Windows 11 now has its first beta version

Microsoft has released the first beta of Windows 11, available to those enrolled in the Windows Insider Program. Until today, accessing Windows 11 meant installing the Dev preview, which Microsoft says: is for “highly technical users” because it has “rough edges”. According to Microsoft, the beta is less volatile, with builds validated by Microsoft (although it’s probably still something you’ll want to install on a test machine or second partition).

To install the beta you will of course need a compatible computer. Figuring out whether your hardware will work with the next version of Windows was notoriously tricky to pin down, but Microsoft’s article on preparation for Insider builds leads people to the system requirements page. The company has said it will keep a close eye on how well 7th Gen Intel and AMD Zen 1 CPUs perform during the testing period, so those systems may be allowed to run the beta, but not the final release.

Switching to the beta channel is easy for now.

The beta release is also good news for those of us who have the Dev preview installed to get their hands on Windows 11 as soon as possible, but don’t really need to be on the bleeding (read: buggy) edge. If, like me, you’re in this situation, you can switch to the beta channel by going to Settings > Windows Update > Windows Insider Program and then clicking Choose your Insider settings.

Usually switch from Dev to Beta requires a full OS reinstall, but according to the Windows Insider Twitter account, it will be possible to do it in place for a “short period”. It’s probably best to hop on that ASAP if you don’t have to stay on the Dev channel. I tried it out myself and switching to the beta channel only required a quick reboot – a small price to pay for what will hopefully be smoother until the actual release.

For those who are still using Windows 10 but are adventurous enough to participate in the beta, you can register for Microsoft’s beta program here. While Microsoft says the Beta Channel releases are more stable than Dev Channel releases, they are of course still betas. There will likely be bugs, crashes and missing features – Microsoft even has a whole list of current issues in his blog post, which also says that the Teams Chat feature available to some in the Dev channel is not currently available to beta users.

But if you’ve been itching to try out Windows 11, it’s now in a place stable enough that Microsoft is willing to call it ready for early adopters (for those on the brink of living, you could say).