Free Sandbox Tools That Keep Your PC Safe

Running programs in an isolated environment stops them from harming your PC. we compare the best free sandboxing options available.

1. Sandboxie

Sandboxie’s motto is “trust no program” – a maxim that’s worth keeping in mind, especially when you’re installing or running software from unknown sources. Whether a program is stuffed full of malicious code or just badly written, Sandboxie will render any software harmless with a few simple clicks.

Install Sandboxie and you’ll be taken through a brief tutorial that explains the main functions of the tool. After this, you can sandbox a program by right-clicking its shortcut or EXE file and selecting Run Sandboxed. Alternatively, you can just drag and drop the program into the Sandboxie window.

Move your mouse over a sandboxed program and you’ll notice a yellow border around the program window, which indicates that it’s running in Sandboxie. You’ll also see a hash symbol (#) by the program’s name.

Beyond the basics, Sandboxie offers a number of very useful tools, including the ability to transfer files quickly to and from the sandboxed environment – such as files you download via a sandboxed web browser.

For example, You can also quickly kill running applications or delete the contents of your sandbox by right-clicking Sandboxie’s notification-area icon, then selecting DefaultBox and choosing Terminate Programs or Delete Contents.

2. Shade Sandbox

Shade does much the same thing as Sandboxie but on a simpler scale. Once installed, it’s very easy to use – just drag program shortcuts into the Shade window or right-click and select “Put into Shade”. Shade lacks some of Sandboxie’s advanced features and customizability.

But where Sandboxie can only force specific programs to run in a sandbox if you pay for the premium version, Shade remembers any application you’ve sandboxed and will run it in a sandbox every time, unless you explicitly tell it not to (by clicking “Remove an application from Shade”). This is very useful if you have programs – such as older, unsupported tools – that you always want to run in isolation.

3. VirtualBox

Technically speaking, VirtualBox is a virtualization tool, not a sandboxing one. The idea is that you create a virtual PC – an entire pretend computer that runs within your real one.

To all intents and purposes, your virtual computer works exactly like a normal one, except that you can install and run any programs you like on it and they’ll remain completely isolated from your real-life PC and your files.

VirtualBox can virtualize older versions of Windows, such as XP, so it’s ideal for keeping older programs running. You can also take snapshots, allowing you to revert your virtual PC to a previous state within a few clicks.

4. Comodo Free Firewall or Comodo Antivirus

Normally, we’d take issue with the amount of bloat that comes with Comodo’s free security tools, but well admit that its inclusion of a sandboxing tool is actually rather useful. It comes as part of both Comodo Free Firewall and Comodo Antivirus.

Right-click any program file or shortcut and select ‘Run in Comodo Container’ to sandbox it, but take care to deselect the many unwanted permissions and components Comodo attempts to foist on you during installation.

5. Tool Wiz Time Freeze

Time Freeze uses a clever type of virtualization to sandbox your entire PC. Whenever you enable Freeze mode, it takes a snapshot of your PC. You can then install any software, run any program or make any changes to your system – everything will be discarded when you next restart your PC. On the downside, a reboot is required every time you switch Freeze mode off.

6. Turbo.net

This tool takes a completely different approach. in that, it has a bunch of programs already stored in the cloud – including Chrome, Firefox, media players, and more. Sign up for a free account, install the desktop launcher and you can run any of these programs in a virtualized sandbox on your PC. With a paid-for account (£21 per month), you can run programs in the cloud – which is even safer!