If you’re a regular DIYer, you most likely play around with different operating systems and versions. I often find that testing different betas can not only confuse you about what has been officially released, but also confuse your computer.
I usually use a mix of virtual and real machines for my beta testing, and I often use my laptop at home for betas. (At work, it’s too important for the machine to run possibly unstable code.)
This leads to interesting situations at home where I have an old laptop that works great for typing Computerworld posts and remote access to various servers, workstations and cloud services, but not good enough for Windows 11.
The other day, just for fun, I adjusted a registry key to see if I can get Windows 11 — even though it’s not officially supported. It didn’t work. After investigating, I realized that the registry bypass method only works if you manually download the Windows 11 ISO and run the resulting .exe file.
So I tried another computer and used the registry key method to manually install Windows 11 21H2. Then I checked to see if the 22H2 would be offered. Note: I haven’t seen anything solid to suggest that Microsoft blocks 22H2 on devices that have bypassed the hardware requirements, but I haven’t been prompted to do so.
First beta tip: If you’re using the registry key method to install Windows 11 on an unsupported computer, plan to manually install feature releases as they become available.
Next, I wanted to try Windows 10 22H2 before it was released so I could see if there were any major changes. I joined the Insider program to get it early, did some research, and then tried to go back to the normal release channels. Note: If there is a regular release that is newer than the insider version you are using, you power be able to get off the insider track without having to reinstall the entire system. But prepare for a full reinstall if you get stuck. However, when I woke up the next morning and logged into my laptop, I found that it was running Windows 11 22H2.
This is where things got weird. When I checked my update history in Windows Update, I found that “Update for Windows Feature Experience Pack for Windows 10 20H2 for x64-based systems (KB5000967)” is waiting to be installed. However, I clearly had Windows 11. Then, when I ran the snipping tool to take a screenshot, I got an error: The program is not registered. Obviously now I had a messed up system.
I quickly went into the Windows Update settings and decided to go back to the previous release of the feature — even though I wasn’t entirely sure what I’d end up with. After a reboot, I ended up with Windows 10 22H2 (and no longer on the Insider channel).
Second beta tip: Be prepared to reinstall your operating system when working with beta versions. Make sure you have a backup (or Windows 10 or 11 media on a bootable flash drive) and know how to reinstall WIndows.
Office betas can also be … entertaining. If you want to participate in Office betas, check if you have a Microsoft 365 subscription that allows you to choose between different release versions. In Office, I decided to stay on the semi-annual corporate version (so I stay on the stable version of Office). But you can play with beta versions at home.
You can participate Insider versions by clicking File>Account and looking at what you have. Note, however, that any version of Office with a year in the name is a permanent version, making it unsuitable for insider testing.
If you’re trying out the Office beta, you should keep an eye out the Insider blog to see what changes you can see. And remember, Microsoft doesn’t roll out new features to everyone at the same time during Insider beta testing. Maybe you’ll find something on the blog that you haven’t already. As Microsoft explains, “Features are released over time to ensure smooth operation. We’re highlighting features you might not have because they’re rolling out to more insiders. We sometimes remove items to further improve them based on your feedback. While this is rare, we also reserve the right to remove a feature from a product entirely, even if you, as an insider, have had the opportunity to try it out.”
Third beta tip: Be patient. Sometimes the feature you want to test isn’t offered on your computer.
Even if you’re not involved in Windows or Office Insider/Beta builds, we’re all going to need more patience. Now, even released versions of Windows are subject to a “dribble” release process. Between Microsoft 365dribble change” and Windows momentsthe new standard is a phased rollout. KB5018483, for example, “adds Task Manager to the context menu when you right-click on the taskbar. This feature will be available in the coming weeks.” (This update will be included in the regular cumulative update that will be released on November 8.)
The bottom line is that beta testing can be difficult. And even if you’re not actively participating in beta programs, you’ll see changes to your system over time. It’s just a question of whether you want to be on the front lines or fall behind and wait for more proven code.
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