4 good reasons to join Microsoft's Xbox Insider Program

The Xbox Insider Program provides an advanced look at upcoming Xbox One features before they roll out to the general public. In much the same way as the Windows Insider Program, users who have enrolled their consoles can gain access to early, incomplete OS builds that may contain bugs and other anomalies. However, it also gives users a chance to share feedback and potentially shape the priorities of the Xbox platform team as it develops new systems and features for the tens of millions of Xbox users.

So, is it safe to join the Xbox Insider Program? Here are my experiences being on the riskiest builds for the past year, along with some pros and cons of joining the program.

So, should you become and Xbox Insider?

Pseudolocalization text is a "fun" quirk of Xbox Insider builds.

Pseudolocalization text is a "fun" quirk of Xbox Insider builds.

The Xbox Insider Program is split into four distinct "rings," dubbed Alpha, Beta, Delta, and Omega. The Alpha ring represents the least stable, most advanced builds, which are the most likely to come with bugs and other issues. As you move through to Omega, the builds become gradually more stable. Omega is effectively just an advanced preview ring, containing the most polished builds.

I have spent all of my time on the Xbox Insider Program in the Alpha ring, using it daily, and I've never encountered an issue that prevented me from using my console. I have read some unsubstantiated horror stories about the Alpha ring bricking consoles, and the Alpha ring has had some odd bugs, preventing specific games from functioning properly. But those issues are usually fixed very promptly. The Alpha ring is updated the most frequently, gaining new builds every few days when Microsoft is actively testing new features, so any critical bugs are usually fixed extremely promptly. Of course, it's worth noting that these updates can be hundreds of megabytes, sometimes a few gigabytes, in size, so if you have bandwidth caps, you'll want to steer clear.

If even the relatively minor risk of being impacted by the potential issues on the Alpha ring bothers you, you can always slip down to the Beta or Delta rings, which are far more stable. You can change which ring your console is enrolled in, although not everybody is deemed eligible to utilize the higher, riskier rings. Unlike the Windows Insider Program, the Xbox Insider Program's rings have a limited amount of availability, with the Alpha ring remaining invite-only based on user involvement in submitting feedback and bug reports. If you're joining the Insider Program for the first time, you'll likely only have access to Delta and Omega, which I personally deem to be completely safe.

See the link below for more information on each ring's unique requirements.

Everything you need to know about the Xbox Insider Program

4 reasons why you should join the Xbox Insider Program

If you're interested, we recommend joining the program. Here's why.

Be part of a community

The Xbox Insider Program also sports a vibrant community across forums on the Xbox website and a dedicated Club on Xbox Live, where Insiders can discuss bugs, feedback, and more.

Join game previews on Xbox and PC

Through the Xbox Insider Hub on Xbox and PC, you can join previews for games and other apps that are currently pre-launch. Microsoft used this method to test Minecraft's "Better Together" update, and it also runs previews for some of its other upcoming titles.

Shape the future of Xbox

While Xbox harvests information from various places, including general telemetry, the Xbox UserVoice page, and feedback across forums, users enrolled in the Xbox Insider Program can submit bug reports directly, as well as participate in surveys and polls.

Through the Xbox Insider Hub, Microsoft frequently adds new polls and surveys that task users with trying out new features, to then gather feedback on implementation. You're given experience points (EXP) for your time, and you can compete on the Xbox Insider Program's feedback leaderboards as a bit of fun.

No real risk in joining

Unless you're in the Alpha ring, there's no real risk involved in joining the Xbox Insider Program. Frankly, even if you are in the Alpha ring, I've never encountered a bug that stopped me from enjoying my console. Some things might occasionally look ugly or broken, and you might encounter other small quality-of-life issues. But the days of large dashboard overhauls seem to be behind us, and most of the new builds will be small feature tweaks and additions rather than sweeping structural changes. Unlike the Windows Insider Program, which has to account for an insane amount of different hardware types, you won't be getting blue screens of death.

Hit the link below for more information on how to get involved with the Xbox Insider Program.

Everything you need to know about the Xbox Insider Program

Jez Corden
Co-Managing Editor

Jez Corden is a Managing Editor at Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by tea. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his XB2 Podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!