Today Microsoft released the second Fast Ring build for Windows 10 Mobile testers in as many weeks.
What was even more significant than the increased pace of builds for mobile Windows Insiders was the addition of a new ring to the program that fits right in between the current Slow Ring and the released version, aka Current Branch, of Windows 10.
The Release Preview Ring will be available for Windows 10 PCs and Mobile devices and can be configured for that device using Settings>Updates and security>Advanced options on PCs and using the Windows Insider app on Windows 10 Mobile.
So how does this ring fit in with the way Microsoft is developing Windows 10 and maintaining it as a service?
To begin lets review the various Windows Branches that Microsoft uses to differentiate between versions of Windows:
- Early access to new and improved features that are still under development
- Provides ability to provide feedback during development
- Windows 10 Builds 14250+ (after 22 Jan)
Current Branch (CB)
- The current public release with new and improved features
- New features are available as soon as possible
- Windows 10 Version 1511 (Build 10586+)
Current Branch for Business (CBB)
- The public release approximately four months after it was released
- Allows time to test new features and updates before being deployed in Enterprise and small business environments
- Windows 10 July Release (Builds 10240+)
Long Term Servicing Branch (LTSB)
- Latest version of Windows Enterprise (LTSB)
- Allows deployment in environments that need to remain stable for the long term and compatibility
- Windows 10 July Release (Builds 10240+) Enterprise LTSB
For the consumer side of things the first two branches will be our focus.
Over on the Windows 10 Insider Hub Microsoft provided this basic graphic to show how the three Windows Insider Rings fit into the Development and Current Branches of Windows:
The decision to flight a ring is based on the quality of the ring and it passing automatic testing in Microsoft's internal labs. As each flight makes it way to larger rings of users it will continue to be graded against a set of criteria and if it passes then it moves outward to the next ring. If it fails then a new build moves into its place and the evaluation process starts all over.
Over the last four weeks we have seen a faster pace of builds being flighted to Windows Insiders in the Fast Ring because Microsoft modified their criteria to allow those builds to reach testers faster. Of course, with those faster releases it means that it is possible for these builds to have less stability and possibly block some functionality in Windows 10.
It has always been my recommendation that you do not run Windows 10 Fast Ring builds on a production machine that you depend upon for work or other purposes - there is just too much risk for things to go bad.
That brings us to Windows 10 Insider Slow Ring builds. These are a little more stable and have likely had fixes made to address some of the Fast Ring issues that had existed in previous builds. Since these builds are from the development branch of Windows 10 they are pre-release builds and while they may be safer than a Fast Ring build they should still not be on a production machine.
This is where the new Release Preview Ring comes in and provides Windows Insiders an opportunity to minimize their risk while still testing and providing feedback on the latest features, updates, apps and drivers before the become a part of the Current Branch of Windows 10.
I am seriously considering this ring for more of my machines for testing purposes although I will likely continue to keep my primary machine on the Current Branch of Windows just for the sake of having one pristine machine.
Of course, that does not mean I am not backing up these devices and my important data each day because in the world of computers you never know plus I remember a great piece of advice I received years ago.
You never want to realize you need a backup when you actually need a backup.