Windows Sandbox vs Virtual Machine: Pros and Cons on Windows 10

Windows Sandbox vs Virtual Machine: Pros and Cons on Windows 10

If you are you trying to understand how Windows Sandbox vs Virtual Machine differs, then you have landed in the right spot!

It is always perilous to run executable files whether it is a program found from the web or the one received in your email. The process of testing software in clean systems demands virtual machine (VM) software and a distinct Windows license to execute within the VM. This problem is effectively solved with Microsoft Windows Sandbox. The confusion between the virtual machine and Windows Sandbox is common because several identical characteristics between the two can create confusion.

A glance at Windows Sandbox:

Windows Sandbox is essentially a new virtualization feature which Microsoft would integrate into Windows 10. It allows users and administrators to execute software within a sandbox so that it cannot negatively influence the underlying system. The Sandboxing concept is not at all new, but one needs to make a way out to install third-party solutions. Names of some of these solutions are Sandboxie or virtual machines like VMWare to execute software in a protected environment. The environment in which Windows Sandbox works is isolated, temporary, desktop ecosystem. It protects the host from harm and will fade away when it is closed.

There will be no difficulties while running untrusted software; alternatively, you can test new software prior to running it on their real host environment. This would alleviate the terror of severely impacting your PC. Any application or software installed onto Sandbox would stay there and would not influence your host. Since Sandbox is a temporary environment, the moment the program is closed, it is inevitable that everything will be deleted. Consequently, you can commence another test whenever you reopen it. The fact that it is temporary and does not save any files; one thing is sure –users do not require excess space for the program.

How is Windows Sandbox different than a Virtual Machine in Windows 10? Windows Sandbox vs Virtual Machine

The primary point of the discussion is to identify how Windows Sandbox differs from a Virtual Machine in Windows 10.  The below section would highlight the unique specialties present in Windows Sandbox, making it special.

Sending and receiving emails from friends, family, colleagues, etc. is common. You may have received emails with an attachment. The need for downloading app is common, and till now, you may have downloaded apps from the internet from relatively unknown sources. In such cases, you may download and run it by taking the risk. Due to ransomware running rampant, it would not be possible to be always careful. Occasionally software developers demand a clean system which emphasizes on an instant and simple to use OS that is devoid of other installed programs, scripts, files, or additional baggage.

For the above situation, the better solution is to twist a Virtual Machine. The same would provide you with a clean, isolated OS. In case the attachment has malware, then only the virtual machine is affected. Those who are developers can do their testing in a way identical to setting up a new computer.

There are certain drawbacks of the VM software, and the foremost of them is it is expensive. Though you may use a free alternative like VirtualBox, there is still a need to use a top-end valid Windows license to execute it on the virtualized OS. Another drawback is running a VM at reasonable performance levels demands powerful hardware and ample storage space. In case you utilize snapshots, you could instantly fill up a small SSD. In fact, you utilize a high-capacity HDD, then it may be possible that performance becomes slow. Such power hungry resources are not recommended to be used on a laptop.

One more drawback is VMs are complex. They are not meant for just setting up to test out a problematic executable file. However, Microsoft has declared a new solution capable of resolving all such problems and, i.e. Windows Sandbox. Similar to a standard VM, any software being installed in the Sandbox would stay isolated and could not influence the host machine. Once you close the Sandbox, the programs being installed by you, files being added and the settings being changed are deleted. The following time you execute Sandbox, it would be restored to a clean slate. Such things are not found with a Virtual Machine in Windows 10.

It is known that Microsoft is utilizing hardware-based virtualization, via the hypervisor, to execute a distinct kernel. Therefore, it can quickly isolate Sandbox from the host. This implies that you can securely download an executable file from a perilous source and then install in Sandbox; there will be no harm to your host system. The reason why Windows Sandbox is beneficial than a VM is it comes with reasonably low requirements.

The requirements of Windows Sandbox are as follows:

  • Windows 10 Pro or Enterprise build 18301 or later
  • x64 architecture
  • Virtualization capabilities permitted in BIOS
  • Minimum 4GB of RAM (8GB recommended)
  • Minimum 1 GB of free disk space (SSD recommended)
  • Minimum 2 CPU cores (4 cores with hyperthreading recommended)

One of the appealing traits of Windows Sandbox is there is no need to download or create a virtual hard disk (VHD). This is because Windows dynamically prepares a clean snapshot OS based on the Host OS on your machine. Throughout this procedure, it would link to files that do not change on the system and relates to shared files that change. This would make for an incredibly light image of size 100 MB. In case you do not use the Sandbox, the image would compress to a tiny 25 MB. Since it is a copy of your OS, there is no need for a separate license key. There will be no issues to run Sandbox if you have Windows 10 Pro or Windows 10 Enterprise.

