Windows sandbox is a feature on Windows 11 and 10, allows you to safely test apps and programs in an isolated environment without affecting your main system. It is useful for developers, testers, and anyone who wants to try out new or untrusted software without risking their PC’s security or performance. In this article, we will explain what Windows 11 Sandbox is, how it works, and how to enable and use it on your Windows 11 device
What is Windows 11 Sandbox?
Windows Sandbox is a lightweight virtual machine that runs on top of your Windows 11 system. It creates a temporary desktop environment that is separate from your main system and has its own resources, settings, and files. It is useful for testing apps that might be dangerous, visiting websites that might contain malware or opening files that might be suspicious.
Windows 10 Sandbox uses hardware-based virtualization, smart memory management, and virtual GPU to create a lightweight desktop environment that can be easily discarded when you close it.
According to Microsoft, Windows 10 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:
- 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.
How does Windows 11 Sandbox work?
Windows 11 Sandbox uses a technology called Windows Containers to create an isolated environment for running apps and programs. Windows Containers are similar to virtual machines, but they are more lightweight and efficient because they share the same kernel and drivers as the host system.
Windows 10 or 11 Sandbox also uses a feature called Dynamic Base Image (DBI) to reduce the disk space and memory usage of the sandbox. DBI allows Windows 11 Sandbox to use a compressed version of the Windows 11 system files and registry that are already present on your device. When you launch Windows 10 Sandbox, it decompresses the DBI and creates a writable layer on top of it. This layer stores any changes that you make inside the sandbox, such as installing apps or modifying settings.
It also uses a feature called Integrated Graphics Processor (IGP) to improve the graphics performance of the sandbox. IGP allows Windows 11 Sandbox to use the same graphics card as your main system, which enables hardware acceleration for apps and programs that require it.
How to enable Windows Sandbox on Windows 11
According to Microsoft, To enable Windows 11 Sandbox on your device, you need to have the following requirements:
- A device running Windows 11 /10 Pro or Enterprise Edition.
- A processor that supports virtualization technology (VT-x or AMD-V) and has at least two cores.
- At least 4 GB of RAM (8 GB recommended).
- At least 1 GB of free disk space (preferably SSD).
- Virtualization capabilities enabled in BIOS
You can enable virtualization in the computer’s BIOS Setup
- Power on the machine and open the BIOS (Press Del key).
- Open the Processor submenu The processor settings menu may be hidden in the Chipset, Advanced CPU Configuration or Northbridge.
- Enable Intel Virtualization Technology (also known as Intel VT) or AMD-V depending on the brand of the processor.
If you meet these requirements, you can follow these steps to enable Windows 11 Sandbox on your device:
- Press the Windows + R keys to open the Run dialog box.
- Type optionalfeatures.exe and press Enter or click OK.
- When the Windows Features menu appears, scroll down and check the Windows Sandbox option, then click OK.
- Wait for the installation process to complete, then restart your device.
After it has finished installing, click on the Start button search for Windows Sandbox, and click on it when it appears.
How to use Windows 11 Sandbox on your device?
To use Windows 11 Sandbox on your device, you can follow these steps:
- Press the Windows + S keys to open the Search menu.
- Type Windows Sandbox and click on the app icon that appears.
- Wait for the sandbox to launch. You will see a clean Windows 11 desktop with a Recycle Bin icon and a Microsoft Edge browser icon.
Note: As the Sandbox is a fully featured version of Windows, its first run will boot Windows as normal. And to avoid each time booting Windows 11 Sandbox will create a snapshot of the virtual machine’s state after its first boot. This snapshot will then be used for all subsequent launches to avoid the boot process and substantially decrease the time it takes for the Sandbox to become available.
You can now install and run any app or program inside the sandbox by using one of these methods:
- Drag and drop an executable file from your main system to the sandbox window.
- Copy and paste an executable file from your main system to the sandbox window.
- Download an executable file from the internet using Microsoft Edge inside the sandbox window.
- Use PowerShell or Command Prompt inside the sandbox window to run commands or scripts.
You can also copy files from your main system to the sandbox or vice versa by using one of these methods:
- Drag and drop a file from your main system to the sandbox window or vice versa.
- Copy and paste a file from your main system to the sandbox window or vice versa.
- Use PowerShell or Command Prompt inside the sandbox window to copy files using commands such as Copy-Item or robocopy.
When you are done testing or using the app or program inside the sandbox, you can close the sandbox window by clicking on the X button at the top right corner.
You will see a confirmation message asking if you want to close all apps and delete everything in this sandbox. Click OK to confirm.
The sandbox will close and delete everything inside it, including the app, program, files, and settings.
Windows sandbox not working
To troubleshoot Windows 10 sandbox problems, or the Windows 11 sandbox feature is missing in your device.
- Check if your system meets the requirements for Windows sandbox, such as Windows 11 Pro or Enterprise edition, virtualization enabled in BIOS, and sufficient disk space and memory.
- Make sure you have the latest updates for Windows 11/10 and the Windows sandbox feature.
- Restart your computer and try to launch Windows 10 Sandbox again.
- If you get an error message when launching Windows Sandbox, note down the error code and search for it online or contact Microsoft support for assistance.
- If Windows sandbox does not load or work properly, check if there are any conflicting applications or settings on your system, such as antivirus software, firewall, network configuration, etc. You may need to disable or adjust them temporarily to use Windows Sandbox.
- If you want to reset or delete Windows Sandbox, you can go to Settings > Apps > Apps & features > Windows Sandbox > Advanced options > Reset or Uninstall.
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