7 of the Best Sandbox Applications for Windows 10

No matter what you want to do, Windows probably has software to make it easier. The only problem is that you cannot trust every download from the free software download sites or from an unknown developer. The reason for this is simple: the software you download may be unstable, bundled with adware, or might even be infected with a virus or malware. To deal with this you can sandbox the application and try it. If it is good enough you can install it normally.

A sandbox is a virtual environment where you can install and run new or untrusted apps without letting them harm your system. Here are some of the best sandbox applications for Windows out of the many that are available.

Short for “Browser in the Box“, this tool is specifically designed for web browsing in a sandbox environment. It comes in both Chrome and Firefox flavors, and is pretty much a Virtualbox instance of Linux designed specifically for browsing, which means that it’s a little more memory-demanding than other options on this list.

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BitBox has the capability of downloading files to your actual PC, so it’s important that you decide whether you want this to happen and set it up appropriately. It takes crucial precautions like disabling your microphone and monitoring all host-BitBox interactions, making it a solid and secure choice.

BufferZone is an endpoint sandbox tool, which means that if you’re heading to parts of the Internet that may be a bit dangerous to your computer security, or someone hands you a USB stick that you don’t quite trust (that happens to everyone, right?), it may be a good idea to run those through BufferZone. It’s easy to add different programs to run through BufferZone, and every major web browser works well within it.

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One advantage of this over other sandbox software is that you don’t need to do much tinkering to get it up and running. Keeping your chosen activities in a secure Virtual Zone, BufferZone makes it impossible for web-based malicious software to get onto your PC because everything you run through it becomes ‘read-only’, so no nasties can write themselves onto your hard drive.

Sandboxie is one of the most popular and most used applications to sandbox and isolate programs from the underlying Windows operating system. The good thing about Sandboxie is that it is very lightweight and free. You can install and run almost any Windows software through Sandboxie. Besides installing software inside Sandboxie, you can run any already installed program, like your web browser, via Sandboxie. All you have to do is select “Sandbox -> Default Box -> Run Sandboxed -> Run Web browser.” If you want to run any other application, select “Run Any Program.”

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When you run a program in Sandbox mode, you will see a thick yellow border around the window to let you know that you are in a sandboxed environment. Sandboxie comes in both free and paid versions, where the free version lacks some important features like forced programs, the ability to run multiple sandboxes, etc. However, for a general home user, the free version should suffice.

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Shade Sandbox is yet another popular and free sandboxing application. Compared to Sandboxie, the user interface of Shade is much simpler, straightforward, and beginner-friendly.

To sandbox an application, all you have to do is drag and drop it into the Shade Sandbox window. The next time you launch the application, it will be automatically sandboxed.

When using Shade Sandbox, all your browsing history, temporary files, cookies, Windows registry, system files, etc., are well isolated from the operating system. Any files downloaded when using Shade will be stored in the Virtual Downloads folder which can be accessed from within the Shade interface. If you are looking for a sandbox application with a simpler user interface, than Shade Sandbox is for you.

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Toolwiz Time Freeze works very differently from the above two sandbox applications. When you install Toolwiz Time Freeze, it creates a virtual copy of your entire system settings and files and saves the state. After using the application you want to test, just reboot the system, and it will be automatically restored. This type of application is pretty useful when you want to thoroughly test a program with no limitations but don’t want the program to make any changes to the host operating system.

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Shadow Defender is just like Toolwiz Time Freeze. When you install and initialize the software, you will be prompted to virtualize your system drive and any other drives of your choice. Once the system has been virtualized, any changes made to it are discarded when you reboot the system the next time.

Of course, you can always specify files and folders to exclude from Shadow Mode. This lets you pick and chose which changes to keep and which changes to discard. When in Shadow Mode, if you want to save a downloaded file or commit to a system change, all you have to do is click on the “Commit Now” button in the main window.

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What all the above apps do is generally known as Light Virtualization. That is, the apps you are testing are still running on the host operating system, albeit in a limited way. If you want full virtualization, there is no better way than to create a virtual machine of the operating system of your choice in either Virtual Box or VMware. The good thing is the programs installed on virtual machines are completely isolated from the host operating system, and there are no limitations that come with generic sandbox software.

Do comment below sharing your thoughts and experiences about using the above software to sandbox and test your applications.

This article was updated on July 2018.

15 comments

  1. I’ve been using the Comodo firewall for years and have watched them grow to include a browser based upon Google’s Chrome (without the invasive properties). My default browser (which, for years, was Firefox) is now Comodo’s Dragon browser. So, in addition to the sandbox feature built into my Comodo firewall, I also have the virtual browser that is built into Dragon. As far as safely browsing are trying new apps on my laptop is concerned, I think I’ve got it covered.
    Dragon is also available as a portable (https://help.comodo.com/topic-120-1-279-2940-.html) that is only 91Mb in size.
    Still, I would like to see portable sandbox apps.

    • I also have used Comodo for years – the premium version and the free. However I’ve found that I’ve had more trouble caused directly by Comodo than it’s worth. I’ve uninstalled it on every machine I had it on and in every case I lost my Internet connection after uninstall and had to spend hours figuring it out to get my connection back. The process was made more difficult because I use both OpenVPN and OpenDNS on the Internet. I will never install Comodo again. Once all the trouble caused by Comodo was cleared up I have almost no problems at all now.

