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The Windows Insider program is designed for enthusiasts to actively collaborate with the company by providing feedback on new releases or builds. Initially, this was available only to developers. Today, Windows Insiders comprise enthusiasts who provide valuable feedback that engineers can use to gauge how a particular build is received by tech-savvy reviewers.
This beta testing program was launched along with the launch of Windows 10. It rolled out with a Windows ten technical preview for desktops and laptops followed by a technical preview of Windows 10 for servers.
In its early days, Microsoft emphasized that the software versions would only be early releases and were not meant for all end users as these come with risks and are not available for the general market. The program collects surveys from users. It also has feedback forums to report issues and share suggestions on ideas to improve Windows products.
In October 2014, Microsoft rolled out its first early release i.e. Build 9860. This was the first update build to Windows 10 technical preview. Addressing the Insiders, Gabe Aul, Corporate Vice President, Engineering Systems Team, wrote, “You are using a work in progress… we’re sharing things with you even though there are rough edges. This is the part of building Windows that you usually don’t get to see, since we work hard to smooth these out before it typically gets to you. There are likely many small bugs that you’ll encounter.”
As of February 2016, Microsoft released Build 14271 for PC to Windows Insiders in the Fast ring. The company also released Build 14267.1004 for mobile to Windows Insiders in the Fast ring.
Aul emphasized that this would be “the first time we release builds for PC and mobile on the same day and at the same time. For PC, Build 14271 brings a lot of improvements and bug fixes that are based on feedback we have received from Windows Insiders.”
In February 2016, Microsoft announced its third offering in the Windows Insider program. Windows Insiders now have three alternatives to choose from in how they receive new updates and features from Windows 10 i.e. Fast Ring, Slow Ring and Release Preview Ring.
While Fast Ring is meant for those who get early access to new builds and updates, it comes with a certain level of risk to their devices. Slow Ring ropes in those who also get early access but with lower levels of risk. Both categories report glitches and provide feedback on the software as well as suggestions for improvement.
The latest Release Preview Ring, according to Microsoft, is meant for people who get early access to updates for the Current Branch i.e. builds based off of 10586. These users will receive updates, application updates, and driver updates. This offering on the Insiders program comes with minimal risk to devices.