Windows 11 Start menu gets a mysterious new feature – but you’ll have to search for it

Windows 11 Hidden Search Functions
(Image credit: PhantomOcean3 / Microsoft)

Windows 11 just got a couple of sizeable new additions with its latest patch, although these flew under the radar, as they’re hidden and need to be enabled using a special configuration tool.

Neowin flagged up that PhantomOcean3, an avid Windows tester and leaker on Twitter, posted about the hidden search features that come with Windows 11’s KB5022303 patch (which has just been deployed for January).

They consist of a search bar along the top of the Start menu, and a search box for the taskbar (Windows 10 style, as seen in Windows 11 preview builds already).

With the search box for the taskbar, not only can you enable this, but there are a few options available to choose from, such as having the full box or just an icon.

As mentioned, you won’t see these additional search functions in Windows 11 as they’re lurking behind the scenes. They can, however, be enabled using the Windows configuration utility ViVeTool, as Neowin describes. However, you’re probably best off not turning these things on just yet, as we’ll discuss next.

Analysis: Features are hidden for a reason

So why not turn on these search functions? For starters, you’ll need to be a little tech-savvy to use ViVeTool (it’s not particularly difficult to turn on a hidden feature using its assigned ID in the tool, but less confident computing types may feel a bit intimidated by the process).

Moreover, though, once you’ve turned on these features, they could behave oddly and mess with your Windows 11 environment, and that’s not something you want on your main PC. Remember, these features are tucked away for a reason – they aren’t ready for release yet, and may cause problems. As PhantomOcean3 points out in their tweet, you might be able to turn them on, but that doesn’t mean you should.

What this does show us is that Microsoft is likely on the cusp of introducing these features to Windows 11 soon enough. As ever, though, there are no guarantees anything in testing or still behind the scenes will make the eventual cut for inclusion in the OS.

Darren is a freelancer writing news and features for TechRadar (and occasionally T3) across a broad range of computing topics including CPUs, GPUs, various other hardware, VPNs, antivirus and more. He has written about tech for the best part of three decades, and writes books in his spare time (his debut novel - 'I Know What You Did Last Supper' - was published by Hachette UK in 2013).