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March 31, 2020

New Roles for Slow and Fast Insider Rings

In the wake of Microsoft’s announcement around Build 19536 and a new testing approach for Insiders, I’ve been rethinking my take on the Slow and Fast rings. I blogged about this announcement on December 18 in a post entitled Windows Insider Program Changes: What’s Up? Now that I’ve had a little more time to think about more answers to that question, I wanted to share my current understanding of those two rings. I also wanted to explain why I’m adding more machines to the Slow ring as a consequence.

The Slow ring text appears at the head of this story; here’s the Fast ring text. Each provides important clues about their role in Windows 10 Insider testing.

What’s Fast? What’s Slow?

The Fast ring is where new features and functions will be tried out on Windows Insiders. These may or may not ever show up in a production version of Windows, but are deemed of sufficient value and interest to be shared with the Insider audience. This makes working with and providing feedback on the Fast ring as much of a sanity check back to Microsoft, as it is a real (or hypothetical) workout of some future version of Windows 10. Given the somewhat “iffy” nature or what comes into (and inevitably later also goes out of) Windows 10 in the Fast ring, this makes the Slow ring more important to me for the following reasons:
1. What shows up in the Slow ring is far more likely to appear in the next planned Windows 10 release.
2. What Insiders see and experience in the Slow ring provides the most important target for Feedback Hub input.
3. The Slow ring is less likely to be subject to frequent changes and inadvertent instability.
4. Less frequent changes provides the opportunity for deeper, more focused attention and more valuable feedback.
Until this announcement appeared, I put most of my time and energy into Windows 10 Fast ring releases. I assumed that’s where the action was, and where the real interest lay. But now, I’m starting to rethink this priority and am starting to believe that while the Fast ring remains worth downloading, installing and playing with (and providing feedback where appropriate), the Slow ring needs more of my time and attention. If part of the job of Insiders is to guinea pig what the vast majority of users will have to endure in a next release — and I think that’s both true and fair to say — then making sure that broken, questionable, or poorly designed or implemented elements in the Slow ring get ample and detailed feedback just got more important. At  least that’s how I feel about it now.

What do you think? Please share your comments and reactions here on the site and let me know how this impacts your Insider activity. If you have a take on the Slow and Fast rings that differs from mine, please fill me in on your understanding. Thanks!

Author: Ed Tittel

Ed Tittel is a 30-plus-year computer industry veteran. He’s a Princeton and multiple University of Texas graduate who’s worked in IT since 1981 when he started his first programming job. Over the past three decades he’s also worked as a manager, technical evangelist, consultant, trainer, and an expert witness. See his professional bio for all the details.

4 Responses “New Roles for Slow and Fast Insider Rings”

  1. December 20, 2019 at 18:00

    I have not had any machines, real or virtual, in Slow Ring. Now I think it’s time to create at least a few Slow Ring virtual machines in Hyper-V, to test in various languages. But, I will keep my physical machines in Fast Ring.

  2. CountMike
    December 20, 2019 at 18:24

    I’m staying in Fast ring as my curiosity gets better of me. (I was a cat in my last life). I also like to send few zingers to MS every now and then, can’t complain too much about regular builds. Insider builds are my second OS anyway so have nothing to loose. I don’t know if and how I’m wrong but Fast builds must be containing everything slow ring has and more so slow ring doesn’t make as much sense to me.
    Pre-release (when feature build is imminent) and one another ring is all they need.

  3. December 20, 2019 at 23:47

    CountMike & Kari: I hear you loud and clear. But I still think this means Slow Ring needs more attention and feedback, in the interests of the “80-year-old Grandma” running Win10, who is rightfully and bissfully clueless about all this stuff. She just wants to see her latest cat video or snaps of the grandkids.

    • December 21, 2019 at 00:38

      I fully agree with you, that’s why I plan to setup a few Slow Ring virtual machines. I might even install Slow Ring for dual boot. But, I can’t help it, I want to remain in frontline, whatever happens. It means, that my physical devices will remain in Fast Ring.

      I was thinking more about these new ring roles, and renamed the new Fast Ring as Skip Far Ahead Ring, as it seems boldly go to the future. Whatever bugs and issues it might bring, I’m game, at the same time agreeing with you in importance of Slow Ring and therefore setting up necessary virtual machines.

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