How to Run Windows Apps in a Safe Environment

This guide will explain step by step how to run Windows apps in a completely safe and isolated environment (a “sandbox”) so that anything that happens while you’re using that app is completely separated from Windows itself.

A “sandbox”, in terms of computer security, is an environment that’s completely separate from everything else. If you run an App inside a sandbox, anything that happens in that App will remain inside the sandbox. For example, if you run a web browser inside of a sandbox and you visit a web site that contains malware which automatically installs on your computer, that malware will be contained in the sandbox. It’s a super safe way to run questionable programs or visit questionable web sites. Here’s how you can run Windows Apps inside of sandbox –

  1. First, visit to download Sandboxie. Sandboxie is a free program, and the source code has been made public.
  2. Towards the end of your Sandboxie installation you’ll be prompted to install and activate the Sandbox system-level driver. Carefully review the info on how to boot into safe mode in case something goes wrong at this point. I’ve used this program on several different machines and it has never caused a problem, but the disclaimer is there for a reason.. Click Next to install the driver.
  3. install the sandboxie system level driver

  4. Once the installation has completed, Sandboxie will check your system to make sure all of the software is compatible. If it finds anything that it’s unsure of, it will ask you to click OK to update the configuration settings of your sandbox(es). It will not alter the software itself.
  5. a list of apps that require sandboxie to change its configuration file

  6. At this point Sandboxie will take you through an ‘introduction’ – a series of explanations of what the software can do and how to use it. Click Next to get started.
  7. the first screen of the sandboxie introduction wizard
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  8. You’ll get an illustrated explanation of the concept of sandboxing. After you’ve reviewed it, click the Next button.
  9. an illustrated example of a sandbox
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  10. Sandboxie explains that it will create a desktop shortcut to auto-launch your browser in a sandbox. Click Next
  11. sandboxie explaining how it creates a desktop shortcut
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  12. Now you’ll get an explanation of how Sandboxie deals with files that are downloaded from an App running inside of the sandbox. Click the Next button to continue.
  13. sandboxie installation wizard screen
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  14. The next introduction window lets you know how to delete the contents of a sandbox.
  15. deleting the contents of a sandbox
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  16. You’ll also be prompted to actually delete the contents of a sandbox by right-clicking on the Sandboxie icon in your system tray.
  17. right-click a system tray icon

  18. Give it a shot – right-click the yellow Sandboxie icon in your system tray, select the default sandbox, named DefaultBox and then choose Delete Contents
  19. the sandboxie system tray icon context menu

  20. At this point the introduction wizard is done. Click the Finish button.
  21. the final screen of the sandboxie introduction wizard
    click to enlarge

  22. The main Sandboxie window will be displayed. Let’s run a Windows app safely inside of a sandbox.
  23. the main Sandboxie window

  24. There are a number of ways to launch an App inside of a sandbox. Click the Sandbox menu item, select DefaultBox, then Run Sandboxed and finally Run From Start Menu
  25. run a Windows app in a safe environment

  26. Select Programs from the context menu. A list of all the programs installed on your PC will be listed. For this example I’m going to choose Firefox as the App to run inside of a sandbox.
  27. selecting a windows app to run in a safe environment

  28. Once you run an App inside of a sandbox, Sandboxie will display that App inside the main window.
  29. list of apps running inside a sandbox

  30. You’ll be able to tell an App is running inside of a sandbox because it will have a yellow line surrounding it.
  31. an app with a yellow border

  32. That pretty much covers it. If you have any questions by all means please feel free to leave a comment below.

While you’re here, check out some of our other Windows tips and tutorials.

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