How to use Windows Sandbox in Windows 10

Try sketchy applications without harming your computer using Windows Sandbox

With the release of the Windows 10 May 2019 Update, several features were added to Windows 10. One of the more interesting was a new application known as Windows Sandbox.

Windows Sandbox is an integrated element and is primarily designed to allow you to run untrusted and sketchy apps separate from the rest of the operating system.

Enabling the feature and running a full virtual-version of Windows within your existing installation just takes a couple of steps. It doesn’t involve buying or handling any extra software, so here’s more on how you can enable and use it right on your own laptop or desktop.

Step 1: Check your PC for virtualization support

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One of the pre-requisites to using Windows Sandbox is to check your PC’s support for virtualization. This technology allows your PC to leverage its computing power to separate hardware from software. It is typically a setting available in the BIOS as Enable Virtualization Support. 

On our Dell XPS 15, we checked for this option by pressing F2 on boot, choosing Virtualization, and then clicking Enable Intel Virtualization Technology and pressing on OK.  

You can learn more about how to enable virtualization on your device by checking the support documents available from your PC manufacturer.

Step 2: Check or upgrade your Windows 10 version

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As previously mentioned, Windows Sandbox is only available for Windows 10 Pro and Enterprise. If you’re running Windows 10 Home, which comes with most new PCs, you won’t be able to use Windows Sandbox.

You can check your Windows version by heading to the start menu and typing About.

Next, choose About your PC  from the list of search results. This should open Windows 10 Settings. Scroll down to the bottom of the screen, and check under Windows Specifications. 

If you see Windows 10 Pro or Enterprise, you’re good to go. If not, you can upgrade your version of Windows by visiting the Microsoft Store app on Windows 10 and entering a search for Windows 10 Pro. A typical upgrade license costs $100.

In addition to Windows 10 Pro or Enterprise, you’ll also need to make sure your PC has an AMD64 architecture and has a minimum of 4GB RAM and 1GB of free space. These are Microsoft’s recommended settings for Windows Sandbox.

Step 3: Head to the classic Windows Control Panel

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Windows Sandbox is not turned on by default in the Windows 10 May 2019 Update. You’ll need to manually enable it with the classic Windows 7-style control panel.

To do so, search for Control Panel in the start menu or search box. Then, click on the Control Panel from the list of results.

Next up, in the search bar running along the top right side of the Control Panel window, type: Turn Windows Features On or Off. You should then see a top result appear under Program and Features. Click on that option.

Step 4: Find Windows Sandbox in the list of Windows Features

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Finally, in the Window that appears, you’ll want to scroll all the way to the bottom of the list. Next to Windows Sandbox, be sure to click the checkmark and then click OK. 

Windows 10 will download the required files for the Sandbox feature, and you’ll then need to restart your PC to apply the changes.

On the restart, you’ll get a similar screen as to when you’re installing Windows 10 security updates. It shouldn’t take much longer than two or three minutes.

Step 5: Launch Windows Sandbox

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After you reboot, you can launch Windows Sandbox from the Start Menu. It should appear all the way at the bottom of your list of apps, but be sure to select Run as Administrator when you click on it. Alternatively, you can search for it by typing Windows Sandbox into the Start Menu and launching it.

Once you have launched, the Windows Sandbox logo will appear on your screen in a rectangular-shaped box. This is a loading screen, so don’t be worried. After a few seconds, you should see another window appear with the familiar Windows desktop and taskbar. This is your new virtual Windows 10 Sandbox — and a place for testing your apps.

Step 6: Transfer files and other sketchy software

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Once Window Sandbox is launched, you can transfer an installer for the software you want to test between your physical PC and your sandbox. To do so, find the file you want to transfer. Then, right-click it, and select Copy. 

Now, head back to the window with Windows Sandbox. Right-click on the desktop space, and select Paste.

You can then double click the installer file, and have it run in Windows Sandbox, just as it would on your PC. Keep in mind, you can’t drag and drop files between your physical PC and the Sandbox. You can, however, use Microsoft Edge to download any file for testing, just as you would on your normal PC.

Step 7: Closing, navigating the Sandbox, and other tips and tricks

You can navigate Windows Sandbox just as you would a standard PC, but you can also make it full-screen, making it like your main machine. You can press the Ctrl + Alt + Break keys on your keyboard to switch Sandbox to full-screen mode.

In addition, there is no need to shut down the Sandbox once you’re done. Simply exit full-screen mode, and press the X button as you would with a normal app to close the session. You’ll get a warning that all your settings and anything installed will be deleted — just as a Sandbox is designed to do.

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