Last week was a banner one for fans of the Windows Insider Program. Microsoft made a big “oops” by posting a direct download link to an internal tool for flipping a lot of the internal switches in Windows 11, some of which are used in A/B testing. That made it possible for users to manually enable features that are usually only turned on at random in order for Microsoft to test the results. Actually, using the tool is very much a “don’t try this at home, kids!” situation—it’s possible it might brick your PC—but if you want to walk on the wild side, here’s how you do it.
First of all, you need to be running a Windows Insider build. This is an easy and fairly safe process: Just click the Start button on Windows 11, type “Windows Insider,” and click the result that says “Windows Insider Program settings.” Click “Get started” and follow the instructions, choosing from the four channels in descending order of stability: Release Preview, Beta, Dev, and Canary. The Beta channel is recommended for a good mix between access to new features and system stability. You’ll need to download the updated version through Windows Update, and possibly reboot once or twice.
Once all that’s done and you’re running on a Windows Insider build, you’ll need the StagingTool.exe program. This is an executable made by Microsoft itself, so it’s legit…but the direct links to it have been removed. They’re popping up all over the web and are easy to find, but for various reasons I won’t link to it here. Just exercise caution when downloading the file, and run it through a virus scanner for a little extra security.
Once you’ve got the StagingTool.exe file, you’ll need to flex your old-school command line skills. Open up a Command Prompt or Windows Terminal instance using administrator privileges. Navigate to the folder holding the executable, then type “StagingTool.exe /?” to see a list of commands.
Unfortunately, the tool isn’t all that user-friendly—which is only to be expected from an internal Microsoft tool that was never meant to be seen by the public. Even the “/query” command will only list out the internal ID numbers of the features you can enable or disable, with no description of what they actually do. As Bleeping Computer reports, you can check out some of the Windows user forums and Twitter communities to get a look at the juiciest features to use with the “/enable” command.
Again, please be aware that actually using this tool, even correctly, could do some serious damage to your Windows build or even your computer itself. A complete wipe of your system isn’t out of the question here, though it’s probably unlikely. To be safe, I’d recommend running Windows 11 either in a virtual machine or on a secondary laptop or desktop, where you aren’t keeping singular copies of any important files.
Michael is a former graphic designer who's been building and tweaking desktop computers for longer than he cares to admit. His interests include folk music, football, science fiction, and salsa verde, in no particular order.