Microsoft is continuing its highly acclaimed -- and badly needed -- preview program for those who want to ensure their software continues to run once Windows 10 is updated. If you have software you're peddling to Win10 customers, or if you're in charge of keeping a bevy of Win10 PCs running, better get with the system and devote at least one test machine to the Insider Release Preview ring.
There's a lot of misinformation in the press about the role of Release Preview builds. The concept's pretty easy: Release Preview builds give devs and admins a chance to shoot holes in mainstream Win10 updates before they're released to the unwashed masses. If you have a product that needs to run on the next update of Windows, you should test it against the latest Release Preview as soon as the Release Preview hits the servers. If you're an admin who has to keep a bunch of Win10 PCs running, you can get a head start on your monthly rollout testing by running your configurations against Release Preview builds.
As best I can tell, yesterday was only the third time Microsoft has unleashed a Win10 Release Preview for PCs (mobile is a different story).The first Release Preview arrived on April 27, in the form of Win10 build 10586.240, which was a precursor to the May 10 Patch Tuesday general release of 10586.318. The second Release Preview, on June 2, build 10586.338, was a precursor to the June 14 Patch Tuesday build 10586.420.
In both cases, admins and devs who tested the Release Previews had a leg up on the "real" Win10 patch when it arrived a couple of weeks later.
While the Release Preview doesn't contain all of the changes that will arrive on Patch Tuesday (or whenever Microsoft releases its next update), it contains many of them.
Build 10586.456, released on June 29, is the precursor to the next mainstream (Current Branch) patch for Win10 version 1511 build 10586, which I'd be willing to bet will arrive on the July 12 Patch Tuesday.
The only way to acquire build 10586.456/KB 3170411 is to sign up for the Insider Release Preview program. If you have a test machine that you want to devote to the cause, log in to Win10 with a Microsoft account that's been approved for the Insider Program. Then, in Win10, choose Start > Settings Update & security > Advanced Options. Under "Get Insider Preview builds," click Get started. You will have to clear a couple of warning dialogs and reboot.
When your system comes back up for air, click Start > Settings > Advanced Options, and make sure the Insider level slider is set to Release Preview. Ignore the marketingspeak that says "Best for Insiders who enjoy seeing early access to updates for the Current Branch, Microsoft applications, and drivers with minimal risk to their devices, and still want to provide feedback to make Windows devices great." (No wonder Microsoft's had a hard time getting the word out about Release Preview.)
Reboot again, for good luck, then go to Update & security, and check for updates. KB 3170411 should be waiting for you.
The Insider Release Preview isn't the beta for the next version of Windows 10. It has nothing to do with Win10 build 14376, or Redstone 1, or the version of Windows 10 scheduled for release on Aug. 2. Instead, it's an advance look at the next patch for the current build of Windows 10, the next patch for version 1511 branch 10586, the next fix for the version of Windows that runs on roughly 350 million machines.
If you think of the current version of Windows 10 as being Win10 SP1 (the terminology used to be so much simpler!), this is a preview of the next Patch Tuesday for Win10 SP1. It is not a beta build of the Windows 10 Anniversary Update, version 1607, due to reach RTM on Aug. 2. The fancy terminology hides a very simple concept.
Sometimes I think the "0" in "Win10" stands for "Obfuscation."