Microsoft may be positioning its upcoming, easy-peasy Windows Sandbox inside the Windows 10 May 2019 Update like a safe zone for testing untrusted applications, but it’s a lot more than that. Windows Sandbox, and sandboxing PC apps generally, provide you with a solution for trying a “utility” that may be malware, or perhaps a website that you’re not sure about. You could leave those very damaging elements alone, however with Sandbox, you may be a little more adventurous.
Windows Sandbox results in a secure “Windows within Windows” virtual machine environment entirely from scratch, and walls them back from your “real” PC. You are able to open a browser and surf securely, download apps, even visit websites that you probably shouldn’t. Sandbox includes a distinctive convenience: you are able to copy files in and out of the virtual PC, bringing them from quarantine if you’re absolutely sure they’re safe.
Anytime, you are able to close Windows Sandbox, and when you do, anything left there’s totally obliterated. If that dodgy website rains malware recorded on your Sandbox, all it takes is a single click to seal it down, without injury to your actual Windows installation. Next time you launch a brand new version of Sandbox, it will launch a pristine form of Windows 10 to begin anew.
You won’t have to buy a second copy of Windows to use the feature either-though you’ll need Windows 10 Pro or Windows 10 Enterprise. The Home version doesn’t support it. And at this time, Windows Sandbox is a preview feature that’s restricted to Windows Insiders only. It was introduced in build 18305, however it should be area of the Windows 10 “19H1” release due at the end of May.
Here’s all you need to know to start using Windows Sandbox.
Get started with Windows Sandbox
Technically, Windows Sandbox is really a lightweight virtual machine, a tool often used by developers and researchers to check new software within a controlled environment. Virtualization creates an entire virtual computer, complete with operating system, storage, and memory, within your existing Windows PC.
Granted, Windows already offers Hyper-V to attain similar tasks. What makes Sandbox so appealing is that Sandbox is to Hyper-V as Windows 10’s Mail app is to Outlook: a simplified, user-friendly version of a much more complex application.
Past the Windows 10 Pro requirement, Windows Sandbox’s performance impact demands a contemporary, fairly powerful machine with virtualization capabilities. Here are the minimum specifications for that feature:
A 64-bit processor capable of virtualization, with at least two CPU cores; Microsoft recommends a quad-core chip. (Almost all Intel processors sold since 2016 support virtualization, though this Intel guide explains how you can check. Otherwise, the Performance tab within the Task Manager will explain whether virtualization is enabled-credit to Shailesh Jha for that reminder.)
Virtualization enabled inside your motherboard BIOS, if it’s not already
Windows Pro, Enterprise, or Server
At least 4GB of RAM (8GB recommended)
At least 1GB of free disk space (SSD recommended)
Windows Sandbox is an alternate feature of Windows, also it won’t be installed by default even when it’s available to you. To allow it, you’ll will need to go to the Windows Features user interface, which you’ll find by trying to find Turn Windows features off and on. To enable Sandbox, you’ll have to scroll down and check the proper box. Windows will install the required files and could need to reboot your PC.
Once the installation process is completed, there won’t be any bells or whistles. To allow Sandbox, you can just type Windows Sandbox in to the Windows search box. It might take a minute or two to load, if perhaps because Windows must establish the virtual machine. Microsoft has said previously that it will “freeze” the state of the virtual machine, archive it, and produce it up when you launch Windows Sandbox again-basically, everything should launch faster next time around.
How to use Windows Sandbox
Sandbox looks like a little window on your hard drive. There, there’s another Windows desktop, like what you might see if you installed Windows 10 and decided to make use of a local account.
The Sandbox virtual PC isn’t that can compare with your own. For one thing, none of the personalization options you’ve installed will continue, for example favorites and themes. And that’s good! One of the ideas behind Sandbox isn’t to put your personal information out in to the wild, so don’t be tempted to log in with your personal account. None of the third-party software will appear either. You’ve still got access to File Explorer, but it’s restricted to the Sandbox, with a subset of your PC’s resources available. Note, too, that just one demonstration of Windows Sandbox is allowed at any given time.
You’ll apt to be immediately tempted to keep the windows open Sandbox as a full-screen app. That’s fine, especially as Microsoft has helpfully placed a large, Windows XP-style header towards the top of your window, reminding you that you’re working within Sandbox. Pay attention to it-the thing you don’t want to do is carelessly switch to your “real” PC and open that dodgy website that you meant to launch in Sandbox. Edge browser and File Explorer windows opened within Sandbox won’t identify themselves as the Sandbox versions. You can alter the Windows Settings within Sandbox, if you’d like, and see how it differs from your primary Windows installation.
