Test your nasty apps in Windows 10's disposable Sandbox

Raise your hands, everyone who's ever wanted to quickly check if a given program is kosher or will murder your system. Glad to see we're all here. The savviest gerbils probably have a clean virtual machine (VM) somewhere for this purpose, but that approach still entails some work and substantial disk space. Microsoft has good news, though: a compact, fast, and disposable Sandbox is coming to Windows 10.

The Sandbox contains a full-featured Windows desktop, all clean and pristine and ready for testing. Copy-paste some stuff into it and hit the road. It's disposable, too—all you need to do to ditch it is close it, and it'll come back devoid of any installed software when you fire it up again. Although the obvious use case for the Sandbox is checking if a program is bad, it can also be used for testing if an application works correctly in a pristine Windows environment. Having routinely used VMs for that exact purpose, I can only ever be so thankful. System administrators everywhere will love the ability to see if an app is truly broken or if the cause is just the user's biohazardous machine.

Microsoft's engineers, uh, engineered the Sandbox in a clever way. Underneath, it uses Windows Containers tech and employs dynamic links to the host's system files on disk and in RAM. The result is that 100 MB of disk space is all that's required for the Sandbox, and the necessary RAM is significantly reduced compared to a fully virtualized environment. To start up quickly, the Sandbox simply boots up from a VM snapshot instead of going through the entire Windows boot process.

As an added bonus, Microsoft says that there's hardware acceleration for DirectX and WDDM in the Sandbox, so long as you're running an WDDM 2.5 or newer graphics driver in the host. Last but not least, the Sandbox is aware of the host's battery state to avoid chewing right through it.

The feature will be available on Windows 10 Pro and Enterprise, and it requires nothing beyond the obvious: a 64-bit CPU and virtualization support enabled in the BIOS. Once it's shipped, the Sandbox will be available in the Windows Features applet. The feature is currently present in Windows 10 build 18305 and should make it to Insiders soon. Our best guess is that it'll see a release to the public this coming spring. Those looking for further technical detail can and should read Microsoft's blog post.

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