Windows Insider Program adds Canary channel to test future changes

The Windows Insider Program now includes four channels, including Canary, Dev, Beta, and Release Preview.

Windows Insider Canary Channel
Windows Insider Canary Channel
  • Microsoft announces big changes coming to the Windows Insider Program.
  • The program now includes a fourth channel known as Canary. 
  • The new channel will includes major new features and changes to the operating system.
  • Presumably, the company will use the Canary Channel to test changes for Windows 12.

After rumors of Microsoft and Intel working together on Windows 12, the software giant announced a fourth channel to the Windows Insider Program called “Canary” to preview major new features coming to the operating system. Although the company has been testing new features and changes with Insiders for a long time, the new Canary Channel will allow testers early access to major changes.

According to the company, the new Canary Channel will offer previews of changes that “require longer-lead time before getting released to customers,” including kernel and many other significant improvements. (This could mean the software giant is referring to Windows 12.)

The builds in the Canary Channel are expected to roll out more often than in the Dev Channel, with the downside that they will be even less stable. In addition, these flights will ship with limited validation and documentation before they ship to devices enrolled in the channel.

The company continues saying that the Canary builds will include a lot of issues that end up breaking the installation, and in some cases, users will have to reinstall the operating system. For these reasons, the company will only recommend Canary builds for highly technical users.

Although there will be limited information about the changes in the new channel, the company plans to continue offering articles on the official blog with some information.

In the past, major changes coming to the operating system were first previewed in the Dev Channel, but with the addition of the new channel, the Dev Channel will be the place to test the latest builds of Windows 11.

If you have a device enrolled in the Dev Channel, it will automatically be migrated to the Canary Channel to keep receiving builds in the 25xxx branch.

These are the current channels to preview flights of Windows:

  • Canary: includes previews for the latest platform changes early in the development cycle. These builds can be unstable and are released with limited to no documentation, and they are only recommended for highly technical users.
  • Dev: includes previews of new features and changes coming to Windows 11. There will come some rough edges and low stability. Microsoft recommends these builds for enthusiasts.
  • Beta: includes more validation and stable new features and changes coming to Windows 11. The company recommends this channel for early adopters.
  • Release Preview: includes previews of fixes and certain key features for Windows 11 (and 10). In addition, users will get optional access to the next version of Windows before it’s generally available to everyone. This channel is also recommended for commercial users.

If you want to be stable in the Dev Channel, you will need to perform a clean installation of the operating system since the builds in the Canary Channel are in the 25xxx branch, and those in the Dev Channel are in the 23xxx branch.

In the case that you have a device in the Beta Channel (22xxx branch), Microsoft recommends switching to the Dev Channel for early access to new features.

Previous reports suggest that the software giant has changed the release cycle of new versions of Windows back to three years, meaning that “Windows 12” is on track to roll out at some point in 2024, and the company is rolling out builds with the 25xxx designation number,  it would appear that the new Canary Channel is where it plans to work and prepare for future releases of the operating system.

About the author

Mauro Huculak is a Windows How-To Expert who started Pureinfotech in 2010 as an independent online publication. He has also been a Windows Central contributor for nearly a decade. Mauro has over 14 years of experience writing comprehensive guides and creating professional videos about Windows and software, including Android and Linux. Before becoming a technology writer, he was an IT administrator for seven years. In total, Mauro has over 20 years of combined experience in technology. Throughout his career, he achieved different professional certifications from Microsoft (MSCA), Cisco (CCNP), VMware (VCP), and CompTIA (A+ and Network+), and he has been recognized as a Microsoft MVP for many years. You can follow him on X (Twitter), YouTube, LinkedIn and About.me. Email him at [email protected].