Microsoft introduces “Skip Ahead” functionality for Windows Insiders in the Fast Ring

Arif Bacchus

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Dona Sakar early this morning kept to her tradition and announced that there would be no new builds for Windows Insider today. The queen of the red button, though, did take to her Twitter account late this afternoon to make a significant announcement. In a post on the Insider Hub, it has been revealed that Microsoft is introducing a “Skip Ahead” functionality for a limited set of Windows Insiders in the Fast Ring. Those who opt in will be allowed to skip ahead to “Redstone 4” (codename not official yet), the next major release of Windows 10 to be released in Spring 2018.

Though Dona Sarkar is saying that the differences won’t be noticed right away, the functionality will soon be found under Settings -> Update & Security ->Windows Insider Program. According to Sarkar, those who choose to skip ahead will be given opportunities to try out the next release of Windows 10 from the Development Branch.

In addition, those who skip ahead will also receive app updates for stock Windows 10 Inbox apps like Photos, Skype, Groove, and Movies & TV.  More importantly, the “Skip Ahead” functionality creates a fork in the Windows Insider program, and here is how it works.

To stabilize the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update for release, we have “forked” the release into its own branch we call “RS3_RELEASE”. Many Windows Insiders will recall we did the same thing for the Windows 10 Creators Update when we started flighting builds from the “RS2_RELEASE” branch. Going forward, Windows Insiders in the Fast ring will continue to get builds for the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update from this branch. However, Windows Insiders who choose to skip ahead will receive builds from the RS_PRERELEASE branch.

To summarize:

  • Fast ring: Builds from RS3_RELEASE branch with no inbox app updates.
  • Fast ring + Skip Ahead: Builds from RS_PRERELEASE with inbox app updates from the Store.

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The news is coming in heavy, and some might be worried as to how different builds will be moving forward. As of right now, Dona Sarkar is saying that builds from the RS_PRERELEASE and RS3_RELEASE branches will be virtually identical. She also offers advice for how this will change the Windows Insider Program moving forward:

At some point in the future, build numbers in the RS_PRERELEASE branch will jump ahead, engineering teams will start checking in new code, and things diverge. When this happens – you will not be able to leave Skip Ahead and go back to builds from the RS3_RELEASE branch without reinstalling Windows. Once the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update is released to the general public, this skip ahead option will go away and the Fast ring will be back to receiving builds from the RS_PRERELEASE branch for the next Windows 10 release and inbox app updates from the Store will be fully restored to all Windows Insiders in the Fast and Slow rings.

The Windows Insider Team is reminding Insiders that builds from the RS_PRERELEASE branch will end up getting less stable. So if this is a concern for you, it’s best not to select “Skip Ahead” and wait for Fast Ring to transition back to RS_PRERELEASE. You also should be aware that there is still a focus on the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update, and only a select set of Windows Insiders will be able to Skip Ahead, and once Microsoft’s quota is met, the “Skip ahead” functionality will be closed.