Microsoft's Windows Sandbox Runs Programs in an Isolated Desktop

Windows Sandbox will enable safe isolation and testing of suspicious programs in Windows 10 19H1

The sandbox builds on technologies used within Windows Containers, which were created to run in the cloud. Windows will soon have a tool to help you find out what that questionable EXE file does.

Windows Sandbox is a strong move by Microsoft that will enhance endpoint security and reliability. Running software in a virtual machine and then integrating that software into the main operating system is not new-VMware has done this on Windows for two decades now-but Windows Sandbox is using a number of techniques to reduce the overhead of the virtual machine while also maximizing the performance of software running within the VM, without compromising the isolation it offers. The feature, Windows Sandbox, will be available only on the Windows Pro and Enterprise editions. Instead, it uses the files of the host OS to dynamically generate pristine files each time you open the Sandbox.

While the feature doesn't require the setting up of a virtual machine, virtualization capabilities need to be enabled in the BIOS.

It's created to allow you to test executable files (.exe) before they are exposed to the main Windows operating system.

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. This feature will be available starting in the upcoming Windows 10 Pro and Enterprise Insider build 18305.

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Sharing is used for memory, too; operating system executables and libraries loaded within the VM use the same physical memory as those same executables and libraries loaded into the host OS.

The host and the sandboxed applications will also share the same physical memory pages, but Microsoft claimed that this is done in a secure way, so that no secrets are shared. The company said that the goal here is to make the sandbox act more like an app rather than another virtual machine, but still have the same (or close to the same) security guarantees as a virtual machine.

Taken together, Windows Sandbox combines elements of virtual machines and containers.

"Snapshot allows us to boot the sandbox environment once and preserve the memory, CPU, and device state to disk". Most users will be able to test this themselves in the first half of 2019, when the Windows 10 builder 18305 should arrive.

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