Windows Sandbox: What is it and how to use it on windows 11/10

Windows 11 Sandbox is a useful feature for testing purposes, Allow run untrusted applications or potentially harmful files without affecting the main operating system

Windows Sandbox is a lightweight, Virtual Environment within Windows 11 that allows you to run applications in a secure and disposable space. It’s particularly useful for testing suspected software or browsing potentially harmful websites without risking harm to your main system. Everything you do inside the sandbox is temporary and will be deleted when you close it. It also has a built-in protection mechanism that prevents any malicious software from escaping the sandbox and affecting your main system. Here is how to enable and use the Windows sandbox feature on Windows 11/10.

Any software installed in Windows Sandbox stays only in the sandbox and cannot affect your host. Once Windows Sandbox is closed, all the software with all its files and state are permanently deleted.

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What is the purpose of Windows Sandbox?

The purpose of Windows Sandbox is to provide a secure and isolated environment for users to run and test untrusted applications and potentially harmful files without affecting their main operating system. It offers a temporary, disposable space where users can experiment with software, ensuring that any changes or potential threats are confined to the sandbox and do not impact the stability or security of the primary Windows environment. That means You don’t need to set up a virtual machine But you must enable virtualization capabilities in the BIOS.

Purpose of Windows Sandbox

Windows Sandbox has some advantages over other virtualization solutions, such as Hyper-V or VirtualBox.

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  • It does not require any additional software installation or configuration.
  • It uses the same Windows 11 version and settings as your main system, ensuring compatibility and consistency.
  • It has a minimal disk and memory footprint, as it only uses the resources that are needed for the current session.
  • It supports hardware-based virtualization, which improves performance and security.

How to Enable and Use Windows Sandbox

To use Windows Sandbox on Windows 11, you need to have the following requirements:

  • A PC with a 64-bit processor that supports virtualization.
  • At least 4 GB of RAM, 1 GB of free disk space (SSD recommended), and 2 CPU cores (4 cores with hyperthreading recommended).
  • Windows 11/10 Pro, Enterprise, or Education Edition.

According to MicrosoftWindows Sandbox uses a new technology called “integrated scheduler,” which allows the host to decide when the sandbox runs. And provides a temporary desktop environment where Windows admins can safely test untrusted software.

Windows Sandbox has the following properties:

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  • Part of Windows – Everything required for this feature ships with Windows 11/10 Pro and Enterprise. No need to download a VHD!
  • Pristine – Every time Windows Sandbox runs, it’s as clean as a brand-new installation of Windows.
  • Disposable – Nothing persists on the device; everything is discarded after you close the application.
  • Secure – uses hardware-based virtualization for kernel isolation, which relies on Microsoft’s hypervisor to run a separate kernel that isolates Windows Sandbox from the host.
  • Efficient – uses integrated kernel scheduler, smart memory management, and virtual GPU.

Enable Virtualization Capabilities on BIOS

This step is crucial as Windows Sandbox relies on virtualization technology.

  1. Power on the machine and open the BIOS This is usually done by pressing a key like F2, F10, or Del.
  2. Open the Processor submenu The processor settings/configuration menu may be hidden in the Chipset, Advanced CPU Configuration, or Northbridge.
  3. Enable Intel Virtualization Technology (also known as Intel VT) or AMD-V depending on the brand of the processor.

Enable Virtualization Capabilities on BIOS4. If you are using a virtual machine, enable nested virtualization with this PowerShell cmd

Set-VMProcessor -VMName <VMName> -ExposeVirtualizationExtensions $true

Enable Windows Sandbox Feature

Now we need to enable Windows Sandbox from Windows Features, to do this

  • Open Windows features from the start menu search.

Open Windows features

  1. Here on Turn Windows Features on or off box scroll down and check mark option next to Windows Sandbox. 
  2. Click ok to allow Windows 11 to enable the Windows Sandbox feature for you.
  3. This will take a few minutes and after that restart Windows to apply the changes.

Check mark Windows Sandbox Feature

Use Windows Sandbox Feature, (Install App inside Sandbox)

Windows Sandbox is a fully-featured version of Windows that runs and boots normally. To avoid each time booting, it creates a snapshot of the virtual machine’s state after the initial boot. This snapshot is then used to avoid the entire boot process, significantly reducing the time it takes for the Sandbox to become available.

  • To use and Create a Windows sandbox environment, open the Start menu, type Windows Sandbox, and select the top result. Wait for a few seconds until the sandbox environment is ready.

Open Windows Sandbox

  • You can now use the sandbox as a normal Windows 11 PC. You can install applications, browse the web, or change settings as you wish. Also you can copy files from your main system into the sandbox environment. Simply drag and drop files into the sandbox window or use copy-paste functionality.

When you are done, you can close the sandbox by clicking on the X button on the top right corner. You will be asked to confirm if you want to delete everything in the sandbox. Click on OK to proceed.

windows sandbox

 

How to use Windows Sandbox for different purposes

Windows Sandbox can be used for various purposes, such as:

  • Testing new or unknown applications: You can install and run any application in the sandbox without worrying about its compatibility or safety. You can also check its performance and behavior before installing it on your main system.
  • Testing new or risky settings: You can change any settings in the sandbox without affecting your main system. You can also test how they affect your system performance and stability before applying them on your main system.
  • Testing new or suspicious websites /Files: You can browse any website in the sandbox without exposing your main system to any potential threats. You can also check its content and functionality before visiting it on your main browser.
  • Testing new or experimental features: You can enable or disable any features in the sandbox without affecting your main system. You can also test how they work and interact with other features before using them on your main system.

You can also customize the sandbox environment by creating a configuration file with XML syntax. For more information on how to do this, you can refer to this Microsoft documentation

Windows 11 Sandbox is a useful feature for testing purposes, but it has some limitations. For example, you cannot access your files or applications from your main system inside the sandbox. You also cannot change the resolution or language of the sandbox. If you need more advanced options, you may want to use different virtualization software like Hyper-V, VMware or VirtualBox.

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