Psst. Hey, you. Yeah, you. You wanna try out some of the latest Windows 11 features? The ones even Microsoft doesn’t want hundreds of millions of users to have access to yet? Well, all you gotta do is tiptoe down one of the slightly less-reputable alleys of the internet and download this here tool. Don’t worry, this one fell off a truck coming right out of Microsoft HQ, it’s legit. Install it, run a couple of command lines, and you can skip right past the Windows Insider program A/B test and get the good stuff.
On August 2, Microsoft posted some instructions for its Bug Bash program, a periodic event where it encourages developers and Windows super-fans to track down bugs in the latest Windows Insider builds and report them. But these instructions included a download link for an internal Microsoft developer tool, quickly spotted by users like @XenoPanther. The StagingTool executable can be used in the command line to enable and disable hidden features in Insider builds that aren’t normally visible, possibly bypassing the semi-random A/B testing that the most eager Windows preview users can find frustrating.
Update: BleepingComputer has released a tutorial explaining how to use Microsoft’s complicated, command line-centric StagingTool. Be sure to check it out if you wind up trying to unlock these secret Windows 11 testing features.
The links to StagingTool.exe were removed from public view in less than a day, but Windows Insider fans quickly distributed the program and are currently having a ball dissecting everything it can do. As The Verge notes, this isn’t the only way to manually flip the hidden switches in Windows; user-created tools have enabled this sort of thing before. But this is undoubtedly one of the biggest — and possibly most embarrassing — leaks to come directly from Microsoft in a while.
You can find the tool in various Windows groups and forums now (but be sure to exercise the usual caution in downloading unverified executables!). As engineering tools go, StagingTool.exe is fairly straightforward, allowing you to enable or disable various options and modes in Insider builds with text commands. Since the tool comes directly (albeit mistakenly) from Microsoft, tinkerers are having a blast trying out the various options with more confidence than usual. But as with all experimental features, proceed at your own risk if you want to try it out for yourself.