channels for other software releases, such as Chrome Canary and Firefox Nightly, update once per day, and Microsoft’s internal “Canary” channel has been updated daily in the past.

In contrast, the Dev channel will be rebooted as a rung between the Dev and Beta channels, with Microsoft continuing to test early features that may never make it to the stable version of the operating system.

The Beta and Release Preview channels are not being altered. The Beta channel will be more stable than the Dev channel, with features that will likely make it to the public eventually.

Incremental updates

Moving forward, Microsoft will update Windows 11 a little at a time. Minor tweaks will be released regularly, and larger batches of updates will be bundled together a few times a year. More extensive structural changes will be confined to once-yearly “feature updates” that will serve as the foundation for future changes.

The restructuring may cause some short-term inconvenience for those in the Dev channel. Current Dev channel insiders will be automatically moved to the Canary channel, where they will continue to receive Windows updates with build numbers in the 25000s.

However, moving to the rebooted Dev channel to obtain the 23000-series builds will require a clean install of the operating system, although it is possible for current Beta and Release Preview channel users (both with builds in the 22000s) to move to the new Dev channel without reinstalling Windows.

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