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Microsoft pulls plug on ‘Skip Ahead' ring for testing very early builds of Windows 10

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Microsoft has killed one of the "rings" in its Windows Insider program that allowed users to test early versions of upcoming Windows 10 builds in very early states. Called the "Skip Ahead" ring, it gave users the earliest preview of new features.

"Starting today, Windows Insiders who have opted into Skip Ahead are being migrated back into the Fast ring. This means that Skip Ahead will no longer be reflected under Settings > Update & Security > Windows Insider Program. Going forward, we will not be offering Skip Ahead as an option for Insiders to sign-up for. Our goal is to provide everyone in the Fast ring the freshest builds at the same time," Microsoft's Brandon LeBlanc said.

Microsoft doles out preview builds of future Windows 10 releases to users in the Windows Insider program. For users who are willing to risk stability and other potential issues, this gives them an opportunity to test upcoming features before they are doled out to the general public. In return, Microsoft gains valuable feedback, both in how features are received by users, and on bugs in need of squashing.

Even with the Insider program, bugs inevitably end up in the final release. The October 2018 update was especially troublesome, to the point where Microsoft ended up yanking it offline after it went live to fix a spattering of issues (it ended up being re-released in November 2018, was still unavailable for many users until December).

As for how potentially buggy an Insider preview might be, that depends in part on which ring a user subscribes to. The Release Preview ring is the most stable of the bunch, followed by the Slow ring, Fast ring, and up until now, the Skip Ahead ring (in that order).

Microsoft has committed to releasing two major upgrades to Windows 10 each year. The Skip Ahead ring allowed users to skip over the next planned build, and test the one that was slated to arrive after that one. It's no longer an option, though.

In related news, Microsoft is pushing out a new preview build to Windows Insiders in the Fast ring (build 19018). This is an early version of the 20H1 release, which is the first of two major updates headed to Windows 10 next year. There's not much in this preview build that is of interest for gaming—it's mostly focused on testing features related to search.

If you want to participate in the Windows Insider program, you can do so by going to Settings > Update & Security > Windows Insider Program, and then click Click Started. Just be sure to back up any important data. Even the Slow ring can be buggy. Protip: If you score a Black Friday deal on a new PC, you might consider using your old rig to test new builds instead (if you don't plan on selling it, that is).

Paul has been playing PC games and raking his knuckles on computer hardware since the Commodore 64. He does not have any tattoos, but thinks it would be cool to get one that reads LOAD"*",8,1. In his off time, he rides motorcycles and wrestles alligators (only one of those is true).