How to use Windows 10's Windows Sandbox to test software

Learn how to leverage the built-in Windows Sandbox feature in Windows 10 to emulate a virtual desktop. This will come in handy when you're testing software applications and managed deployments.

Group of desktop computers on the table in computer lab room

Image: iStockphoto/twinsterphoto

The May 2019 Update of Microsoft's Windows 10 operating system—version 1903—delivers a range of fixes along with a few new features in this semi-annual release. The star feature arguably is the Windows Sandbox that allows for users to access a containerized version of Windows 10 to aid in testing software installs and deployments without compromising a production system or spin up a virtual machine each time you wish to test something out.

The aim of the lightweight desktop environment is to isolate applications in a safe sandbox, which serves to isolate the apps from the live Windows host, without causing a lasting impact. In fact, the sandboxed environment is quick and temporary, booting up in a matter of seconds and once closed, all changes including file, app, and system states are permanently deleted without any of the left-over cruft found in VMs or production systems that must be purged manually.

SEE: 10 tricks and tweaks for customizing Windows 10 (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

The fact that the software runs natively from a common set of Windows files stored locally on the host means that a clean environment starts up each and every time. Windows Sandbox uses hardware-based virtualization to efficiently manage resources and the kernel—even running Microsoft's hypervisor as a separate instance isolated from the host for added protection of the underlying host system.

Before we go through the steps to enable this feature, here are a few requirements that should be considered:

  • PC running Windows 10 Pro, Enterprise, or Education build 1903 or later
  • 64-bit architecture
  • Virtualization support enabled in BIOS
  • Minimum 4GB of RAM
  • Minimum 1GB of free storage space
  • Minimum 2 CPU cores
  • Administrative credential

How to enable Windows Sandbox manually

1. Log on to Windows with an administrative account on the device.

2. Launch Control Panel | Programs And Features, then click on the Turn Windows Features On Or Off link to open the features checklist.

3. Scroll down to the feature titled Windows Sandbox and place a check in the box, then click the OK button.

4. The feature will install, and the computer will prompt to reboot to complete the installation.

How to enable Windows Sandbox via PowerShell

1. Log on to Windows with an administrative account on the device.

2. Launch PowerShell and enter the following command to enable the feature and reboot the computer in one fell swoop:

Enable-WindowsOptionalFeature -FeatureName Containers-DIsposableClientVM -Online -Restart

Once the computer reboots, locate the Windows Sandbox app and launch it to boot the virtual desktop environment for testing.

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