What you need to know
- An internal tool that allows Microsoft engineers to enable and test hidden features has leaked.
- The tool leaked via a "bug bash" quest that was accidentally put live to the public.
- Now, Insiders can use this tool to enable A/B features that they don't yet have access to.
Microsoft has accidentally leaked an internal tool that can enable in-development and hidden features found in Insider preview builds of Windows 11. The tool, dubbed “StagingTool,” allows Microsoft engineers and testers to try out features that are still being built, as well as override A/B testing to gain access to features regardless of if you got them “officially” or not.
The tool was spotted in a “bug bash” quest in the Feedback Hub, where a link to the StagingTool was included but only intended for internal testers. The quests have since been pulled, but the StagingTool is now already being shared around on the web.
The internal quests also made mention of "Moments," which Microsoft still hasn't publicly acknowledged as the name of its Windows 11 feature drops. I detailed Microsoft's plans for its new "moments engineering" schedule last year, but the company has only ever publicly described these updates as "continuous innovation."
The StagingTool is a command line interface that uses “feature IDs” to enable and disable features. Many feature IDs can be found on GitHub (thanks, Rafael, keep them coming) whenever a new Windows 11 Insider Preview build is released. Using those IDs, you can use the StagingTool to enable the feature easily.
Microsoft has previously proclaimed that its A/B testing methods are essential to Windows development. Still, this internal tool can override those methods for those who want access to new features immediately. Third-party tools such as ViveTool and Mach2 have been doing the same thing for a while, but StagingTool uses Microsoft’s “official” methods for enabling these hidden features.
Windows 11 Insiders are currently partaking in a "bug bash," when Microsoft issues several tasks for people to complete and submit feedback on. The bug bash quests can be found in the Windows Feedback Hub, and partaking in the bug bash often concludes with a badge in the Feedback Hub that acknowledges your participation.
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