A lot of new features were added to Windows 10 with Microsoft’s May 2019 Update, but Windows Sandbox was one of the most important. It is designed to provide Windows users with a separate testing environment to try out new or unreliable software as an alternative to using a virtual machine.
Windows 10 sandboxing requires a PC or laptop with system resources capable of running virtual machines, including (at least) a dual-core processor, 4GB of RAM, and 1GB of storage. Before you start, you also need to enable virtualization in your system’s UEFI or BIOS settings.
What is Windows 10 Sandbox?
Windows 10 version 1903 includes Windows Sandbox, but if you’re using Windows 10 Home, you won’t be able to use this feature. It is only available to Windows 10 Pro, Enterprise, or Education users.
Instead of installing Windows on your own virtual machine using software like Virtualbox, Sandbox gives you a completely independent, isolated and temporary Windows 10 environment.
Every time you run Windows 10 Sandbox, a new Windows 10 desktop appears. Optimized for speed and security, it takes up much less space than a typical Windows 10 virtual machine.
There is no interaction between the sandbox and the standard Windows 10 installation, making it a safe place to test software or open suspicious files without compromising your own installation.
When you close the sandbox, everything inside is completely erased. If the sandbox is hacked, all you have to do is close it and reopen it to start over.
Possible sandbox mode conflicts for Windows 10
Warning for users of Virtualbox or other virtual machine software. If sandboxing is enabled, you will not be able to use or run other virtual machines, whether it is running or not.
This is because the underlying techniques used by Windows Sandbox conflict with other virtualization software. Workarounds have been posted on the Virtualbox forum, but they are not official and are not guaranteed to work.
This conflict will not affect everyone, but it is worth considering, especially if you are using Linux or other operating systems in a virtual machine.
In this case, you may need to run Linux on Windows 10 using Windows Subsystem for Linux. Windows Sandbox is a useful replacement if you are currently using other Windows VMs.
Verify that virtualization is enabled
The first thing you need to do is make sure virtualization is enabled on your computer in order for Windows 10 Sandbox to work.
You can quickly double check if virtualization is enabled by opening the Performance tab in Windows Task Manager.
- To access the Task Manager, press Ctrl + Shift + Esc on your keyboard or right-click the Windows taskbar and select Task Manager.
- In the “CPU” section of the “Performance” section, you will see a list of the current information about your processor. For sandboxing to work, virtualization must appear as Enabled.
If not, double check your BIOS or UEFI settings, make sure virtualization is enabled, and then reboot.
Sandbox Setup for Windows 10
After enabling virtualization, you are ready to activate Windows Sandbox. As a reminder, this will not be possible if you are using Windows 10 Home. You will need to upgrade to a newer version of Windows before proceeding.
Windows allows you to enable or disable various Windows features from the Windows Features menu. It used to be accessible from the Control Panel, but the Control Panel is outdated and largely hidden in modern versions of Windows 10.
- To access Windows features, right-click the Start Menu button in Windows and click Run to open the Run command window. Or press Ctrl + R on your keyboard.
- Enter additional functions in the Run command box and click OK.
- Scroll down the Windows Features menu and check the box next to Windows Sandbox before clicking OK.
- Windows will install and activate Windows Sandbox. Upon completion of this process, Windows will inform you that you need to reboot. Click Restart Now to start this process.
This may take several minutes as Windows completes the setup and installation process before and after the restart.
Create a Windows Sandbox configuration file
You can customize Windows 10 sandboxing prior to startup by creating a configuration file in XML format.
However, it is important to emphasize that this is not necessary. Windows Sandbox will work without any additional configuration.
However, setting up a sandbox can provide some benefits. A custom configuration file allows, for example, to enable a virtualized GPU to improve graphics performance.
If you plan on using the sandbox regularly, you can create a shared folder between it and your Windows 10 installation to easily share shared files (such as installation files).
You can also turn off the network in Windows Sandbox to completely isolate it. See the Windows Development post for more instructions on how to create a Windows Sandbox configuration file.
Start Windows Sandbox
After restarting your computer, you should be ready to start using Windows Sandbox.
- Click the Windows Start button. In the Start menu, scroll down and find the entry for Windows Sandbox before clicking it. Or press Ctrl + R on your keyboard and type windowssandbox before clicking OK.
- Windows may display a User Account Control pop-up asking you for permission, allowing Windows Sandbox to make changes. Click “Yes” to continue.
- At this point, the Windows Sandbox should start loading. Full load times may vary depending on your system resources. You should see your Sandbox environment appear in the windowed application after the download is complete.
- When you are done with Windows Sandbox, close it like any other program by clicking the Close button in the upper right corner of the screen.
If you decide to exit the Windows Sandbox, you will be warned that closing it will result in the loss of everything saved in it. Click OK if that’s what you want, otherwise click Cancel.
When you use Windows 10 Sandbox, you can use it like any Windows 10 installation. You can open the Microsoft Edge browser to access the Internet and download software or access Windows features and other pre-installed apps.
When you’re done, closing it will completely erase it and you can use it again in the future.