If you've ever wanted to test Windows 10 features before the features are released to the general public, you don't have to wait—anyone can be a Windows Insider. Microsoft's Windows Insider program is designed for developers, systems administrators, journalists, and anyone else who wants to get a look at new features before major updates. It's pretty much a Windows beta program that's always open to the public.
Follow these steps to get enrolled in the Windows Insider program and set up your Windows 10 PC to receive the latest updates before they're officially live. If you want to leave the Windows Insider program, we've got those steps, too.
Note: Installing development builds of Windows 10, or any other OS, is always a risk. Don't install Windows Insider updates on your primary PC, and always make a backup of essential files in case something goes wrong.
SEE: 15 essential support sites for Windows admins (Tech Pro Research)
How to become a Windows Insider
To get enrolled in the Windows Insider Program, head over to the program's website (Figure A). Click the Become An Insider link.
You'll need to log in using a Microsoft account; if you don't have a Microsoft account, you can create one using a valid email address. Once you're finished, the Windows Insider registration process will continue.
After creating your Microsoft account or logging in with an existing account, you'll see the Register page (Figure B). Review the material, check the box, and click Submit.
You'll see the Welcome screen (Figure C), which indicates registration is complete. You should receive an email with more details about the Windows Insider Program, so if you want to get more involved keep an eye out for it.
How to get the latest test builds on your Windows 10 PC
With the registration out of the way, it's time to get your Windows 10 PC updated to the latest test builds. Open the Settings app on the PC you want to use as a Windows 10 test machine, and then click Update & Security.
Scroll down to the bottom of the left-hand menu on the Update & Security screen and click Windows Insider Program (Figure D).
You should be greeted with the screen shown in Figure E, which asks you to Get Started enrolling your device. Click Get Started, and follow the prompts to log in with the Microsoft account you used to enroll in the Windows Insider Program.
Once you've linked your Microsoft Account, you'll have to choose from a few different options for how to get Windows Insider builds (Figure F). The best option is the one Microsoft recommends: Active Development Of Windows—you'll get the latest builds and be able to preview the new features.
Next, choose whether you want to be in the Fast or Slow rings for updates. If you've enrolled only to get your hands on new features, choose Slow so that you're only getting updates that are already tested and stable.
After you finish enrolling, you'll need to restart your PC. Log back into Windows 10 after your computer has restarted and go to Settings | Update & Security | Windows Insider Program and check to be sure the options you chose during device enrollment are showing up properly on the screen shown in Figure G.
Now that you're enrolled, you can head over to the Windows Update tab of the Update & Security window and install new Windows 10 test builds.
How to leave the Windows Insider Program
If you decide to leave the Windows Insider Program, return to the Windows Insider Program tab of Update & Security and click Stop Insider Previews. You'll get two options (Figure H): If you want to permanently remove your PC from Insider builds, choose the second option to keep getting updates until the next Windows release—you have to keep getting updates to that build for bug fixes and other changes, but once that version of Windows 10 is live, you'll no longer be able to download development builds.
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Brandon Vigliarolo has nothing to disclose. He does not hold investments in the technology companies he covers.
Brandon writes about apps and software for TechRepublic. He's an award-winning feature writer who previously worked as an IT professional and served as an MP in the US Army.