Windows Sandbox splash

Have you ever downloaded a program from a website or opened an email attachment thinking it was from someone you know, only to find out it was infected with a virus? Such actions can wreak serious havoc. Windows Sandbox allows you to run a program or open a file while keeping it apart from your device—almost as if it were on a totally separate computer.

Windows Sandbox is included free in the Windows 10 May 2019 Update and is available in Windows 10 Pro and Windows 10 Enterprise.

How does Windows Sandbox work?

Windows Sandbox takes advantage of a technology called virtualization. What this means is that a computer can run two pieces of software at the same time separate from each other. This is beneficial when a software publisher may not be known or trusted. If you need to open a file or an email attachment but aren’t sure if it’s safe, Windows Sandbox might help you determine if you’ve downloaded from a trustworthy source.

How do I enable Windows Sandbox?

Because Windows Sandbox is already included in Windows 10, there are no programs to download, and no specialized set up is necessary.

To enable Windows Sandbox, type Turn Windows features on or off in Windows search and select Open.

Windows Sandbox turn on

Check the box next to Windows Sandbox, then select OK.

Windows Sandbox on

If you don’t see Windows Sandbox on the list, you may have Windows 10 Home or an older release of Windows 10. You’ll need to update your device to the latest version of Windows 10 May 2019 Update to use this feature.

Restart your computer to finish enabling Windows Sandbox. Make sure your work is saved, and all programs are closed before restarting.

Windows Sandbox restart

Opening Windows Sandbox

Once your device has restarted, you’re ready to use Windows Sandbox.

Type Windows Sandbox in Windows search, then select Windows Sandbox to open.

Windows Sandbox open

Note: A dialog box might appear asking if you want this app to make changes to your device. Select Yes to open Windows Sandbox. There may be a slight delay as the app loads.

Windows Sandbox user account access

The Sandbox is fully loaded with an empty Windows homepage.

Windows Sandbox

How to use Windows Sandbox

Type Windows Sandbox in Windows search, then select Run as administrator.

Note: A dialog box appears asking if you want this app to make changes to your device. Select Yes to run as an administrator.

Windows Sandbox runs as admin

Right-click or Ctrl C or Ctrl V to copy and paste files to place and test them inside the Windows Sandbox. You can be online or offline while you test your files.

Windows Sandbox paste

To test apps or executable files (.exe) to verify if they’re trustworthy, download but don’t install the .exe on your actual computer. Right-click the .exe, then select copy.

Next, go to Windows Sandbox and in an empty area on the desktop, right-click, and select paste.

Anything you put inside Windows Sandbox disappears after you close the app so be sure not to save anything important inside.

Once the files are in the sandbox, you can open and install programs like you normally would and determine if the files are safe. If the files happen to be corrupt or infected, you can simply close Windows Sandbox, and no harm is done to your computer. You should delete the file or .exe from your computer as soon as possible. In the following example, an app is tested for trustworthiness.

Windows Sandbox test app

How do I disable Windows Sandbox?

To disable the Sandbox feature, type Turn Windows features on or off in Windows search and select Open.

Windows Sandbox turn off

Uncheck the Windows Sandbox option on the list, then select OK.

Windows Sandbox off

Restart your computer to finish disabling Windows Sandbox. Make sure your work is saved, and all programs are closed before restarting.

Windows Sandbox restart

That’s it! You’re now ready to open the file or program that may be untrusted without posing a security risk to your computer. If you’re ever in doubt about a file or app, use Windows Sandbox to give you peace of mind that the content you’re viewing, or the .exe you’re downloading, isn’t going to introduce malware to your device.