Microsoft just leaked a tool that lets you enable hidden Windows 11 features — and you can try it now

Microsoft Windows 11 running on an Apple MacBook laptop.
(Image credit: rawf8/Shutterstock)

A tool that lets engineers test hidden features in Windows 11 has just been accidentally leaked by Microsoft.

Called ‘StagingTool’ (thanks, Windows Central), it lets testers and Microsoft engineers play around and tinker with features that are still in development. Suffice to say, it was not supposed to be made available to Windows Insiders.

In case you’re not familiar with the Windows Insider Program, it’s a beta testing initiative that gives users who sign up for it early looks at upcoming Windows 11 features. Signing up to the program lets you become a Windows Insider, meaning you get to preview updates before they officially launch. 

Back to the leak, and it appears it was accidentally shared in the Insider Program’s Feedback Hub, during a ‘Bug Bash quest’, which mercifully does not involve testers squishing teeny beasties. Instead, it’s a week-long event where Microsoft gives Insiders tasks in return for feedback. 

A link to the StagingTool was leaked during this quest, even though it’s only intended to be used by internal testers. The link has obviously been pulled now, though not before it was widely shared across the internet. 

Stage before beauty

But what exactly is the StagingTool? In basic terms, it’s a command line app that allows users to enable hidden features in Windows 11 that Microsoft may or may not officially release as part of future updates.

StagingTool is a bit like the third-party ViveTool that also lets resourceful users enable features in Window 11 that haven’t yet rolled out in official builds. Generally, Microsoft disapproves of such backdoor shenanigans, as it disturbs the data it gets back when conducting A/B testing during Insider Program events.

It’s not like Microsoft is blind to this, either. As Pointed out by The Verge, Amanda Langowski — lead of the Insider Program — talked about being aware of Insiders enabling features Microsoft would rather they didn’t. “We also recognize that some of our more technical Insiders have discovered that some features are intentionally disabled in the builds we have flighted.”

This is undoubtedly an embarrassing leak for Microsoft, and it may lead to the software giant keeping a tighter leash on what data and features Insiders have access to in future events.

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Dave Meikleham
UK Computing Editor

Dave is a computing editor at Tom’s Guide and covers everything from cutting edge laptops to ultrawide monitors. When he’s not worrying about dead pixels, Dave enjoys regularly rebuilding his PC for absolutely no reason at all. In a previous life, he worked as a video game journalist for 15 years, with bylines across GamesRadar+, PC Gamer and TechRadar. Despite owning a graphics card that costs roughly the same as your average used car, he still enjoys gaming on the go and is regularly glued to his Switch. Away from tech, most of Dave’s time is taken up by walking his husky, buying new TVs at an embarrassing rate and obsessing over his beloved Arsenal.