Microsoft may position its easy-peasy Windows Sandbox within the Windows 10 May 2019 Update as a safe zone for testing untrusted applications, but it is much more than that. Windows Sandbox, and sandboxing PC apps in general, offer you a solution for trying a "tool" that may be malware, or a website that you are unsure of. You can leave those potentially dangerous elements alone, but with Sandbox you can be a little more adventurous.
Windows Sandbox creates a secure virtual Windows environment with Windows completely from scratch and shuts it off your & # 39; real & # 39; PC. You can open a browser and surf safely, download apps and even visit websites that you probably should not visit. Sandbox also offers a unique convenience: you can copy files to and from the virtual PC and remove them from quarantine if you are absolutely certain that they are safe.
You can close Windows Sandbox at any time and when you do that, everything that is left is completely erased. If that unreliable website malware rains on your Sandbox, just one click is enough to close it, without damaging your actual Windows installation. The next time you start a new version of Sandbox, a new version of Windows 1
You also do not need to purchase a second copy of Windows to use the feature – although you need Windows 10 Pro or Enterprise. The Home version does not support this.
This is all you need to know to use Windows Sandbox.
Getting Started with Windows Sandbox
Technically, Windows Sandbox is a lightweight virtual machine, a tool often used by developers and researchers to test new software in a controlled environment. Virtualization creates a complete virtual computer, complete with operating system, storage and memory, within your existing Windows PC.
Admittedly, Windows already offers Hyper-V to accomplish similar tasks. What makes Sandbox so attractive is that Sandbox for Hyper-V is like Windows 10 & # 39; s Mail app for Outlook: a simplified, user-friendly version of a much more complex application.
In addition to the requirement for Windows 10 Pro, the performance impact of Windows Sandbox requires a modern, fairly powerful machine with virtualization capabilities. Here are the minimum specifications for the function:
- A 64-bit processor that can be virtualized, with at least two CPU cores; Microsoft recommends a quad-core chip. (Virtually all Intel processors sold since 2016 support virtualization, although this Intel guide explains how to check. Otherwise, the Performance tab in Task Manager will tell you if virtualization is enabled – thanks to Shailesh Jha for the reminder. )  Virtualization enabled in your motherboard's BIOS, if it is not yet
- Windows Pro, Enterprise or Server
- At least 4 GB RAM (8 GB recommended)
- At least 1 GB free disk space ( SSD recommended)  Windows Sandbox is an alternative feature of Windows and is not installed by default, even if it is available to you. To enable this, you must go to the Windows functions control panel, which you can find by searching for Turning Windows functions on and off . To enable Sandbox, you must scroll down and check the appropriate box. Windows installs the necessary files and may need to restart your PC.
When the installation process is complete, there are no bells and whistles. To enable Sandbox, simply type Windows Sandbox into the Windows search box. Loading can take a minute or two, if only because Windows has to install the virtual machine. Microsoft has said before that it "freezes", archives, and displays the status of the virtual machine when you restart Windows Sandbox – basically everything should start faster next time.
Using Windows Sandbox  Sandbox appears as a small window on your desktop. It contains a different Windows desktop, such as what you would see if you installed Windows 10 and decided to use a local account.
The Sandbox virtual PC is not quite like yours. First, none of the personalization options that you have installed will be transferred, such as favorites and themes. And that is good! One of the ideas behind Sandbox is and not to release your personal information, so don't be tempted to log in with your personal account. Neither of your third-party software will appear. You still have access to Explorer, but it is limited to the Sandbox, with a subset of the resources available on your PC. Also note that only one copy of Windows Sandbox is allowed at a time.
You will probably immediately be tempted to open Windows Sandbox as a full-screen app. That's fine, especially since Microsoft has conveniently placed a large Windows XP-style header at the top of the window to remind you that you work within Sandbox. Please note – the last thing you want to do is go back to your & # 39; real & # 39; PC and open that unreliable website that you wanted to launch in Sandbox. Edge browser and File Explorer windows that are open in Sandbox do not identify themselves as the Sandbox versions. Feel free to play with the Windows settings in Sandbox and see how it differs from your Windows main installation.
Because Windows Sandbox is not running as a virtual machine, but as an app, there is not so much a performance hit on your PC as a real virtual machine. (If you want to know more about the technical substantiation of Sandbox, check out the Microsoft support page.) But keep in mind that Sandbox will take part of your PC's resources for its own use, including part of the CPU, memory and disk space. If your PC is already pokey, both this and the Sandbox virtual PC will work even slower.
The app status of Sandbox also offers you benefits if you ever want to communicate with files that you may have downloaded. A Hyper-V virtual machine isolates the file system so that malware cannot escape. Files that you want to copy from a Hyper-V VM require a remote desktop connection or enhanced session mode. Normal people don't want anything to do with that! With Sandbox you can easily cut and paste (or copy) any file on your "real" desktop. This is very useful if the tool you were testing proves to be useful.
I have not noticed any bugs or crashes with Sandbox, with one exception. If you have problems accessing the Internet from Windows Sandbox, as I did, you may want to adjust your firewall settings to allow access to the Sandbox apps, or simply adjust your general security settings.
Windows Sandbox does not anonymize your view – your internet provider will in theory still keep track of which sites you have visited, unless you also use a VPN, but when you destroy the Sandbox, that browse record disappears completely. And if you download something that you are not sure about, you can always test it in Sandbox to help determine if it is actually malicious.
Strangely enough, Windows Defender does not seem to work within Sandbox, but I downloaded a free third-party antivirus from BitDefender and could check individual files for malware.
As we have noted above, Sandbox requires a price in terms of performance. Running on a first-generation Surface Laptop (with a Core i5-7200U Kaby Lake chip that feeds it), only three media-rich Edge tabs in Sandbox have swallowed up enough resources to keep total CPU usage well above 90 percent. I occasionally saw a little stuttering when moving a webpage. With a more robust Surface Pro (2017) and a few code revisions later, Windows Sandbox ran much smoother.
Do not think that you will play games within Sandbox. But open an e-mail via Outlook.com? Sure. Download what I thought was a Linux distribution about uTorrent? That worked great. (However, trying to mount the ISO file in Sandbox.)
How far you include Sandbox in your daily life is up to you. We have already seen Sandbox videos & # 39; s demonstrating the effects of computer viruses, because when they are done damaging the virtual Sandbox machine, the Sandbox can be closed. (We would still not recommend this with known dangers because we cannot say with certainty that malware cannot break out of the virtual Sandbox machine.) Nevertheless, Sandbox offers much more than app testing.
Note that there are other third-party sandbox applications that you can still try: Sandboxie (both free and paid versions); BitBox, specially designed for browsing; Shade Sandbox and more. They all have their own advantages and disadvantages. However, what Windows Sandbox offers is the convenience of a free, secure sandboxing solution built into Windows.
Editor's Note: This article was originally published before the Windows 10 May 2019 update was launched. It has been revised to remove the reference to Windows Insider builds and the future language.