A sandbox allows you to run applications in an isolated environment. In other words, an application running inside a sandbox cannot affect the operating system or other files. One of the best ways to sandbox an application is to use a virtual machine such as VirtualBox. You can also temporarily virtualize your OS so that any changes made are discarded when it is restarted.
Another option is to use a sandbox application specifically designed for this purpose. When you are done with using the sandboxed application, you can simply flush the sandbox and delete potential harmful files if any. Sandbox software also allows you to test new applications without the risk of harm to your computer.
Here are 4 free sandbox applications:
Sandboxie is one of the most popular sandbox programs. It is a shareware but is still usable after the 30 day trial period. Sandboxie is often used by advanced users to test new software. The unregistered version doesn’t have some of the features such as forced programs and folders. It also doesn’t allow you to force browsers to run the sandbox. Further, one instance of Sandboxie can be used at a time. Purchasing a license enables all these features.
When you install Sandboxie, a “Sandboxed Web Browser” shortcut is created on the desktop. This allows you to run the default web browser in sandboxed mode. You can run any other program in the sandbox by right clicking on it followed by “Run Sandboxed”. Alternatively, you can also open the Sandboxie GUI and drag and drop any shortcut into it to run sandboxed. The tray icon comes with extra options that allow you to sandbox the default email client, Widows explorer or other programs. It also comes with a Start Menu from where you can launch programs.
You can know that an application is running inside Sandboxie if it has a yellow border around it and if the title is encased in “[#]”. Programs installed inside the sandbox will stay until the sandbox contents are cleared. However, programs that you run by drag and drop are cleared as soon as you close them. You will need to launch them the same way every time. Forcing an application to launch sandboxed every time is available in the premium version.
It is possible to run an application automatically in Sandboxie by modifying its shortcut as follows:
“C:\Program Files\Sandboxie\Start.exe” “C:\NameofApplication.exe”
This would cause the application to launch in the sandbox automatically.
Every sandbox comes with a number of features and options such as recovery options for copying files from the sandbox, program groups, file migration, network functions, resource access, compatibility and change the sandbox container folder. You can also quickly kill programs or delete sandbox contents.
Comodo is well known for its antivirus, firewall and other security software. Its firewall is particularly popular. Comodo also offers a sandbox feature. You can use this by installing any of Comodo Firewall, standalone Antivirus or Internet Security.
When you install Comodo, it creates a desktop widget containing shortcuts to installed web browsers. Clicking on a shortcut will start the browser in a sandbox. You can also run applications in sandbox by right clicking and selecting “Run in Comodo container” or by using the “Run Virtual” button in the main interface. You can also browse for files manually or create a desktop shortcut using the Run Virtual option.
When an application is running in sandbox mode, it will have a green border. You can also sandbox specific programs automatically using the “Auto Containment” feature. You can reset the container and delete the files by going to Tasks > Containment Tasks. You can also use advanced features such as excluding files or folders or registry keys by going to Settings > Containment.
Shade is another free sandbox application. It is easier to use but comes with less number of options and features. To install Shade you need a free license key which has to be obtained using a name and a valid email ID. After installation and reboot, you have to activate the program with a valid license key. The application will not work if it is not activated.
You can sandbox applications in a number of ways using Shade. You can right click on an executable file and run it for once in the default sandbox or add the program to the sandbox or view the virtual folder. You can also open Shade and drop an executable file or program and then click on the program in the window to launch it inside the sandbox.
You can know that a program is running in a sandbox as it will have a purple border. If a program is added to the sandbox and its icon is in the program window, it will always run in sandbox. To remove a program from the sandbox, you have to right click on the program and select “Remove an application from Shade” or remove it directly from the Shade window. Sandbox files are located in C:\Shade\ and the same folder can be opened by clicking on “Open Virtual Folder”. You can delete all the files by clicking on “Clean up Sandbox”.
Shade doesn’t have the advanced features of Sandboxie but does the job well. If you need a sandbox application but don’t need all the advanced features, Shade is a good option.