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How to join the Windows Insider program

The Windows Insider program is Microsoft's early-release testing platform for new Windows builds and features. It's the only place to get access to the Microsoft Copilot at this time, so if you're keen to play around with the smartest version of Clippy to date, then you'll need to sign up, and join the Dev channel. For anyone interested in other upcoming features (or more stable builds) there are other channels to consider, too.

Whichever one you want to sign up to, though, joining is pretty straightforward. Here's how to do it.




10 minutes

What You Need

  • Windows 11 desktop PC or laptop

  • Optional data collection enabled in Windows

How to join Windows Insider

The Windows Insider program is an opt-in program for anyone who wants to try out new Windows features ahead of everyone else. Anyone can sign up, though you'll have to join and then select the right release channel for the builds that you want to play with, and the level of unpredictability you are willing to accept.

Step 1: Open Windows 11 Settings by pressing the Windows key + I then navigate to Windows Update.

Step 2: Select the Windows Insider Program

Windows Insider sign up in Windows 11.
Jon Martindale / DigitalTrends

Step 3: Select Get started,

Note: You may need to enable optional data collection to continue. Follow the on-screen prompts to do so, if necessary.

Windows Insider sign up in Windows 11.
Jon Martindale / DigitalTrends

Step 4: Select Link an account then from the drop-down that appears, select your main Microsoft account.

Step 5: When prompted, select the Insider channel you want to be a part of, then select Continue. The different channels are as follows:

  • Dev Channel: The most technical, advanced, and likely unstable version. It is the only one that gives you access to the Microsoft Copilot.
  • Beta Channel: Early adopter features with some bugs likely still present. Not as barebones as the Dev channel, but much earlier release than general updates.
  • Release Preview: A quick look at upcoming features in an upcoming Windows update. The most stable of the branches, but the one with the least lead time before a general release.

Step 6: Select Continue again to approve the terms and conditions, then select Restart now to reboot your PC.

Step 7: Once your PC has restarted, head to Windows update by navigating to Settings > Windows Update > Update now. This will update Windows to your new, Insider version with the latest release from that channel. You may need to restart your PC multiple times during the installation process.

How to check what Insider build you're on

Once you've downloaded the latest Insider Windows build for your channel, you'll have access to all the new and exciting features. If you were trying to download a build to get access to a certain feature, like Copilot, you may want to check your release build to make sure it's the right on for what you need. Here's how to do it.

Navigate to Settings > System > About and look at the "OS Build" number to determine your Windows build.

Did you do all that to get access to Copilot? We wouldn't blame you, it's very cool. But Google's new alternative is shaping up to be very impressive too. Here's how Google Duet and Microsoft Copilot measure up in a head to head.

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