Microsoft reveals ‘Windows Sandbox’ mode for Windows 10 Pro and Enterprise users

Image of the Windows logo on a beach to represent a sandbox mode

Microsoft has announced a new security feature that will allow its professional and enterprise users to run suspicious programmes in complete isolation.

The new desktop tool, dubbed Windows Sandbox, will create a virtual machine-like desktop environment that can allow users to run any software, regardless of how harmful it is, without risking lasting impact on their device.

A form of sandbox-style 'private desktop' tool has been in the works for months, with Windows Insiders previously finding evidence for a VM environment in August, at the time dubbed 'InPrivate Desktop'.

"How many times have you downloaded an executable file, but were afraid to run it?" said Microsoft's lead program manager in the Windows Core Kernal Platform Hari Pulapaka, writing in a blog post.

"Have you ever been in a situation which required a clean installation of Windows, but didn't want to set up a virtual machine?

"At Microsoft, we regularly encounter these situations, so we developed Windows Sandbox: an isolated, temporary, desktop environment where you can run untrusted software without the fear of lasting impact to your PC."

Windows Sandbox will be packaged into Windows 10 Pro and Windows 10 Enterprise build 18305 or newer, by default, and runs in complete isolation to a user's machine.

Running the tool will be like opening a clean install of Windows 10 in a windowed application, with everything done within this isolated environment wiped completely upon shutting the app.

Moreover, the tool uses hardware-based virtualisation, relying on Microsoft's hypervisor, which creates Windows virtual machines, to run Windows Sandbox separately from the host.

Users will also need to have AMD64 architecture, virtualisation capabilities enabled in the BIOS, minimum 4GB RAM (8GB recommended) 1GB hard disk space (SSD recommended), and a processor with at least 2 CPU cores (4 with hyperthreading recommended).

"Any software installed in Windows Sandbox stays only in the sandbox and cannot affect your host," Pulapaka continued. "Once Windows Sandbox is closed, all the software with all its files and state are permanently deleted."

Windows Sandbox is currently subject to testing, with users welcome to provide feedback via a specified hub.

Keumars Afifi-Sabet

Keumars Afifi-Sabet is a writer and editor that specialises in public sector, cyber security, and cloud computing. He first joined ITPro as a staff writer in April 2018 and eventually became its Features Editor. Although a regular contributor to other tech sites in the past, these days you will find Keumars on LiveScience, where he runs its Technology section.