Windows 10 May 2019 Update (19H1) added a new Windows Sandbox feature. Here’s how you can use it on your Windows 10 PC today.

To note: Windows Sandbox is not available on Windows 10 Home. It is only available on Professional, Enterprise, and Education editions of Windows 10.

What is Sandbox?

In short, Windows Sandbox is part application, part virtual machine. It allows you to quickly launch a clean virtual operating system imaged from your current system state so you can test programs or files in a secure environment isolated from your main system. When you close the sandbox, it destroys this state. Nothing can move from the sandbox to your main installation of Windows, and nothing remains after it closes.

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How can I get it?

All you need is a modern version of Windows 10 running Windows 10 Pro or Enterprise. Windows 10 Home does not have this feature. Sandbox functionality became stable in May 2019.

Step One: Make Sure Virtualization is Enabled

First, you need to make sure that virtualization is enabled in your system’s BIOS. This is usually the default, but there is an easy way to check. Launch Task Manager by pressing Ctrl+Shift+Esc, then head to the “Performance” tab. Make sure the ‘CPU’ category is selected on the left and right, just make sure it says ‘Virtualization: Enabled’.

If virtualization is not enabled, you will need to enable it in your PC’s BIOS settings before proceeding.

Step 2: Enable nested virtualization if you are running the host system in a virtual machine (optional)

If you are already testing the Insider build of Windows in a virtual machine and want to test Sandbox in that virtual machine, you will need to take the additional step of enabling nested virtualization.

To do this, launch PowerShell in the version of Windows running inside the VM, then run the following command:

Set-VMProcessor -VMName -ExposeVirtualizationExtensions $true

This allows your guest version of Windows in the VM to expose virtualization extensions so Sandbox can use them.

Step Three: Enable Windows Sandbox Feature

After making sure virtualization is enabled, enabling Windows Sandbox functionality is a snap.

To do this, go to Control Panel > Programs > Turn Windows features on or off. (By the way, we have a full article on using these Windows features if you want to learn more.)

In the Windows Features window, check the “Windows Sandbox” box.

Click “OK”, then let Windows restart.

Step Three: Turn It On

After Windows restarts, you can find Windows Sandbox in the Start menu. Type “Windows Sandbox” in the search bar or search the menu then double-click the icon. When it asks, allow it to have administrative privileges.

You should then see a close replica of your current operating system.

There are a few differences. This is a clean Windows install, so you’ll see the default wallpaper and nothing but the default apps that come with Windows.

The virtual operating system is dynamically generated from your main Windows operating system, so it will always run the same version of Windows 10 that you are using, and it will always be fully up to date. This last fact is particularly interesting, since a traditional virtual machine requires taking the time to update the operating system on its own.

How to use it?

If you’ve used a virtual machine before, using the sandbox will be like old hat. You can copy and paste files directly into the sandbox like any other virtual machine. However, drag and drop does not work. Once the file is in the sandbox, you can proceed normally. If you have an executable file, you can install it in the sandbox where it is well isolated from your main system.

One thing to note: if you delete a file in the sandbox, it doesn’t go to the trash. Instead, it is permanently deleted. You will receive a warning when you delete items.

Once you’re done testing, you can close the sandbox like any other application. This will completely destroy the snapshot, including any changes you made to the operating system and any files you copied to it. Microsoft was kind enough to provide a warning first.

The next time you launch Sandbox, you’ll find it at a clean slate and you can start the test again.

Impressively, Sandbox works well on minimal hardware. We ran the tests for this article on a Surface Pro 3, an aging device without a dedicated graphics card. Initially, the sandbox ran noticeably slow, but after a few minutes it worked surprisingly well given the constraints.

This better speed also persisted when closing and reopening the app. Traditionally, running a virtual machine required more power. Due to the more restricted use cases with Sandbox (you’re not installing multiple operating systems, running multiple instances, or even taking multiple snapshots), the bar is set a bit lower. But it’s this very specific target that makes the sandbox work so well.