Microsoft started the Windows Insider program in 2014 to get public feedback on Windows 10 as it was being developed. Since then, the company has continued to provide regularly updated prerelease builds of Windows 10 and Windows 11 to preview and test new features.
As with many public beta programs, Microsoft maintains different channels for different users, with periodic tweaks to each channel’s name and stated purpose. Now, Microsoft has changed one channel and introduced another. What used to be known as the “Dev” channel will now be called the “Canary” channel, and it’s where Microsoft tests the least stable and most experimental features (including “major changes in the Windows kernel, new APIs, etc. .”).
“Builds that will be transferred to the Canary Channel will be “hot off the presses”, flying soon after being built, which means that very little validation and documentation will be done before they are offered to Insiders,” wrote the Windows Insider Program Amanda Langowski leads.
Some software releases’ Canary channels (including Chrome Canary and Firefox Nightly) may update once per day, and Microsoft has historically maintained a “Canary” channel for internal use that is updated daily. This new public Canary channel “will not receive daily builds,” Langowski wrote, “however, we may increase the release of builds more frequently in the future.”
The Dev channel will still exist, but it will be “rebooted” as a rung between the Dev and Beta channels. Microsoft will continue to test early features here, including some that will never make it to the stable version of the operating system. But compared to the Canary channel, the builds “provide better platform stability” and will be more fully documented – blog posts highlighting new fixes and features will still be available for all Dev and Beta channel releases, but not for all Canary channel releases.
The Beta and Release Preview channels have not been changed. The Beta channel will be more stable than the new Dev channel, and the features that make it to the Beta channel will likely be released to the public eventually. And the Release Preview channel is usually the last stop an update makes before it’s released to the public.
Swinging through the various Windows Insider channels makes more sense in how Windows 11 is updated—a little at a time, with small tweaks released regularly, larger sets of updates that compiled several times a year, and larger structural changes limited to once. -annual “feature updates” that form the foundation for other future changes.
But this could cause some short-term pain for anyone on the old Dev channel. Insiders in the current Dev channel will automatically be transferred to the Canary channel, where they will continue to receive Windows updates with build numbers of 25000s. Switching to the “rebooted” Dev channel to get 23000-series builds requires a clean install of the operating system, although it is possible for current Beta and Release Preview channel users (both with builds in 22000s) to switch to the new Dev channel without installing Windows.