Microsoft has inadvertently leaked its internal tool, known as the “StagingTool,” which is used to enable unreleased features in Windows 11. The leak occurred during the company's “bug bash” event, where engineers encourage feedback from Windows 11 testers to eliminate any remaining bugs before a major update.
Accidental Release During Bug Bash Event
The accidental release of the StagingTool was part of Microsoft's “bug bash” event, where engineers encourage feedback from Windows 11 testers to eliminate any remaining bugs before a major update. The tool was discovered by Twitter user XenoPanther before Microsoft removed it a few hours later. The StagingTool is now being widely shared within the Windows community.
Some quests include a valid link to a staging tool that appears to be like vivetool pic.twitter.com/MUXPzQlbsy
— Xeno (@XenoPanther) August 2, 2023
StagingTool Enables Unreleased Features
The StagingTool is similar to the third-party ViveTool app that Windows enthusiasts have been using for years to enable hidden Windows 11 features. It is a command-line app that allows users to toggle feature IDs that enable certain unreleased parts of Windows 11. This tool is particularly 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 broadly to testers.
The leak of the StagingTool has made the process of enabling secret features easier and more “official,” given that this is an internal tool that engineers use to test unreleased features. Windows enthusiasts always look out for new features every time Microsoft releases a new build for testing. There are hidden flags in the operating system which enable features, allowing the Windows community to see what OS additions Microsoft is experimenting with before the company has even acknowledged the new features.
Not an Official Release so Proceed with Caution
While it is already possible to access hidden preview features in Windows 11, there is no native in-built method. Instead, Insiders who want access to hidden early features need to use the third-party ViveTool. It is unclear whether StagingTool will become a native solution or whether it is something Microsoft uses internally only.
Insiders who are interested in using StagingTool and got the leak before it was removed should be aware of the potential risks. Installing early features can lead to performance bugs in Windows, so it is usually recommended only for a secondary PC and not your primary machine.
The leak also provides some insights into Microsoft's plans for Windows 11. The internal quests that included the link to StagingTool also made mention of “Moments,” which is Microsoft's method for releasing new features for Windows 11. Perhaps the StagingTool is used to flight Moments update features to the Insider Program.
Moments are smaller, more frequent updates that are released throughout the year. This is in contrast to the traditional way of releasing new features for Windows 11, which is to release them in large, more infrequent updates. The leak of StagingTool is a reminder that even the most secure companies can make mistakes.