Microsoft has accidentally leaked its internal “StagingTool” app used by employees to enable secret unreleased Windows 11 features. The software giant typically tests experimental or hidden Windows 11 features in public builds of the operating system, but Windows enthusiasts have until now had to rely on third-party tools to access secret features that Microsoft has yet to enable for all testers.
The accidental release of Microsoft’s StagingTool yesterday was part of the company’s “bug bash” event this week, where engineers invite feedback from Windows 11 testers to squash any remaining bugs before a major update. Microsoft is expected to deliver its next major Windows 11 update in September, including native support for RAR and 7-Zip files.
Twitter user XenoPanther first discovered StagingTool on Wednesday before Microsoft quickly removed it hours later. The internal tool is now widely shared by the Windows community. StagingTool is very similar to the third party ViveTool app which Windows enthusiasts have been using for years to enable hidden Windows 11 features.
StagingTool is a command-line app that lets you toggle feature IDs that enable certain unreleased parts of Windows 11. It’s especially useful when Microsoft uses A/B testing for features where only a small subset of Windows Insiders will get access to a feature before Microsoft rolls it out more widely to testers.
Windows enthusiasts are always on the lookout for new features whenever Microsoft releases a new build for testing. There are hidden flags in the operating system that enable features, allowing the Windows community to see what OS additions Microsoft is experimenting with before the company has even acknowledged the new features.
Microsoft is fully aware of the community enabling these secret features. “We also recognize that some of our more technical Insiders have discovered that some features are intentionally disabled in the builds we’ve flown,” acknowledged Amanda Langowski, the head of the Windows Insider program, in a blog post last year.
Microsoft’s own StagingTool leak makes this process of enabling secret features even easier and more “official” as this is an internal tool that engineers use to test unreleased features.