In today’s digital world, it is very easy to run malware, disguised as a genuine product, or visit a malicious website thus compromising the security of your computer system. To avoid this potential danger, most users refrain from running apps or utilities from unknown sources. While this may improve your system security, it could also mean that you are missing some useful tools from legit but unpopular developers.
Fortunately, with the Windows Sandbox, users can test untrusted apps, utility or websites on an independent environment before installing in their main desktop environment. This article explores the new Windows Sandbox feature and using it to improve security within the Windows 10 environment.
What is Windows Sandbox and How Does it Benefit Users
Windows Sandbox is a new virtualization feature available beginning with Windows 10 1903 version (Windows 10 May 2019 Update). The feature allows admins and users to create a virtual and temporary clean OS imaged from the current system state, enabling them to test unknown applications without the risk of harming the underlying host. The Sandbox isolates the virtual desktop environment from your actual PC and destroys the state upon closing.
You can safely visit suspicious sites, download and install untrusted programs without transferring anything to the main installation. Moreover, Windows Sandbox offers the convenience of transferring files in and out the virtual machine, removing them out of the quarantine when you are certain about their safety.
Windows Sandbox Benefits
Although creating a virtual machine within your Windows 10 can serve the testing purpose, Windows Sandbox is more than just a safe testing zone.
- Windows 10 integration – The features ships with Windows 10 Pro and Enterprise (1903 version, thus no need to spend more time creating or downloading the virtual environment.
- Clean Installation – Windows Sandbox is an on-demand virtual machine that runs as a clean installation. After testing the programs, you only need to shut it down and it will dispose of everything, leaving no impact on your PC.
- Security – The tool uses hardware virtualization to implement kernel isolation.
- Efficiency – Windows Sandbox uses Virtual GPU, smart memory management and integrated kernel scheduler to run a virtual state, separate from your main system state.
- Performance – It is a lightweight virtual environment (about 100MB), optimized to book and run faster than traditional virtual desktop environments.
How to Get Started With Windows Sandbox
Minimum System and Hardware Requirements
Using the new Windows Sandbox is straightforward. However, you need to confirm that your PC meets the following minimum requirements:
- Running onWindows 10 Pro or Enterprise, 1903 version.
- Supports hardware virtualization.
- 4GB RAM and at least 1GB HDD space.
- Supports AMD64 architecture.
- 2 processor cores.
How to Check and Enable Virtualization?
To get started with Windows Sandbox, you need to confirm that your computer supports virtualization and the feature is enabled.
- To do so, open the Windows Command Prompt (cmd), type the following command “systeminfo.exe” and then hit Enter.
- Wait for cmd to generate and display your PC system information.
- Under the “Hyper-V Requirements” details, look for “Virtualization Enabled In Firmware” and its status.
- If the status indicates “Yes”, you are good to go. If “No”, you need to enable virtualization in BIOS settings.
- Restart your computer and hit the appropriate function key (F2, F3,…, Esc and so on) depending on your PC model.
- If you are not sure, how to enable the feature, you may seek help from your device manufacturer’s website.
Turning On/ Off Windows Sandbox Feature
The Windows Sandbox feature is not enabled by default so you need to turn it on in Windows features.
- Click the Windows Start button, search for “Turn Windows Features” on or off, and open the first option in the result.
- This will open a list of Windows 10 features. Scroll down to find “Windows Sandbox” and check the option to enable.
- Click the “Ok” button and wait for Windows to automatically search for required files and apply the changes.
- Click the “Restart now” button to reboot your PC.
Using Windows Sandbox in Windows 10
- Click the Start button, browse through the Start menu to find Windows Sandbox and click to start.
- Windows Sandbox will load as a clean installation of your current Windows 10 version.
- You can copy and paste the app installer you want to try from your physical machine to the virtual environment or download the executable file on Edge browser.
- Install the app by double-clicking the .exe file and follow the installation process just the same way you install apps on the normal Windows environment.
- To switch to/ from the Sandbox full-screen mode, press the “Ctrl + Alt + Break/Pause” keys on your keyboard.
- The Windows Sandbox experience gives you the freedom to adventure the web by visiting potentially dangerous sites without the fear of infecting your PC.
- Once you are done testing, click the “X” button at the top right corner of the Sandbox screen to close the virtual environment.
- This will erase all the session content permanently, leaving no impact on the main Windows installation.
Windows Sandbox is a virtual clean Windows 10 installation created from your current installation. It runs as a Windows app and acts as a virtual machine, providing a safe zone for testing untrusted applications and website in isolation of the host machine. The above guide teaches you the process of activating and using the new Windows feature that is only available in the 1903 version of Windows 10 Pro and Enterprise editions.