Using the Windows Sandbox to Stay Safe Online
Windows Sandbox (Windows 10 version 1903)
One of the more interesting features of Windows 10 version 1903, otherwise known as the May 2019 Update, is the Windows Sandbox. The Windows Sandbox is a Windows 10 virtual machine that can be quickly launched so you can test downloaded programs, browsers extensions, and suspect sites without risk of infecting your normal Windows operating system.
For those who are security conscious and do not want to deal with installing a dedicated virtual machine program like VirtualBox, Hyper-V, or VMWare, you can instead install Windows Sandbox for a very basic Windows 10 virtual machine.
Installing the Windows Sandbox
Before you can install the Windows Sandbox, you first need to make sure your computer meets certain requirements. These are:
- Windows 10 Pro or Enterprise build 1903 or later.
- AMD64 architecture
- Virtualization capabilities enabled in BIOS
- At least 4GB of RAM (8GB recommended)
- At least 1 GB of free disk space (SSD recommended)
- At least 2 CPU cores (4 cores with hyper-threading recommended
To install Windows Sandbox, simply follow these steps:
- Make sure you are using Windows 10 Pro or Enterprise running version 1903 or later.
- Make sure CPU's virtualization is enabled in the computer's BIOS.
- Click the Start button and search for Windows Features. When it appears in the search results, click on the Turn Windows features on or off control panel result.
- Open Windows Features Control Panel When the Windows Features control panel opens, scroll down and put a check in the box next to Windows Sandbox and then press the OK button.
- After it has finished installing, Windows may ask you to reboot. Please allow it to do so.
The Windows Sandbox is now installed.
Using the Windows Sandbox
To use the Windows Sandbox, click on the Start button and search for Windows Sandbox. When it appears in the search results, click on it to launch the program.
When the Windows Sandbox loads for the first time, it may take a bit longer than normal as it generates the Windows 10 image it will use for the virtual machine. Once loaded, you will be presented with a Window that contains a fully functional base Windows 10 installation.
With the Windows Sandbox running, you can easily transfer files that you want to be tested or copy text to and from its clipboard. To transfer a file from your main Windows operating system (the Host), simply right-click on a file you want to transfer and select Copy and Copy file on the Host
Now, go in the Windows Sandbox (the Guest) and right-click on the desktop and click on Paste to transfer the file from your Host.
Transferring text between the Host machine and the Guest sandbox is easy as well, just copy text into the clipboard from either the main OS or the Sandbox and paste it into the other.
As an example of how the Windows Sandbox could be used, I just visited a site that stated I needed an Adobe Flash Player update. It looked a little fishy, so instead of running it on my main machine, I can fire up the Windows Sandbox and transfer the file there to test it.
The good news is that anything you try out in the Windows Sandbox has no effect on your normal computer. So you can just try any program you download, malware or otherwise, or visit a web site and close the Sandbox when done with nothing to fear.
The next time you start it again, the Sandbox will be reset back to its default state so you can test more programs.