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Microsoft is introducing a new Canary Channel to the Windows Insider Program

Microsoft regularly makes updates to its Windows Insider Program to potentially improve the way that preview builds are seeded to members. Today, it has announced some annual changes to the program, with the highlight being the introduction of a new Canary Channel.

Windows Insider logo with CAN symbol next to it

The Canary Channel for the Windows Insider Program will get releases much faster. In fact, Microsoft has hinted that it may get new features as soon as they are built, with incomplete documentation and validation. They may contain major modifications to the Windows kernel and APIs, requiring a longer lead time before general release, which is why the idea is to get these changes into the hand of volunteering customers for testing as soon as possible. Previously, such features were made available through the Dev Channel.

Microsoft hasn't outlined a frequency for Canary builds yet, but has noted that they probably won't be released daily (unlike Microsoft Edge Canary). In the same vein, there won't be a blog post for every Canary release, only for those which contain new features. However, Microsoft will post announcements on new Canary builds on its Windows Insider Twitter account. The company has emphasized that since Canary will be getting new releases in a relatively unvalidated state, your PC may face major errors and you might even be required to reinstall Windows if something does go awry. And just like the Dev Channel, there is no guarantee that a Canary feature will eventually roll out generally.

Meanwhile, the Dev Channel is being "rebooted", but there aren't any major changes. It's meant for Windows enthusiasts who are eager to try out new features that are not tied to a specific OS release. It will enjoy a higher stability than Canary.

You can also find out what Insider Channel best suits you by taking a look at the infographic below:

An infographic for Windows Insider Program Channels with a new Canary Channel

Moving forward, the build numbers for each Insider Channel will be as follows:

  • Canary Channel: 25000 series
  • Dev Channel: 23000 series
  • Beta Channel: 22000 series
  • Release Preview: Released versions of Windows 10 and Windows 11

Current Dev Channel Insiders are being migrated to the Canary Channel and they will be informed of this change via an email too. Unfortunately, those who want to remain on the Dev Channel will need to perform a clean-install which is usually the case when switching to a lower Channel. Those currently enrolled in the Beta Channel but want to test out newer features are recommended to join the Dev Channel instead; no clean-install needed.

Although the Canary Channel is supposed to get new releases and features the fastest, Microsoft has interestingly noted that the Dev Channel may still receive new capabilities earlier than Canary, due to its A/B testing process. The company says:

[...] We control the state of individual features and experiences included in the builds released to Windows Insiders across the channels. We do this with Controlled Feature Rollout (CFR) technology. This allows us to roll out features in stages to monitor quality and your feedback in addition to trying out different variations of features (often referred to as "A/B testing").

With this level of control over individual features and experiences, we may release a build to the Dev Channel with a feature enabled but intentionally disabled in a build released to the Beta Channel or Canary Channel. We will enable features in the builds when we are ready to do so. We will only communicate about features that we are purposefully enabling for Insiders to try out and give feedback on. We will communicate to Insiders about new features and experiences that get enabled across all the Insider Channels via blog posts on the Windows Insider Blog including the Canary Channel. But as we mentioned above, we will offer only limited documentation for the Canary Channel.

If you are a Dev Channel Insider who does not want to be moved to Canary, follow this guide to perform a clean-install. However, if this doesn't work, Microsoft says that in its email about the changes to the Windows Insider Program, it will also include instructions on how you can order a "clean installation kit".

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