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Microsoft’s internal app to enable hidden Windows 11 features has leaked

Published Aug 3rd, 2023 12:25PM EDT
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Image: Christian de Looper for BGR

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Microsoft is about to release a big Windows update next month, which should bring Copilot to all Windows 11 users. That’s a new generative AI assistant that will replace Cortana on Windows. You can test Copilot already in beta if you’re on the Windows 11 Insider track, but there might be other hidden features in the beta build that Microsoft hasn’t enabled.

Thanks to a big blunder from Microsoft, you can now enable it with the help of Microsoft’s secret StagingTool. The app lets you turn on unreleased Windows 11 features in beta versions of the software.

I routinely run beta software on my Apple devices. I’d be all over this StagingTool app for Windows 11 betas if I used a Windows computer on a regular basis.

The official Microsoft app would let me experiment with new Windows features that Microsoft is not ready to let Insiders try. I’m also convinced it could cause me great pain, however, so I’d advise you to handle StagingTool with care.

Then again, those looking to take advantage of StagingTool already have access to a third-party app that performs the same trick. ViveTool is popular within the Windows Insider community. It lets you enable those secret Windows 11 features before Microsoft does. The company has long been aware of the phenomenon and generally allows it to happen.

But Microsoft might not have wanted to leak its own internal StagingTool for everyone to use. But that’s what happened earlier this week. Microsoft hosted a “bug bash” event this week, The Verge reports. The company encouraged Windows 11 testers to provide feedback on the remaining bugs it should fix before the big Windows 11 release in September.

That’s when Twitter user XenoPanther discovered the StagingTool app, realizing the tool is similar to ViveTool. Microsoft has pulled its internal tool after initially having accidentally provided a download link. But it’s obviously too late. StagingTool is out in the wild.

You’ll probably have no issues finding the app from third-party sources, though I won’t link it here. You can then turn on those hidden Windows 11 features that Microsoft might be testing in future beta releases. But you’ll want to make sure you download the app from trusted sources.

StagingTool isn’t for everyone, however, and I’d advise handling it carefully. The command line app will let you enable dormant features in Windows 11 beta builds, yes. But you could cause some problems if you don’t know what you’re doing.

Microsoft routinely adds new features to Windows 11 beta releases without enabling them for insiders. That’s also something to keep in mind when identifying new Windows 11 features that aren’t even available in beta releases.

Microsoft might have a reason for not providing access to beta testers. It might want to test some of those features in a limited fashion, with the help of its StagingTool, before a wider rollout to the Windows Insider program. If Microsoft thinks a feature isn’t ready for primetime, do you even want to bother testing it?

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.