Microsoft is expanding its Windows Insider Preview Program for Windows 11 in a significant way. According to a recent blog post (via Windows Central), the Redmond-based tech giant is adding a new Canary Channel to the program to “preview platform changes that require longer-lead time before getting released to customers.” These experimental builds could lay the foundation for Windows 12.
Some of these builds include “major changes to the Windows kernel, new APIs, etc.” Microsoft says this is similar to the sort of changes it previously previewed in the Dev Channel of the Preview Program. The company states that some changes it introduces in the Canary Channel may never make it to the release version of Windows, while others might show up in upcoming Windows releases if and when they’re ready.
Microsoft says the builds that will be sent out (or "flighted") to the Canary Channel will be “hot off the presses," meaning they'll be comparatively untested and potentially more risky to use than other Windows preview builds. The company says these builds may have “major issues” that could make your PC run incorrectly or potentially force you to reinstall Windows, and it has committed to providing only limited documentation for Canary Channel builds. In other words, it's probably a good idea to be careful and back up your PC before jumping on the Canary Channel.
Insiders who were previously in the Dev Channel will automatically get migrated to the Canary Channel starting today (Mar 7). The folks being moved will receive an email notifying them of the change. Insiders who want to stay in the Dev Channel will have to reinstall Windows 11, since moving to Preview Program Channels requires a fresh install when you're moving to more stable (and thus older, lower-numbered) builds of Windows. Going forward, Insiders in the Dev Channel will receive 23000 series builds of Windows 11 while those in the Canary Channel will get 25000 flight builds.
Microsoft describes this move as a “reboot” of the Dev channel and wants it to be the best place for Insiders to try out new builds. Since these builds focus on “new long-lead features and experiences,” it stands to reason that some aspects may eventually surface in Windows 12. If that’s the case, joining the Windows Insider Preview Program could be worth it for folks who want a potential preview of what’s to come. Of course, this step should be taken with some caution since these are experimental builds.
In other Windows 12 news, a recent Intel leak reveals that Windows 12 could be on the way. Hardware leaker @leaf_hobby tweeted details about Intel's Meteor Lake Xeon chips containing a mention that these next-generation processors will have Windows 12 support. Additionally, Microsoft is reportedly returning to a more traditional three-year release cycle for major versions of Windows, with frequent smaller updates to existing packages between major releases. If this pans out, we might see Windows 12 as early as 2024.