Microsoft is arming intrepid Windows 12 testers with free flash drives

A collection of USB drives
(Image credit: Pixabay)

Some Windows testers are receiving the offer of a free flash drive from Microsoft, although exactly who is being given the chance to pick up a freebie USB stick is slightly confusing.

Windows Latest reports that they received an email from Microsoft regarding the new Canary Channel, which is the channel created for testing the very earliest builds. In other words, next-gen Windows (quite possibly Windows 12, though we don’t know that for sure, although the name has already been leaked by Intel).

That email offered the tech site a free flash drive (with at least 8GB of storage) with the goal of performing a clean installation of Windows, a task that is recommended to be undertaken with a blank flash drive from scratch.

Those getting this offer from Microsoft have to request the drive by filling out a simple form, and the company notes that: “Items are available on a first-come, first-served basis.”

There’s a limited supply, so those USB sticks could quickly run dry by the sound of things.

Analysis: Canary confusion?

What’s slightly confusing here is that we thought only those wanting to stay in the Dev Channel would need to reinstall Windows – and therefore might need a flash drive.

The way Microsoft has implemented this fork of testing channels works like this: the old Dev Channel has effectively become the Canary Channel, and anyway whoever stays in it gets moved to these cutting-edge earliest builds (with the most chance of hitting problems). Those who want to move to the new Dev Channel have to reinstall Windows 11, perform a clean installation of the OS, and then sign up for the new Dev path.

So, it would make sense that the latter are the folks who get a free USB stick if they need it for reinstallation media. That said, Windows Latest makes it clear that Microsoft is offering USB drives to “testers who want to support the road to the platform changes,” which presumably refers to next-gen Windows (Windows 12 possibly). And the screenshot provided as evidence is clearly on the topic of the Canary Channel.

What might be happening, then, is that a limited set of testers on either side of the fence – Canary and Dev – are being offered flash drives, or at least the chance to grab them before the freebie stock runs dry.

Whatever the case, if you get this offer emailed over to you and want to take advantage, we’d advise you act pretty swiftly. Microsoft notes that delivery of the USB stick could take up to 6-8 weeks, but hopefully that’s a seriously pessimistic estimate and the hardware may turn up a good deal quicker.

Darren is a freelancer writing news and features for TechRadar (and occasionally T3) across a broad range of computing topics including CPUs, GPUs, various other hardware, VPNs, antivirus and more. He has written about tech for the best part of three decades, and writes books in his spare time (his debut novel - 'I Know What You Did Last Supper' - was published by Hachette UK in 2013).