Microsoft leaks internal testing tool that lets users access Windows hidden features

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An internal tool used by Microsoft engineers to tinker with Windows features still in development has been leaked to the public. And while it doesn’t necessarily reveal any new information, especially for experienced users, it does make it easier to look under the hood of Microsoft’s operating system.

The app, called StagingTool and designed for selected testers and Microsoft employees, is a command-line tool that unlocks hidden Windows options and features not available to everyone.

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The leak happened during the company’s “Bug Bash” event, where Microsoft gives users specific tasks to help take care of any bugs before a big update (the next of which is expected in September). A post on the event’s feedback hub accidentally featured a link to StagingTool, opening the tool to all testers, not just selected ones. 

Microsoft quickly removed the post, but with the internet doing what it does, the information quickly spread.

StagingTool is similar to another app called ViveTool, which Windows fans have used for years to access hidden options. This official tool makes things a bit easier though.

While it’s yet to be seen if Microsoft will take any action about the StagingTool leak, they were already aware of the third-party access. And while they didn’t seem to be thrilled about the practice, they haven’t taken steps to stop it. In a blog post from February 2022, Windows Insider lead Amanda Langowski wrote that the company recognizes “some of our more technical Insiders have discovered that some features are intentionally disabled in the builds we have flighted. This is by design. And in those cases, we will only communicate about features that we are purposefully enabling.”

To access StagingTool, users will need to download it from Microsoft’s internal site. Once downloaded, the tool can be run by adding certain keywords after “StagingTool.exe.” When active, StagingTool uses commands to either enable or disable features, run a certain variant of a feature, or find out more info on a feature. 

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Admittedly, this leak contains information too complex for the vast majority of users. But for those who are already familiar with this sort of thing, it’s a nice way to tinker. For Microsoft, it will be an incentive to exert tighter control over what happens in its testing spaces. 





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