how to use Windows Sandbox to run applications more securely
Since 2019, Windows now incorporates a new function known as ‘Windows Sandbox‘ that provides us with a function similar, although not identical, to a virtual machine: an isolated environment in which to carry out installation of software, opening suspicious files, experimenting with the Registry, etc. with the added security of knowing that none of this will affect your actual Windows installation.
Unlike virtual machines, it only gives us the option of working with an operating system: the same version of Windows that we are using. The difference between your session and the one you’ll see in the Sandbox is that the Sandbox is presented as it was in Windows the first time you launched it, with no other software installed.
Windows Sandbox is only available in the Enterprise and Pro editions of Windows 10 and 11
How do I install it and/or can I know if I have Windows Sandbox installed?
We need to open the ‘Turn Windows features on or off‘ window (search for that title from your Windows search menu). Once opened, we will look for the ‘Windows Isolated Space‘ option in the list of features. If it’s disabled, we just need to check the box and click ‘OK’ to fix it. That will start an installation process after which we will have to restart the system.
How do I use Windows Sandbox?
Once the system has restarted after its installation, you will only have to look for the ‘Windows Sandbox‘ application in your applications menu, click, wait a few seconds and you will see how a window is displayed with a ‘clean’ session of your Windows 10/11 inside. Now you can do all that you never dared to do to your real Windows.
Since it’s just an application window for all practical purposes, you’ll need to be careful to make sure the window is active if you want your typing keys (including keyboard shortcuts) to be reflected in the Sandbox.
And, beware: if you maximize that window, you will see how the new desktop overlaps your main one. You can return to the previous situation from the bar that will appear in the upper central area of your desktop:
How do I pass information between my PC and the Windows Sandbox?
If you already have experience using virtual machines, you will know that sometimes (at least with the default configuration), moving information between the real and virtual machines can be slow or unintuitive.
How do you copy and paste a file, or text from the clipboard?
In this case, that problem does not exist: as soon as the ‘Windows Sandbox’ is deployed, you can check that it is not so isolated, and that a simple ‘copy and paste’ allows you to pass information between the two Windows ‘spaces’ However, ‘drag and drop’ does not work.
What happens to changes made to my Windows Sandbox when it closes?
In a virtual machine, by default all the changes you make are saved and will still be available the next time you start it. With ‘Windows Sandbox’ that doesn’t happen: everything is deleted when you close it, and in the next execution it will appear clean as a whistle, without configuration changes or saved files. The software itself tells us when we want to close it:
‘Are you sure you want to close Windows Sandbox? Once closed, all its content will be discarded and it will be permanently lost’.