How to Enable and Use Windows Sandbox on Windows 10

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Microsoft introduced Windows Sandbox in their May 2019 update. Learn what it is and how to use it.

What if you could do whatever you wanted on your computer without thinking about the consequences? Play around, tinker, delete—and when you’re done, press a button and everything magically goes back to normal. Just like making a sand castle on the beach.

Until recently you would need special software or servers to pull off a stunt like that. Now, after the May 2019 update to Windows 10 Enterprise and Pro editions, you can use the Sandbox utility to play around with your computer.

Read on to learn more about this new utility and how to use it.

Sandbox

If you’re into testing and running new software, making or testing games or even developing programs for different operating systems, then you may already have been familiar with the term sandbox.

If you aren’t, a sandbox is sort of a test environment. In a sandbox, every action you perform has a reaction, but that reaction is confined to a space with boundaries.

A sandbox makes an environment which mimics the real one with limited resources. There are no real repercussions to your actions no matter how big of a change you make. It’s essentially a simulation of the real environment.

Windows 10 Sandbox

Windows 10 Sandbox does all of this with the help of its native virtual machine software, Microsoft Hyper-V,which uses hardware virtualization.

Hardware virtualization is when a program acts as the hardware components of a computer. This program becomes the underlying layer for the virtual machine that exists on it and reacts as the actual hardware.

In other words, the program acts as if it’s a computer and then a virtual machine runs on this virtual computer. You can think of it as a computer that runs on your computer.

Every time Windows Sandbox is activated, a small copy of Windows 10 is installed with all the necessary components. It’s efficient and optimized for fast processing with the help of the following programs:

  • Integrated Kernel Scheduler

The integrated kernel scheduler treats the virtual processors of Windows Sandbox as different threads.

This way, Windows can prioritize tasks, which ends up helping the sandbox be faster and more responsive.

  • Graphics Virtualization

Virtual machines usually have no access to graphics processing units or GPUs. GPUs are the hardware components of a computer that processes what will be displayed on a computer’s screen. Windows Sandbox provides graphics virtualization technologies by integrating its support directly into DirectX and WDDM.

  • Smart Memory Management

The Windows 10 host and Windows Sandbox share the same memory space since they’re both running on the same physical machine. The host can reclaim memory from the sandbox if required.

Furthermore, Sandbox uses the same executable memory pages as the host using the Direct Map method.

  • Dynamically Generated Images

Sandbox uses the same copy of Windows that’s installed on your computer.

To remove any chances of changing the actual files, a Dynamic Base Imageis used for the sandbox.

This image is composed of files and links. Files can be changed while links cannot.

The bulk of the files are links, which allows the image to have a small size of around 100 MB.

  • Snapshot and Clone

Through these techniques, whenever a new sandbox is started, it loads from a clone already saved in memory, which allows it to load quickly.

This clone is made by taking a snapshotof the state of the CPU, memory and device when Sandbox boots for the first time.

  • Battery Usage Support

Sandbox is aware of the battery status and thus uses optimum power utilization options.

Running Windows 10 Sandbox

The first thing you need to check is whether your system is capable of running Windows 10 Sandbox or not. While it is a Windows feature, not all systems have the ability to run something like Windows Sandbox.

System Requirements

Here are the requirements as per Microsoft recommendations:

  • Windows 10 Pro and Enterprise with the May 2019 update
  • A processor with AMD64 architecture
  • A processor with at least 2 CPU cores, 4 are recommended
  • At least 4 GB of RAM, 8 is recommended
  • At least 1 GB of storage space

Furthermore, you need to see if your hardware supports virtualization. If it does and it meets all of the above criteria, then you should be able to run Windows Sandbox.

If your hardware supports virtualization, but you need to enable it, follow the guide below.

Enabling Hardware Virtualization in BIOS

1. Click on the Start button and type “CMD” in the search box.

Fig 1 - Opening command prompt

Opening command prompt

2. Press Enter or click on the Command Prompt app to run it.

3. Type systeminfo.exe and press Enter to run the command.

4. At the end of the result, after the Hyper-V Requirementsheader, see if the following attribute is available:

Virtualization Enabled In Firmware: Yes

Fig 2 - Virtualization Enabled

Check to see if virtualization is enabled

If it is enabled, then you’re ready to try using Windows Sandbox. If not, then you will have to turn it on yourself through the BIOS configuration.

Note: In case virtualization is not enabled, restart the computer and enter BIOS setup by pressing the key as instructed on the start-up screen. It’s usually available in Advanced BIOS features or System Configuration. The BIOS menus and options differ on the basis of different hardware models and manufacturers. Search your manufacturer’s website if you can’t find the option.

Enabling Windows 10 Sandbox

Once you’re done checking requirements and enabling hardware virtualization, it’s time to turn Sandbox on.

To do that, complete the following steps:

1. Click on the Start button and type Turn Windows features on or off.

Fig 3 - Opening Turn Windows feature on or off app

Opening Turn Windows features on or off app

2. Press Enter or click on the Turn Windows features on or off app in the search results.

Fig 4 - Windows Sandbox

Windows Sandbox

3. Scroll down until you reach the Windows Sandbox feature and mark it as checked.

4. Press OK and then the Restart now button.

Once your computer is restarted, you’re ready to use Sandbox.

Using Windows Sandbox

Now that you’re done with all the preparations, it’s time to use your ultimate experiment playground.

To run Sandbox, do the following: 

1. Click on the Start button and type “Windows Sandbox” in the search box.

2. Click the Windows Sandbox app from the search results to run it. Sandbox will open as a new window inside your current desktop. You should have two desktops screens in front of you.

Fig 5 - Windows Sandbox running

Windows Sandbox running

3. Copy any file you want from your main Windows 10 desktop into the Sandbox desktop.

4. Run it in this environment as you feel fit. Use it as you like and see what happens.

5. You can even run installable files in Sandbox, go through all the steps of installation and see how the application performs in Sandbox.

6. Once you’re done with your testing, simply close Sandbox by clicking the X button in the top right of the window. This will delete the sandbox and all of its data.

You can even download files using Microsoft Edge in Sandbox and run them without affecting the host environment.

Compared to other virtual machines and sandbox software, it’s faster, more secure and more efficient since Windows has integrated its support at the hardware level.

Once closed, the entirety of the session is lost and the next time you run the sandbox, it will again be a clean copy of Windows 10. You’ll be able to test any applications to see how they affect your computer without having to risk damage to your actual computer.We hope this guide has been helpful and that you now feel more comfortable using the new Windows Sandbox feature.

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