Microsoft splits its Windows 11 beta in half, with new features disabled for some
Microsoft released the latest Windows 11 preview build on the beta channel, but it’s now splitting the beta channel into two groups: one gets a build with new features enabled – and the other doesn’t. And no one can choose which group they’re in, and testers can lose previously released features.
Such is the life of a Windows Insider Beta guinea pig who signed up for the beta channel to get new features earlier than others, and perhaps forgot that he’s also here to help Microsoft build Windows 11 like good seems to him. This includes having already gotten new features, which Microsoft does to some beta testers, even though it may annoy them.
So, as Microsoft prepares Windows 11 version 22H2, Microsoft thinks it’s beneficial to divide the beta channel into “haves” and “have nots” for new features.
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The main new feature Microsoft is releasing to the Beta Channel today is Suggested Actions, which it released to the Dev Channel in May when it split its Windows 11 test builds for Dev and Beta Channels. At this point, Microsoft closed the option for users to switch from the development channel to the beta channel.
Suggested actions can speed up copy-paste and copy-call actions between applications by giving the user prompts for the next step. For example, if a user copies a date, Windows suggests creating a calendar item, while copying a phone number will prompt to make a call with that number.
The other feature is OneDrive storage alert and subscription management in settings. It began rolling out Microsoft 365 subscription management in the Dev channel settings in May.
Starting today, Microsoft is enabling standalone OneDrive 100GB subscriptions in the Accounts page of Settings, similar to Microsoft 365 subscriptions. Users can view recurring billing, payment method, and OneDrive storage usage in Windows 11.
How Microsoft will handle split beta groups
Microsoft says the split beta groups are only for a “transition period.” As mentioned, a single group of Windows 11 beta testers will automatically get new features in this and future releases through an “enablement package.” The other group without the activation package has new features disabled by default.
Today, Microsoft released Windows 11 build 22622.290 for the group that will get new features: the other group gets build 22621.290 with new features disabled by default.
This transition will likely continue at least until the consumer version of Windows 22H2, which is expected around October.
“A group of Insiders in the Beta Channel will receive updates to build 22622.xxx that will have new features rolled out or enabled through an activation package like how we release updates for Windows 10 today,” Microsoft explains in a blog post.
“A group of Beta Channel Insiders will receive updates to Build 22621.xxx with new features disabled by default.”
The majority of beta users will get the version with features enabled by default, according to Microsoft. But no one decides which group he belongs to.
Microsoft acknowledges that Insiders “will want to choose which update they get.” For those grouped in the default disabled group, there is the option to disable the feature update and install the update with the features enabled.
“Insiders who land in the group with the new features disabled by default (Build 22621.xxxx) can check for updates and choose to install the update that will contain the features (Build 22622.xxx),” Microsoft explains. .
Split beta groups allow Microsoft to see if a feature is stable enough to roll out more widely or too buggy to release.
“Based on this information, it will help us decide if new features are available to more Insiders by increasing their rollout or, in some cases, disabling a feature to fix bugs. The goal is to use comparison data to ensure the best possible experience as we try out new features and experience with Windows Insiders in the beta channel,” Microsoft explains.
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There’s another potentially annoying change for some beta testers. Some Insider testers who previously had Windows 11 features “may see them disappear.” Microsoft recommends installing the activation package to restore lost functionality.
“We realize this isn’t ideal, and we’re learning how to best adjust our deployments in the future to minimize disruption in preview experiences,” Microsoft says.