How to Turn On Windows Sandbox in Windows 11

Sandbox is a secure and virtual environment to test settings and applications. Here’s how to turn on Windows Sandbox in Windows 11.

It’s not every time, but there will be situations where you want to test first before applying it in your system. In those cases, it is better to test it in Windows Sandbox. All you have to do is turn on the Windows Sandbox in Windows 11, and you are good to go.

For example, you are trying to change a sensitive system setting that can affect how the desktop looks. In that case, rather than going ahead with the change directly, you might want to test it somewhere first before applying it to your main machine. In those cases, you can try it in Windows Sandbox.

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What is Windows Sandbox?

Windows Sandbox is a full-fledged yet lightweight and secure environment in Windows 11. It operates as a complete virtual desktop operating system within Windows 11. You can run almost any application or change any system setting in the Windows Sandbox without affecting the main operating system.

If you don’t know, a sandbox is a virtual and secure environment where you can test system settings and applications. Anything you do in the sandbox stays in the sandbox.

For example, if you get a suspicious email attachment, you can open it in Windows Sandbox instead of opening it directly in the main operating system. Any changes made by the attachment in the sandbox stay there. They will not affect the main machine.

Why use Windows Sandbox?

Most people use a virtual machine created with prominent software like VMware or VirtualBox to test a specific Windows setting or a new or suspicious application.

For the most part, a virtual machine is an excellent choice to test settings and applications. However, a full-fledged virtual machine is resource-intensive. You have to allocate specific CPU, memory, and disk I/O resources to run smoothly. Even then, depending on your system hardware configuration, a full-fledged virtual machine will not work properly or is slow and tiresome. It may even affect the main machine’s functionality.

However, Windows Sandbox is a lightweight virtual Windows environment that is safe and secure. Windows Sandbox uses fewer system resources and is faster than a full virtual machine. Not to mention, the Windows Sandbox is easier to set up and starts faster than any full-fledged virtual machine.

Though lightweight, you have access to almost all Windows features within the sandbox. You can install applications, make system changes, try built-in applications, and more.

Once you close the Windows Sandbox, all the changes made to the sandbox environment are lost. That means you don’t have to worry about things spilling into your main machine from the sandbox.

Unless you are a power user who requires extensive control over a virtual sandbox environment, Windows Sandbox is a good choice for most Windows users. Most of all, you don’t have to pay extra as long as you are running Windows 11 Pro or Enterprise edition.

Do I Have Windows Sandbox in Windows 11?

Windows Sandbox is included in Windows 11 Pro or Enterprise editions. You need to turn on Windows Sandbox manually from the Windows Features tool. Once turned on, Windows 11 will download the necessary files. After that, you can start using Windows Sandbox like any other application in Windows 11.

Windows 11 Home edition doesn’t have Windows Sandbox.

Turn on Windows Sandbox in Windows 11

You can turn on Windows Sandbox in Windows 11 from the Windows Features tool. It is straightforward to do. Let me show you how.

  1. Press the Start key on your keyboard.
  2. Search and open “Turn Windows features on or off.”
  3. Scroll down and select the “Windows Sandbox” option.
  4. Click the “Ok” button.
  5. Windows 11 will download the required files and enables Sandbox.
  6. Click the “Restart now” button.
  7. After restarting, Windows Sandbox is enabled.
  8. You can search and open “Windows Sandbox” from the Start menu.

Same steps in a bit more details and screenshots:

First, we need to open the Windows Features tool. For that, click the Start icon on the taskbar. Next, search for “Turn Windows features on or off” and open it. You can open this exact tool from “Control Panel > Programs & Features > Turn Windows features on or off.”

open turn Windows features tool

After opening the Windows Features, scroll down, find and select the “Windows Sandbox” checkbox. After that, click the “Ok” button.

turn on Windows Sandbox in Windows 11

Windows 11 might download and install required sandbox files as soon as you do that. Once done, the operating system will ask you to restart the computer. Click the “Restart Now” button.

After restarting, the Windows Sandbox is fully enabled. You can search and open Windows Sandbox from the Start menu.

open Windows Sandbox from start
Windows Sandbox running in Windows 11

If you use Windows Sandbox often, pin it to the Start menu. To do that, search for Windows Sandbox in the Start menu, right-click on the result and select the “Pin to Start” option.

pin Windows Sandbox to start

The Windows Sandbox will be pinned to the Start menu immediately.

Windows sandbox pinned to start

I cannot find the Windows Sandbox option in Windows 11

Windows Sandbox is only available in Windows 11 Pro and Home editions. It is not available in Windows 11 Home edition. To put it simply, if you cannot find the Windows Sandbox option in the “Windows Features” tool, it means you are running the Home edition, and you don’t have access to it.

If you want to use Windows Sandbox, you have to upgrade to the Pro edition. Alternatively, I recommend you use VirtualBox. It is free, easy to set up, and much more powerful than the regular Windows Sandbox. However, a full virtual machine is resource-intensive. So, do keep that in mind.

Limitations of Windows Sandbox

As good as the Windows Sandbox is, you should remember a few limitations.

  • Windows Sandbox doesn’t give as much control over the environment like the one you create with VMware or VirtualBox.
  • The OS environment in Windows Sandbox is not activated. That means you cannot change personalize settings from the Settings app.
  • You cannot save Windows Sandbox state. Every time you close Windows Sandbox, all its changes are lost. It resets to its default settings.
  • You have to use config files to share folders with Windows Sandbox.
  • For security reasons, some group policy settings and other advanced options and tools are not available in Windows Sandbox.
  • Some features and applications may not work as intended due to the restrictions placed on Windows Sandbox.

Use VMware or VirtualBox with Windows Sandbox

Windows Sandbox uses Hyper-V in the background to create the virtual sandbox environment. VMware or VirtualBox might not work when the Windows Sandbox is enabled and even throw errors. This is especially true if you have enabled Windows Sandbox after installing VMware or VirtualBox.

In that case, reinstall VMware or VirtualBox. When reinstalling, VMware and VirtualBox are smart enough to see that Hyper-V is enabled in the background and configure themselves to work alongside Hyper-V. Remember that you should be using the latest version of VMware or VirtualBox. If you run an older version, this feature might not be available.

If you are wondering, reinstalling VMware or VirtualBox will not delete your virtual machines. So, don’t worry about them.

If you no longer need it, you can disable Windows Sandbox in Windows 11.

That is all. It is that simple to turn on Windows Sandbox in Windows 11.

I hope this easy Windows 11 how-to guide helped you.

If you are stuck or need some help, comment below, and I will try to help as much as possible.

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