Microsoft to let Insiders 'skip ahead' to the next Windows 10 update preview

Windows Insider program settings
Windows Insider program settings (Image credit: Windows Central)

Starting very soon, Microsoft will allows Insiders who are keen to get testing the next Windows 10 update (the one after the upcoming Fall Creators Update, codenamed Redstone 4) on their machines with a new "skip ahead" feature that will split the Fast ring into two groups, one for the Fall Creators Update and one for Redstone 4.

As I mentioned previously, the Fall Creators Update is now at its tail end of development, meaning bug fixes and general improvements are going to be the norm from here until release. Internally however, Microsoft is already hard at work on Redstone 4, and now it appears Insiders will be able to get in on that early Redstone 4 action before the Fall Creators Update is done.

The new "skip ahead" feature is simple. Insiders in the Fast ring will now have two options, either builds from the rs3_release branch, or builds from the rs_prerelease branch. Eagle eyed Insiders will know that the "xxx_release" branch is generally pretty stable, as it's where Microsoft compiles and rolls out the production builds of Windows 10. The rs_prerelease branch is where all the preview, rougher, buggier builds come from.

To stabilize the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update for release, we have "forked" the release into its own branch we call "RS3_RELEASE". Many Windows Insiders will recall we did the same thing for the Windows 10 Creators Update when we started flighting builds from the "RS2_RELEASE" branch. Going forward, Windows Insiders in the Fast ring will continue to get builds for the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update from this branch. However, Windows Insiders who choose to skip ahead will receive builds from the RS_PRERELEASE branch.As we work to prepare the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update for the world, our engineering teams are beginning work on the next release of Windows 10 from our Development Branch. Windows Insiders in the Fast ring who choose to skip ahead will be given the opportunity to start trying out these builds in addition to receiving app updates again for many of the inbox apps in Windows 10 such as Photos, Skype, Groove, and Movies & TV.

Since we're just a couple of months away from the Fall Creators Update being done, Microsoft will be flighting rs3_release builds to Insiders who wish to remain on the Fall Creators Update path. These builds will get more and more stable up until release, whereas the rs_prerelease branch will get buggier and buggier, as that branch is leading into the next major Windows 10 update after the Fall Creators Update.

One benefit of this change is it gives Insiders the ability to test the latest Insider versions of inbox apps. If an Insider chooses the rs_prerelease branch, they will be able to test the latest preview versions of those apps, whereas the rs3_release branch will remain on production versions of apps.

So, this is a big change for the Insider Program, and one that will require Insiders to make a choice. Would you rather continue testing the Fall Creators Update with builds that are more stable up until release, or are you willing to try out builds of the next version of Windows 10 that may be more buggier? The choice is up to you.

Zac Bowden
Senior Editor

Zac Bowden is a Senior Editor at Windows Central. Bringing you exclusive coverage into the world of Windows on PCs, tablets, phones, and more. Also an avid collector of rare Microsoft prototype devices! Keep in touch on Twitter and Threads