Because Windows Sandbox isn’t run as a virtual machine, but because an app, there’s much less of a performance hit on your PC as a true virtual machine. (If you’d like to know more concerning the technical underpinnings of Sandbox, check out Microsoft’s support page.) But remember that Sandbox normally takes a slice of your PC’s helpful information on its very own use, together with a portion of the CPU, memory, and disk space. If your PC is already pokey, both it and the Sandbox virtual PC will run much more slowly.
Sandbox’s app status also benefits you if you ever want to communicate with any files you may have downloaded. A Hyper-V virtual machine isolates the file system so that malware can’t escape. Any files you want to copy from a Hyper-V VM requires a Remote Desktop connection or Enhanced Session Mode. Normal people don’t want to cope with any of that! Sandbox simply enables you to cut and paste (or copy) any file on it to your “real” desktop. That’s very handy if the utility you were testing turns out to be useful after all.
I didn’t notice any bugs or crashes related to Sandbox, with one exception. If you’re having problems accessing the Internet from within Windows Sandbox, as I did, you might want to tweak your firewall settings to permit access towards the Sandbox apps, or just adjust your global protection settings.
Windows Sandbox won’t tell you if a dodgy program is secretly sending information to a third-party server, or whether some other pernicious activity takes place without you knowing. (Advanced users could monitor network traffic when they desired, however.) But when that file a “friend” sent you turns out to be ransomware, it won’t inflict harm in Sandbox.
Remember, you are able to close down Windows Sandbox anytime. When you do, you’ll get a message that whatever is stored there is gone for good. The protections Sandbox offers go away should you copy a hazardous file from inside the virtual machine out to your main Windows installation, obviously.
Adapting Windows Sandbox for everyday use
What you may quickly realize, however, is the fact that Sandbox is much more than just a testbed for apps you’re not sure about. It’s additionally a bonus layer of security when you’re poking about the web. We liked Windows 10’s hidden secure browser, Windows Device Application Guard, but it permitted you to download files only to its own secure environment. With Sandbox, you can copy files between Sandbox to your PC.
Both Microsoft Edge and Google Chrome include their very own sandboxing elements to safeguard your PC. But if you really don’t trust a particular site, you could open Edge within your Sandbox (creating a kind of “sandbox inside a Sandbox”) and open that untrusted site. Are you currently a little skeptical that Chrome’s Incognito mode doesn’t track your browsing? Download Chrome within Sandbox, surf away without logging to your Google account, then destroy your whole session by closing Sandbox.
Windows Sandbox doesn’t anonymize your viewing-your Internet provider will still theoretically have a record of what sites you’ve visited, unless you also employ a VPN-but when you destroy the Sandbox, that browsing record totally disappears. And if you download something you’re not sure about, you can always test drive it within Sandbox to assist determine whether it’s actually malicious.
Oddly, Windows Defender doesn’t seem to work within Sandbox, however i downloaded a free third-party antivirus from BitDefender and was able to check individual files for malware.
Once we noted above, Sandbox demands a price when it comes to performance. Running on a first-gen Surface Laptop (having a Core i5-7200U Kaby Lake chip powering it), just three media-rich Edge tabs within Sandbox gobbled up ample resources to keep the entire CPU utilization well above 90 percent. I occasionally saw a little bit of stuttering when moving down a website. With a better quality Surface Pro (2017) and a few code revisions later, Windows Sandbox ran a lot more smoothly.
Don’t believe that you’ll be playing games within Sandbox. But opening an email via Outlook.com? Sure. Downloading things i thought was a Linux distribution over uTorrent? That worked just fine. (Attempting to mount the ISO file within Sandbox, though, did not.)
What lengths you incorporate Sandbox into your everyday routine is up to you. We’ve already seen Sandbox videos demonstrating the results laptop or computer viruses-because when they’ve finished wreaking havoc on the Sandbox virtual machine, the Sandbox can be turn off. (We still wouldn’t recommend this with known dangers, once we can’t say for certain that malware won’t have the ability to get out of the Sandbox virtual machine.) Nevertheless, Sandbox provides the possibility of a lot more than app trials.
Observe that there are more third-party sandbox applications that you can still try: Sandboxie (both free and paid versions); BitBox, designed specifically for browsing; ShadeSandbox, and much more. These have their own pros and cons. What Windows Sandbox offers, though, may be the convenience of a free, secure sandboxing solution built directly into Windows. And soon, everyone with Windows 10 Pro will have it.