How to use Windows Sandbox on Windows 11

Windows Sandbox
Windows Sandbox (Image credit: Future)

On Windows 11, "Windows Sandbox" is a feature that creates a lightweight virtualization environment, which allows you to install and test untrusted applications or websites without the risk of affecting the main installation. 

In other words, Windows Sandbox is essentially a virtual machine that the Microsoft hypervisor creates on demand using the same image of the version of Windows 11 installed on your computer. The difference is that this is a custom lightweight (100MB~) virtualization environment optimized for performance and security.

Although you can use any other virtualization technology, Windows Sandbox offers some benefits. For example, you don't need another product key to activate the instance, and you do not have to spend extra time setting up the virtual machine. Also, you will start with a clean Windows 11 installation whenever you open the sandbox, and everything will get deleted every time you close the feature.

This guide will walk you through the steps to set up and use Windows Sandbox on Windows 11.

How to enable Windows Sandbox on Windows 11

On Windows 11, enabling the isolated environment to test applications requires turning on virtualization at the hardware level before you can turn on Windows Sandbox. 

As part of the minimum requirements, you will need Windows 11 Pro or higher, a processor with two or more cores, and at least 4GB of memory, and while it's not a requirement, you will also need SSD storage.

Enable UEFI virtualization 

To enable virtualization on the UEFI firmware on Windows 11, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on System.
  3. Click the Recovery page on the right side.

(Image credit: Future)
  1. Under the "Recovery options" section, click the Restart now button for the "Advanced startup" setting.

(Image credit: Future)
  1. Click the Restart now button again.
  2. Click on Troubleshoot.
  3. Click on Advanced options.
  4. Click the UEFI Firmware Settings option.

(Image credit: Future)
  1. Click the Restart button.
  2. Open the AdvancedConfiguration, or Security page in the UEFI settings.
  • Quick note: You may have to check your hardware manufacturer to determine the page that contains the settings.
  1. Turn on the virtualization feature in the firmware.
  • Quick tip: The feature may appear as "Virtualization Technology," "Intel Virtual Technology," or "SVM mode," but the name could be different on the motherboard.
  1. Save the firmware settings.
  2. Restart computer.

Once you complete the steps, you can enable the Windows Sandbox feature on your computer.

Enable Windows Sandbox

To enable Windows Sandbox on Windows 11, use these steps:

  • Open Settings.
  • Click on Apps.
  • Click the Optional features page on the right side.

(Image credit: Future)
  1. Under the "Related settings" section, click the "More Windows features" setting.

(Image credit: Future)
  1. Check the Windows Sandbox option.

(Image credit: Future)
  1. Click the OK button.
  2. Click the Restart now button.

After you complete the steps, you can run the sandbox to install and test applications without risking the main installation.

How to use Windows Sandbox on Windows 11

Getting started using Windows Sandbox is straightforward, and here's how:

  1. Open Start.
  2. Search for Windows Sandbox, right-click the top result, and select the Run as administrator option.
  3. Open File Explorer.
  4. Browse to the folder with the untrusted app you plan to test.
  5. Right-click the app installer and select the Copy option.

(Image credit: Future)
  1. In the Windows Sandbox desktop, right-click on the desktop and select the Paste option to transfer the installer. 

(Image credit: Future)
  • Quick tip: Alternatively, you can also download the application files using Microsoft Edge.
  1. Double-click the installer (.exe, .msi, or any other) to begin the installation.
  2. Continue with the on-screen directions to complete the installation.

Once you complete the steps, you can safely test the application without compromising the main installation. In addition to testing applications, you can also use this environment to access untrusted websites safely.

While on Windows Sandbox, you can use the Ctrl + Alt + Break or Pause keyboard shortcut to enter and exit the full-screen experience. If you use high contrast mode, you can use the Shift + Alt + PrintScreen keyboard shortcut to enable high contrast.

When you complete the testing, you can close Windows Sandbox by clicking the X (close) button, similar to any other application, and the system will delete any content you may have created or configured as well as the virtual machine instance.

More resources

For more helpful articles, coverage, and answers to common questions about Windows 10 and Windows 11, visit the following resources: 

Mauro Huculak is technical writer for WindowsCentral.com. His primary focus is to write comprehensive how-tos to help users get the most out of Windows 10 and its many related technologies. He has an IT background with professional certifications from Microsoft, Cisco, and CompTIA, and he's a recognized member of the Microsoft MVP community.