The Xbox Insider Program, like the Windows Insider Program, is a way for Microsoft to harvest feedback on pre-release operating system builds before releasing them to the public. Xbox Insiders get the opportunity to experience new features and services early, albeit with the risk of bugs and other issues that might hinder their console experience. Typically, Xbox Insider builds even on the buggiest "Skip Ahead" ring are generally safe to use.
Here's a list of information you need to know if you're interested in the Xbox Insider Program.
How the Xbox Insider Program works
Similarly to the Windows Insider Program, the Xbox Insider Program is divided up into five defined "rings." Alpha Skip-Ahead, Alpha, Beta, Delta, and Omega. These tiered rings vary from Alpha to Omega and determine which pre-release builds are rolled out to your console. While Alpha Skip-Ahead ring members will gain a first look at new features, these will also be considerably less stable. As time progresses, fixes can be deployed, meaning those in lower rings should be exposed to fewer issues. Microsoft estimates that around 15 to 20 updates can be expected for Alpha ring users per month, while Omega ring users will receive one to eight.
Microsoft recently made some major changes to the enrollment process for the Xbox Insider Program, based on feedback from the community. While Microsoft previously determined entry to the program and rings, your contributions now play less of a role in accessing other tiers. Here's a breakdown of the five tiers and their current prerequisites to enroll.
- Alpha Skip-Ahead: This is an invite-only ring and offers the most cutting-edge updates that are potentially the least stable. It's unknown how users are ultimately invited to participate in this ring, but it may be subject to participation with offering feedback, reporting bugs, and so on.
- Alpha: This is another invite-only ring, and receives builds that are in the current branch before other rings. Again, invitation to this ring may be subject to participation.
- Beta: Xbox Insiders who have been participating for three months or more, with an Insider XP level of 5 or higher may be invited to this ring. Beta gets builds a short while after Alpha, with more bug fixes.
- Delta: Delta is a ring dedicated to focus testing of specific "edge cases" for situations arising from Alpha and Beta. Microsoft says Delta may occasionally receive builds before the Beta channel, although it's not common. The Delta ring is open to users who have hit level 2 XP in the Insider Hub, after one month or more. Delta builds will generally be more stable than the above rings.
- Omega: Omega is the basic ring open to anyone who joins the Xbox Insider Program via the Insider Hub app. This ring receives builds shortly before general availability to the public (GA).
Essentially, anyone can now gain access to Omega ring builds, with higher tiers still requiring a certain Insider Level or tenure to enroll. However, the Alpha rings remain exclusively as an invite-only group and are reserved only for the most active insiders.
How to join the program
Following the recent restructuring of the Xbox Insider Program, any user can download the app and get started. Although new users will be restricted to the Omega ring at first, higher tiers can be accessed after only a short while. However, some of the higher tiers operate on a first-come, first-served basis, and may be inaccessible for some time based on available slots.
Either way, you'll need the app to get started. Prospective Xbox Insiders are required to install the "Xbox Insider Hub" app from the Xbox Store. Follow these steps to find and install the app to your console.
- Navigate to the store on your Xbox console.
- Search for Xbox Insider Hub and download it.
- Run the Xbox Insider Hub and hit join.
After installing the application, you can now enroll to receive pre-release builds. However, if you decide not to enroll right now, you may still be offered chances to participate in feedback surveys and access pre-release games. It's worth joining up.
How to enroll your console
To get started with Xbox Insider builds, you'll need to enroll your console in an Insider ring. You can enroll as many Xbox consoles as you like, but doing so for the first time will take a few days to process.
- In the Xbox Insider Hub navigate to Previews on the left side of the app.
- Under available select Xbox Update Preview.
Click Join to begin enrolling your console to receive Insider builds.
Note: Enrollment will take a few days to complete.
How to remove your Xbox from the Insider program
As far as we can tell, you can't remove your Microsoft Account from the Xbox Insider program, but you can remove your Xboxes which is just as effective. To do that, follow these steps.
- In the Xbox Insider Hub navigate to Previews on the left side of the app.
- Select Xbox Update Preview.
- Select Manage.
- Hit Leave preview.
Once you have followed these steps, the selected Xbox consoles will stop receiving Insider updates, and will simply update to the latest stable Xbox build the next time one is released that passes the point in the development cycle of your current insider build. Unenrollment may trigger a mandatory factory reset, but no data will be lost as a result.
How to roll back to a more stable build
If you're leaving the Xbox Insider Program due to bugs introduced in the latest build, then you may have to perform a manual factory reset your console to get back to a stable build. Follow the steps below on how to do that. Usually, the update preview will automatically force this anyway.
- Open the Guide menu by hitting the Xbox button on your controller.
- Navigate right to the Settings cogwheel menu.
- Select System.
- Select Console info.
Select Reset console.
Note: You can reset your Xbox completely, wiping all apps, settings, and games, but also choose to save your game installations. Saving your games should still allow you to roll back to a public build.
What can I do with the Xbox Insider app?
Beyond build enrollment, the Xbox Insider app also gives you access to various features which gamifies the feedback process somewhat.
- The left-hand menu gives you easy access to polls, featured surveys, Insider content such as patch notes, feedback and error reporting, and settings for console management.
- The central column offers data on your participation in the program. Completing surveys and doing feedback quests grant EXP, helping you level up. Navigating down in this column will reveal Insider leaderboards, both of your friends list and globally.
- Microsoft will post announcements on the right-hand column, giving you quick access to new surveys, new programs to participate in, in addition to patch notes.
- Quests appear in the far right-hand column. Quests ask you to perform a task (usually associated with new features) and then offer feedback. Doing so also nets you EXP.
There's no way to leave the Xbox Insider program once you have joined, but uninstalling this app and following the steps to unenroll your consoles from Insider builds serves the same purpose.
The Xbox Insider Program is awesome
User feedback shapes everything Microsoft does with its software, from Windows to Office to Xbox. Many of the upcoming changes to the Xbox dashboard will have been from feedback received across the Insider hub and the official Xbox Insider subreddit page. Many of the best upcoming Xbox games have also begun using the Xbox Insider hub to test upcoming updates, as well as full games.
We always post the newest information from the Xbox Insider Program on our topic page below, so be sure to bookmark it and keep your eyes on Windows Central for all the latest!
If you have any questions about the Xbox Insider Program, let us know in the comments, and we'll try to get them answered for you!