To guarantee safety, Microsoft utilizes the container concept, which was earlier introduced. Mostly, the Sandbox OS is isolated from the host, and this allows a VM to run like an app. Though Sandbox and the host machine are two different things, they do function together. When required, needed, the host will regain memory from the Sandbox to make sure the speed of your machine is not diminished. Moreover, the Sandbox is attentive of the battery levels of your host machine. Therefore, it can successfully optimize power consumption.

All of these aspects and many more makes Windows Sandbox a quick and safe solution identical to VM.  It would have less number of overheads than a traditional solution. It will be possible for you to call up, test, and obliterate snapshots swiftly; subsequently, you can iterate as needed. There are no constraints on hardware because even less powerful device can run the Sandbox.

How to get Windows Sandbox?

It is not possible to get Windows Sandbox yet because it needs Windows 10 build 18301 or higher, and actually, Microsoft has not released the same yet. Once the version is launched, the installation will be a piece of cake. It is also critical to check that your BIOS possess virtualization capabilities enabled. Subsequently, you only need to turn on Windows Sandbox inside the Windows Features dialog box.

After the Windows Sandbox gets installed, the process of launching is identical to any other program or app. You can easily find it in the Start menu, so run it, and accept the UAC prompt to offer it administrative privileges. Once this is done, you will be able to drag and drop files and programs within the Sandbox for testing purposes. When you are done, close the program, and Sandbox would remove all the modifications being made.

Using Windows Sandbox:

Windows Sandbox’s look resembles a real desktop because it has a Start menu and Settings app. You can easily interact with the software like you typically do. As usual, you can open Microsoft Edge, also download any software and then test it into Windows Sandbox. Alternatively, you can easily copy an executable file, and then paste it inside the Windows Sandbox window to use it for different purposes.

Similar to any app, Windows Sandbox comes with options to minimize, maximize, and also close the window. It is possible to close the Windows Sandbox window to close the session, and all the modifications will be eliminated. Moreover, the sandbox content is also deleted. Contrasting to Virtual Machines, it is found that Windows Sandbox makes use of the Windows 10 installation; there is no need to download virtual images.

Pros and Cons: Windows Sandbox vs Virtual Machine

To get in-depth insights on how Windows Sandbox is different than a Virtual Machine, you need to assess the pros and cons of each of them. Advantages of Windows Sandbox will give you a clear idea of why to go for it. The below section highlights the pros and cons:

Pros and Cons of Sandbox:

Pros:

  • Sandboxing is quite lightweight and extremely easy to set up and use. The reason why it is quite thin and lightweight is you will face some complexities, especially about how to get anticipated changes to be preserved outside of the Windows Sandbox.
  • It is not impossible to create a virtual machine to avail an identical experience, but there are few prominent benefits with Windows Sandbox. You need not pass through extra steps for downloading or creating a virtual machine. Whenever you launch the feature, it would execute a new installation of Windows 10.
  • Once you accomplish testing an application and close the Windows Sandbox, you will find everything gets deleted automatically.
  • Any process taking place within the environment will be isolated from your main installation. This would offer supreme security to test untrusted applications.

Cons:

  • In case your browser is sandboxed, obtaining a downloaded file which you intend to use outside the sandbox might need some additional steps.
  • Some changes that you wish to retain while you are running the sandbox can also be a tad more complex to maintain.

Pros and Cons of Virtual Machine:

Pros:

  • The virtual machine is perfect if you wish to get a fully isolated “virtual” second machine.
  • It works perfectly if you wish that machine to execute a different operating system than that used in its host. To understand this, for instance, you may not have a physical machine that has Windows XP installed, but you have virtual machines that you can run whenever you want on your Windows 7 desktop. It would provide you with a copy of Windows XP.

Cons:

  • Virtual machines are not lightweight because you will require disk space to allot to the virtual hard drive. Also, you will need to make choices about the amount of your computer’s RAM you wish to assign to the virtual machine while it is executing.
  • Process of setting up a VM incorporates the installation of an OS from scratch. This would consume much time because their set up is identical as if they are separate physical machines.
  • A VM and its host are isolated from each other. So, the standard process of copying files to and from the VM will demand you to set up network access on that particular machine. In this way, the file copying process is time-consuming and annoying.

Conclusion

Windows Sandbox certainly offers several advantages over virtualization solutions and also it is profoundly integrated within Windows 10. So, users will be allowed to execute the untrusted programs and other files along with making sure the main Windows 10 installation is unaffected.

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