  2. Thanks I’m going to give sandboxie a try. Which browsers are free of backdoors, and of politicts these days? Chrome is Google/Alphabet so it’s out. Firefox would have been my second choice but for their apparent change in priorities towards an anti-right bandwagon. This and we need our browsers to properly utilize more than a single core now in 2017.

    What’s the most trustworthy browser these days? Brave? Pale Moon? Please no Chromium.

  3. Is it possible to run the same registered version of windows from your computer on virtual machine for a sandbox?

  4. Hyper-V comes free with Windows 10.
    Unlock it in “add/remove features”.
    Then I’d still have these cool apps within.

  5. The best program to work sandboxed is the free Comodo Internet Security Software. With this software it is possible to open every application in a sandboxed container. Safe internet with a clone of your browser, also very safe when using TOR. With a few clicks you have a virtual TOR browser. In addition, the firewall is very good and Comodo also offers good protection against randsomware, man in the middle attacks and offers a secure DNS for free. Having a virtual browser is a must when opening links in webmail or PDF’s after reading your mail, you close the browser and reset the viruel container. Besides Comodo I also use the free Immunet antivirus software.

  6. You could have added HorizonDataSys’s Rollback RX Home Edition. It works similar to Toolwiz Time Freeze and Shadow Defender – This is the tool ( older version of course) that Comodo reverse engineered to created it’s popular but now defunct Comodo Time Machine. Toolwiz Time Freeze is a clone of Comodo Time Machine and Shadow Defender is no longer developed so if you need a whole hard drive solution, go with the original inventors, HorizonDataSys and Rollback RX. –
    http://horizondatasys.com/rollback-rx-time-machine/rollback-rx-home/

  7. Is there any free software to see the activities (redirection, file downloads, running scripts) on a browser while opening up a webpage/URL?

  8. Hi Mr. Krishna,
    thank you for your article.
    I work at bufferzone and i have a small update, if possible please contact me.
    thank you
    have a great day

  9. BitBox is technically just VirtualBox with a browser. So why repeat it? If you need a secure system just get this VirtualBox and download Tails or Whonix. However, those are based on Debian. I recommend to use CentOS, DragonFlyBSD or OpenSUSE because if you remember about Meltdown/Spectre, the three is one of the first who fix it. OpenSUSE Tumbleweed is a rolling release, not like Debian, CentOS or DragonFlyBSD, it means it will has updates forever and very fast, that OS has firejail who can sandbox your browser, so as the outcome you’ll have more protection.

    You can roll back your virtual system with VirtualBox snapshots after every use, so if even something bad happen, it wouldn’t be here. Compare to BitBox, my solution is technically the same but because you get your Linux directly, you can be sure no backdoors out here. Also the BitBox site blocks some countries like Japan (however, Google thinks I’m in India, I’m not), I don’t like that. How is it suppose to protect my privacy and fight Censorship if it do censor me itself? It is so much disappointing. MakeTechEasier, please, be more careful with recommendations. Okay?

    Speaking of the list, it has not QEMU nor VMware. The first can provide you ARM, so you can run Android natively or Raspberry Pi. More importantly ARM is a kind of unpopular, I mean of course Android uses it but via its sandbox in Linux, so an attacker is not familiar with ARM as much as with x86-64. It is good because a virus for x86-64 even if escape your browser sandbox, cannot do anything. The second can provide you a good videocard to work with 3D. VirtualBox is a very good hypervisor, indeed. I like this is Open Source and very good support for my Linux systems.

    However, the fact VirtualBox uses some pieces of code from Wine to run things, it does override your native DirectX DLLs from Microsoft to Wine, it is why you cannot install 3D without a Safe Mode boot. The app can give you to set up no more than 128 MB for Linux to 256 MB for Windows is very sad for 2018, mostly because all games want no less than 2 GB now. VirtualBox is almost no use to play games or just run Blender or whatever you need to work with. VMware can give you 3 GB and support DirectX as is. I hope someday VirtualBox will provide great 3D but now it sucks.

    If you want to be serious about sandbox apps, why don’t just “sandbox” Windows 10 itself and run all the stuff, even another sandbox, in it? You can use ESXi, KVM, XEN, this is like VirtualBox but better. All of them free. If you have only a videocard from nVidia, use “nvidia-kvm-patcher” from sk1080 at Github (Open Source) because nVidia hates those who use their “Desktop” videocards and will block your driver from work. I personally prefer to use Proxmox (Debian with KVM), just read wiki how to pass-through a PCI device (your videocard). 3D will work as it work without it.

    So that’s it. BitBox is just a Linux in VirtualBox, use a safer Linux distro like OpenSUSE Tumbleweed with VirtualBox instead of it. If you want to work with 3D, like make a 3D model in Blender or something else, VMware Player is your choice because 256 MB from VirtualBox is just an “evil joke” for 2018. If you want to play games but very worry about your pirate games—I don’t judge you, just want you to be safer—use Proxmox with “echo options kvm ignore_msrs=1 > /etc/modprobe.d/kvm.conf” but be prepare to have some troubles if you use nVidia with ESXi or XEN. Good Luck!

  10. I had the free sandboxie version before I signed up for a year of the paid version, which will run out shortly.
    My concern is why I have seen zero updates on the paid sandboxie, but several updates on the prior free version?

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