Microsoft will formally launch its Windows 11 operating system later this year. The insider preview build has already been released to the developer and beta channel, and the release preview will also be available soon. If you’re a developer or an early adopter, we are providing you with the step-by-step instructions on how to download and install the Windows 11 Insider Preview build.
1. Check Your Device Compatibility with Windows 11
First, check whether your Windows 10 device is upgradeable to Windows 11 in this comprehensive compatibility guide. This is a very important step, and you should not proceed without knowing whether your existing device meets the mark.
2. Enroll in Windows Insider Program
For each of its latest operating systems, Microsoft runs Windows insider programs to enable free downloads and testing. Many years ago, you had to be a Microsoft developer/partner or affiliated in some way to get early-bird access.
Today, this is no longer the case, and anyone can become a Windows 11 insider at this link. You only need an Outlook (or Hotmail/Live) email account, and your device has to be currently running an official version of Windows 10.
The process of getting onboard with a Microsoft insider channel is called “flighting,” and once you click the link shown in the screenshot, you will be redirected to your PC’s Windows Insider menu. You can alternatively connect from your Windows 10 PC’s Windows Insider Program feature by clicking “Get Started” on the “Get Insider Preview build” option.
Use an email account registered in the Windows Insider program for accessing these preview builds. That email account should preferably be the one you used to register the Windows 10 device where you wish to install Windows 11.
After you sign in with the registered account, wait a few minutes for the Insider registration to complete. You should see the status message: “You’re good to go. Thank you for registering for the Windows Insider program. Now let’s get your device set up.”
Go back to the Windows Insider program settings. It can be accessed from the Start menu.
The next stage of choosing your insider settings is very important. You can go for a developer channel, which is supposed to be “for highly technical users” but will work on anyone’s PC as long as they can manage a few performance lags. Don’t run it on your daily use PC to be sure.
If you don’t want the rough edges on performance, click on the “dev channel” option and select the “Beta channel” from there. The remaining installation procedure is the same as the Dev channel, which is what we are covering in this tutorial.
You can always unregister from the Windows Insider program on the page itself and stop getting new builds. However, once you install Windows 11 using the next steps, there’s no turning back unless you have a recovery drive, which we cover below.
3. Check for Windows Updates to Access Windows 11 Insider Build
Once the Dev (or Beta) channels have been saved in the Windows Insider settings, go to the Start menu and select “Check for updates.”
Refresh the update screen a few times to see the option of downloading the Windows 11 Insider preview with build number (22000, etc.). If you have other pending Microsoft updates, finish them first before saving Dev channel settings. Otherwise, it can affect the download time for the Windows 11 update.
As far as possible, try to keep the Windows 11 update separate from the rest. Download errors aren’t uncommon. When they occur, simply restart the PC. Undo the Window 11 Insider Preview build for a while and finish those extra updates.
Downloading the Insider preview separately makes the downloads a bit faster. But you still have to be patient.
After downloading, the Windows 11 Insider Preview build, installation may consume a lot more time, as it inches very slowly. It varies from user to user, though, and you may personally have a more pleasant experience.
Unfortunately, Microsoft does not provide an estimated time on when the installation should finish. Keep the device plugged in and leave it for a few hours. If you have a very high speed Internet connection, the installation should happen much faster. Make sure to use an unmetered Wi-Fi connection.
After the installation is complete, you will be able to see a blue dialog screen prompting you to restart the device. You can do it later. But first we need to know how to set up a recovery drive.
4. Set Up a Recovery Drive for Windows 10 (Optional)
If you’re keen on migrating to Windows 11, skip this step. For those who may be dissatisfied with the developer build, it’s possible to go back to Windows 10 as long as you have a recovery drive handy. You can access this option from the Start menu and will need a USB drive with at least 16 GB space. See our detailed guide on this.
Creating a backup with the recovery drive is the safest way to boot back to Windows 10 once you no longer want to deal with the Windows 11 developer builds.
5. Finish the Windows 11 Insider Preview Updates
Whether or not you create a recovery drive, once you restart the system, it will install the Windows 11 insider preview build. You will be initially greeted by a blue screen: “Updates are underway. [number] % complete, please keep your computer on.”
This part of installation should not take very long, unlike the previous section’s preview build installation. However, you may have a different experience based on system RAM and any other settings. If the screen is stuck at a given number, do not worry, as it will clear on its own. It doesn’t take a long time to reach 100%.
After the blue screen clears, the next step may be a bit more challenging. It’s Microsoft’s dreaded “black screen of death,” which takes an unusually long time. You have to be very patient. My system was stuck at 0% for nearly an hour. Only after that time did the needle start moving. In any case, it’s nothing to worry about as long as you keep your device plugged in.
Your system will experience restarts a few times. The latter parts of the installation may finish very fast, leading to the Windows 11 launch screen.
6. Welcome to Windows 11
Microsoft should have made the last part of the installation less unpredictable than is has.
After a long duration of black screen, the Windows 11 homescreen will greet you. Your system password remains the same. All the programs, files and folders will be right there where they currently are on Windows 10.
The only design menus that look out of place are the centered Start menu and pinned apps on the taskbar. You can always move them back to the left.
Also of significance are the multiple desktops you can launch from the taskbar itself. From Windows 11 onward, you can create entirely separate desktops for home, entertainment, and work, renaming them as you go. This is really a very good feature, which you must immediately try.
Currently, some of the preview build options, such as Widgets and Android apps compatibility, may not work very smoothly. You will have to wait for a formal Windows 11 launch to use these options.
With this Developer/Beta builds, it is common to experience stability and performance issues. Therefore it’s recommended to not install them on a machine that you’d regularly use for work. That said, Windows 11 insider Preview builds are far more stable than installing the ISO. Read on to get answers to the 11 questions you’re probably asking about Windows 11.