11 Well-Hidden Features in Windows 11
Windows 11 is packed with features many users may not even know exist. Whilst Windows 11’s more prominent features are its most-used such as the desktop, taskbar, or Start menu, others are hidden away within that platform.
Only through exploring Windows 11 more thoroughly can you discover its hidden features. Here are some of the more interesting well-hidden features in Windows 11 you can discover.
1. XPS Viewer
XPS (XML Paper Specification) is a file format for digital documents that’s similar to PDF. Windows 11 includes an optional XPS Viewer feature with which you can open and view XPS files. However, the feature isn’t enabled by default. This is how you can enable and open XPS Viewer within Windows 11:
- Press the button that opens Windows 11’s Start menu.
- Click within the Type here to search box on your Start menu, and input the keyword optional features there.
- Select the Optional features search result.
- Then press the blue View features button to bring up a search box.
- Enter XPS Viewer in the search box to find that feature.
- Select the XPS Viewer checkbox, and click Next to bring up an Install option.
- Click XPS Viewer’s Install option.
- Wait for the installation process for the app to finish.
Now you can utilize the XPS Viewer feature in Windows 11. Tap in XPS Viewer within Windows 11’s search tool to find it. Then select the app in the search results to open it.
2. Clipboard Manager
Windows 11 has a very useful clipboard manager feature that displays your copied item history. It incorporates options for adding emojis, symbols, and kaomoji to documents.
However, much like the XPS viewer, the clipboard history feature needs to be enabled as outlined in our guide on how to use the clipboard manager. Once enabled, pressing the Win + V hotkey is the only way to open the clipboard manager.
3. File History
File history is a Windows feature that automatically backs up files to external storage devices when enabled. Although that feature isn’t an especially big secret, it has disappeared from Windows 11’s Settings app. Therefore, File History is now only accessible within the Control Panel, which Microsoft seemingly tries its best to conceal from users.
You can turn on File History from the Control Panel as follows:
- Click the magnifying glass by Windows 11’s Start button.
- Type Control Panel inside the text box, and select its search result.
- Click the Control Panel’s View by menu, and select the Large icons option there.
- Select File History to open that applet.
- Then you can click Turn on to activate the feature.
4. Steps Recorder
Steps Recorder is a small, pre-installed, and relatively unknown Windows app that records users’ actions with image slideshows. Each recorded step is automatically captured with a screenshot displayed in a slideshow. Users can show their recorded Step Recorder slideshows to software support services.
Steps Recorder is hidden away within the Windows Tools folder. There isn’t any direct Start menu shortcut for accessing it (but you can open its folder from there). The best way to open Steps Recorder is to enter the app’s name within Windows 11’s search box (Win + S).
5. Voice Typing
Windows 11 voice typing feature enables users to input text by speaking into their microphones. You’ll need to have your PC’s microphone enabled to use it. Pressing the Win + H hotkey is the only way to activate the voice typing feature. Our guide on how to start voice typing on Windows 11 provides all the details on how to utilize that hidden feature.
6. The Hardware and Devices Troubleshooter
It’s surprising the Hardware and Devices troubleshooter for resolving general hardware-related issues is no longer available in Windows 11’s Settings app. Yet, that doesn’t mean the Hardware and Devices troubleshooter no longer exists.
You can still access that hidden troubleshooter by executing a command for it like this:
- Find Command Prompt by entering a CMD search phrase in the Start menu’s Type here box.
- Click Command Prompt inside your search tool to open the window for it.
- Input this command for opening Hardware and Devices troubleshooter:
msdt.exe -id DeviceDiagnostic
- Press Enter to view Windows 11’s hidden Hardware and Devices troubleshooter feature.
MSConfig (System Configuration) is a useful utility for configuring Windows boot settings. It’s especially handy for disabling all third-party startup programs and services. You can also open other utilities from its Tools tab.
Yet, Windows 11 doesn’t include any shortcuts for MSConfig on its Start menu, Power User menu, desktop, or taskbar. Nor is there any hotkey you can press for opening System Configuration. It’s another of those utilities buried within the Windows Tools folder.
You can find and open the System Configuration window by entering MSConfig within Windows Search.
8. Windows Package Manager (Winget)
Windows Package Manager (otherwise known as “winget”) is a Command Prompt tool with which you can both batch install and uninstall software. Because it’s a command tool, it’s not visible within Windows 11’s UI. However, you can use it by entering the winget command in the Command Prompt and pressing Enter. Our Windows Package Manager article includes detailed guidelines for how to utilize winget.
Windows 11 N and KN are special editions of Microsoft’s desktop OS distributed in certain European countries and Korea. Those editions lack some media features included in standard Windows editions. The Windows Media Player app for playing music and video is a hidden, optional feature in Windows 11 N and KN.
Therefore, Windows 11 N and KN users need to enable Windows Media Player like XPS Viewer. To do so, open the window for adding optional features as outlined for the first four steps of installing the XPS Viewer above. Then you’ll need to search for and select Windows Media Player within the Add an optional feature box.
Even in standard Windows 11 editions, Windows Media Player is quite well hidden; even the Start menu doesn’t include it. The best way to find it is to enter Windows Media Player into the Windows Search box.
10. Taskbar Hotkeys for Pinned Shortcuts and Minimized Windows
The taskbar has an invisible hotkey feature for opening pinned shortcuts and minimized windows. You can press Win combined with its corresponding number on the taskbar to open pinned shortcuts or minimized software. For example, pressing Win + 1 will open the pinned shortcut furthest left on your taskbar (probably File Explorer). Pressing Win + 2 will open the next one along the bar, and so on.
11. The Old Volume Mixer
Windows 11’s Settings app includes volume mixer settings with which you can configure sound levels for specific apps. However, the old Volume Mixer from Windows 10 is still an accessible, albeit hidden, feature in Microsoft’s latest desktop platform.
You can open the old Volume Mixer feature with Run as follows:
- Press Win + X to open the WinX menu.
- Click the Run option to access that accessory’s command dialog.
- Input the sndvol.exe Run command.
- Click OK to bring up the old Volume Mixer feature.
Discover Windows 11’s Hidden Features
Those are a few of the features hidden away in Windows 11 that are worth noting. There are more hidden features, and to discover them you need to dig deeper into Windows 11. Have a good look through the Control Panel, Windows Tools folder, and Settings apps to see what you can find.