As part of the May 2019 Update, Microsoft added a feature known as Windows Sandbox.

Windows Sandbox is a virtual machine that can be set up rather easily and presents a rather clever way of checking emails for nefarious contents.

Cybersecurity firms have reported an increasing in phishing attacks as the world begins to work remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

As such we’re here to offer you a handy tip to check whether an email is legit or something malicious using the Windows Sandbox.

Because Windows Sandbox is a virtual machine that is included with Windows 10 it’s a shade more accessible than other solutions, especially if you’re suddenly having to work from home.

So how do you set up Windows Sandbox?

Firstly you’ll need to make sure your PC meets the following requirements:

  • Windows 10 Pro or Enterprise Insider build 18305 or later
  • AMD64 architecture
  • Virtualization capabilities enabled in BIOS
  • At least 4GB of RAM (8GB recommended)
  • At least 1 GB of free disk space (SSD recommended)
  • At least 2 CPU cores (4 cores with hyperthreading recommended)

We’re not done yet. You will then need to check if your CPU supports virtualisation.

To do this click the Start menu and type in Command Prompt and open Command Prompt.

When the window opens type systeminfo.exe in and hit enter.

You should now see a wall of text telling you everything about your PC but you are looking specifically for the Hyper-V Requirements.

You are looking for the section that reads Virtualization Enabled in Firmware. Should this read Yes you’re good to go and you can skip the next paragraph. If it doesn’t read yes you will need to enable virtualisation in your BIOS or UEFI firmware.

We recommend checking how to do this for your specific motherboard and CPU as they differ wildly between brands and even models.

Once virtualisation is enabled you will need to enable Windows Sandbox.

Once again hit start and type Turn Windows Features on or off into the search bar.

You will be presented with a window containing every Windows feature available. We’re going to ignore all of those and look for Windows Sandbox.

Tick the box next to the feature and click OK. You may be required to restart your PC.

Once your PC has restarted you can search from Windows Sandbox from the Start menu and open the programme up. Some users may have to run the programme as an administrator depending on their UAC settings.

Loading up Windows Sandbox will present you with a fresh install of Windows 10.

How do you use it?

Just this morning I was forwarded a message (ironically about phishing) and the source wasn’t one I was familiar with. Rather than risking my own PC I decided to use Windows Sandbox.

Information relating to the sender has been redacted.

Thankfully, while you can’t drag and drop files from your Desktop to Windows Sandbox, you can copy and paste so it’s simply a matter of me copying that link and dumping it into the Edge browser in Windows Sandbox. The same can be done for executable files.

As it turns out, the link was safe and I needn’t have worried. Of course, once can never bee too cautious.

In terms of impact on resources, Windows Sandbox used just 114.8MB of my 16GB of available RAM and sipped power from my CPU.

Once you’re done you can close Windows Sandbox and everything on that virtual machine will be cleared away so that the next time you launch the programme, you have a fresh, virtual install of Windows 10.