How to Set up Windows Sandbox in Windows 10

By | March 5, 2022

Microsoft is always adding new and interesting features to Windows 10. They don’t always work. Many do not receive the overwhelming reception on arrival. However, the introduction of the Windows Sandbox environment for Windows 10 was met with significant interest.

Previously, you could only create boxes in Windows 10 using third-party tools. Having the tools integrated is potentially easier and safer than the alternatives.

Here’s how you can set up Windows Sandbox in Windows 10.

What is Windows Sandbox

Windows Sandbox is a temporary virtual desktop environment. While Windows Sandbox is running, you’re essentially running a clean version of your operating system, where your activity doesn’t affect the rest of your machine.

Thus, Windows Sandbox is a secure environment where you can test any software before installing it on your primary device. When you close the sandbox, it destroys any activity before returning to the host machine.

How Windows Sandbox Works

Microsoft uses several tools to bring Windows Sandbox to life.

  • Dynamic image generation. Windows Sandbox copies your existing operating system image to a virtual machine. Your Windows Sandbox environment always uses a fresh and clean installation of Windows 10 with the latest updates. But you don’t need to keep an additional copy of the operating system to boot like you would with other virtualization software.
  • Intelligent memory management. Virtual machines can be quite resource heavy and require a host machine to share their hardware. Windows Sandbox uses smart memory management to dynamically allocate memory between the host and the sandbox, ensuring hosts are not slow to crawl.
  • Snapshots and Clones. Windows Sandbox uses two common virtualization technologies, called Snapshot and Clone, to ease the load on the host system. This snapshot allows Windows Sandbox to boot the environment once, then “conserves memory, CPU, and device state to disk.” From here, the environment can recover from disk instead of having to boot it every time a new instance of the sandbox is needed.

Windows Sandbox also uses enhanced graphical virtualization to make the sandbox environment a seamless experience mirroring the host.

Can I run Windows Sandbox

Windows Sandbox is currently available for Windows 10 Pro or Enterprise installations running Insider Preview build 18305 or later, or Windows 10 May 2019 update or later. Unfortunately, Windows 10 Home users will not have access to the Windows Sandbox.

You will also need:

  • 64-bit processor
  • Virtualization is enabled in your system BIOS
  • Minimum 4GB RAM (Microsoft recommends 8GB)
  • At least 1GB of free disk space (Microsoft recommends using an SSD)
  • At least 2 CPU cores (Microsoft recommends four cores with hyperthreading)

How to Check If Virtualization Is On

Before delving into the BIOS to enable virtualization, there’s a quick check you can do to see if it’s enabled.

Type task in your Start Menu search bar and select Best Match. In Task Manager, switch to the Performance tab. It will list Enabled or Disabled with Virtualization.

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If virtualization is disabled, you will need to head into the BIOS and enable it.

Once it’s on, turn it back on, and move on.

How to Enable Hyper-V and Windows Sandbox Features

OK, now you need to check that Microsoft Hyper-V is up and running. Hyper-V is a Windows Server virtualization tool built into Windows. In this case, Hyper-V was used to create the Windows Sandbox, so you’ll need to enable it before continuing.

Type windows features in your Start Menu search bar and select Best Match. Scroll down and check Hyper-V. It will check nesting options automatically. Now, scroll a bit further down and find the Windows Sandbox option and check the box. Press OK, then restart your system.

How to Access Windows Sandbox

After Windows restarts, type windows sandbox in your Start Menu search bar. Windows Sandbox will appear as Best Match. Open Windows Sandbox; there he is!

Windows Sandbox opens a clean version of your current version of Windows every time you open it. Always up to date, with the same system updates as the host.

When you are done using the Window Sandbox, simply close the application. Any changes you make to the operating system running in Windows Sandbox will be lost permanently.

Running Windows Sandbox Inside a Virtual Machine

If you are trying to use Windows Sandbox in a virtual machine, there are additional steps to take. You should set up your system to allow nested virtualization. It runs a virtual environment in a virtual machine.

In the virtual machine, type PowerShell in your Start Menu search bar, right-click Best Match and select Run as Administrator.

Now, enter the following command:

Set-VMProcessor -VMName -ExposeVirtualizationExtensions $true

Replacing with the virtual machine name.

Restart your virtual machine. After restarting, the Windows Sandbox option will be available in your Start Menu.

Running Windows Sandbox on Windows 10 Home

I know I said that Windows Sandbox can’t run on Windows 10 Home. That’s right; out of the box, you can’t. But a patch developed by the Deskmodder team allows Windows 10 Home users to play Windows Sandbox.

Now, I haven’t had a chance to try this patch. The results seem mixed and introducing Windows Sandbox to your system via patches could have unintended consequences. If you want to try Windows Sandbox on your Windows 10 Home system, take a system backup before doing so.

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