We are all aware of the dangers of malware infection from the Internet these days. The danger has always been there, but this has increased a lot more because people with malicious intents are constantly devising new methods to infect the systems, and the inexperienced, naive, general-users/elderly/teens are the most affected by it. Malware infection from the Internet can occur in many ways, a few of which are:
Although there are many ways of getting infected by malware it does not mean that we need to become paranoid, or live in constant fear of the possible consequences. With a little effort, precaution, and by using common sense we can easily avoid getting systems infected with malware. Different safe practices have already been covered in various articles on this site, and can be read to learn how you can stay safe by following a few guidelines. We will all agree that precaution is always the best option.
In this article, we are going to learn about an excellent software called Sandboxie, which will keep you safe while surfing on the Internet.
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The purpose of this article is to make people, especially the general users, aware of this wonderful software Sandboxie. To general users, Sandboxie appears a difficult software to use, or even understand what it's about, and its settings may also seem a bit intimidating. This article is an attempt to explain about Sandboxie in a very simple way, and to help get it up and running with only the minimum and necessary changes to its settings. Just a little bit of patience is required to read through this article, but I am sure it will increase your knowledge of how to use Sandboxie.
Sandboxie has many settings and, if so desired, with the help of those settings an experienced user can further enhance and tighten security. But for general users, these changes are not required. Hence, this article will not cover the settings in depth, but only a few necessary ones. Detailed help for Sandboxie is available on its own site and is very well written.
Sandboxie is a unique security product based on the principle of sandboxing. In simple computer terms, a sandbox is an isolated environment for running programs. The environment will be exactly like the real system, the only difference being it's isolated from the real system. This technique is also being used in other programs, such as Google Chrome, and some of the antivirus software. Inside Sandboxie, the programs will run normally, like they do outside the sandbox, but whatever changes are made, stay inside the sandbox, and the actual system remains unaffected by those changes.
Let's say you are running a web browser in Sandboxie. Everything will be done in the normal way, you can click on links, visit sites, and download files etc, but, it will all take place in an isolated environment. Therefore, even if you go to a malicious site, or click on a malicious link, or even download a malicious file, the actual system will not be affected.
Now suppose while surfing inside Sandboxie, you click on a malicious link, and start seeing signs of malware infection, and/or the antivirus alerts you about it, all you have to do is, delete the contents of Sandboxie. That's it. The malware will be gone, and the system will remain safe, since the malware was not able to come out of Sandboxie. Nothing can come out of the sandbox environment until you allow it.
Note: This article is about Sandboxie's free version. The free version misses a few features - ability to force programs/folders to open in Sandboxie, and running programs in more than one sandbox at the same time. While these features are great, but they are not necessary, and the free version of Sandboxie is quite enough for general and home usage.
After 30 days of usage, the free version of Sandboxie also shows a pop-up window as a reminder to upgrade to the commercial version, with a 5-second delay when it starts. But, this is just a small inconvenience which can be overlooked, considering the excellent security and safety that Sandboxie provides. Use it for a few days, and you will agree with this.
Sandboxie makes surfing the web really secure and safe: you can always be relaxed and be sure that no malware can infect your system. Also, while surfing, various temporary files, cookies, cache, etc, are created and downloaded to the computer. All the aforementioned remain inside Sandboxie and can be easily cleaned by deleting the Sandboxie contents, and without worrying about where to look for them on your computer. Just one click to delete the Sandboxie contents, and it's all gone.
The biggest benefit is the peace of mind, and assured security, which is offered by the excellent protection of Sandboxie. Even if you come across a malware inside Sandboxie, there is no need to panic, because you can be assured that the malware won't be able to escape to the real system. Deleting the contents of Sandboxie is all that is required to get rid of any malware encountered.
The main use of Sandboxie is for surfing the web where it keeps the browser isolated, and the system remains safe from various malware infections.
But, since Sandboxie offers an isolated environment, it can be used to test software too. The software will run in Sandboxie, and the changes made during the installation, or its running, will not affect the system. If you do not like the software, or if it's malicious, all you have to do is delete the contents of Sandboxie. No changes will be made to the actual system at all. If the software is safe to use, then you can install the software actually on the system, by installing it out of Sandboxie.
Installing software in Sandboxie also helps in knowing what files and folders the software installs on the system. The files and folders will be created in Sandboxie, and can be seen, and explored, from within Sandboxie itself. As a check, if you look for these specific files and folders on your operating system, you won't be able to locate them because they are simply not there. They are inside the Sandboxie's isolated space, which shows that the changes made inside Sandboxie do not affect the actual system.
Installation of Sandboxie is pretty simple and straightforward. Just run the setup, and follow the instructions. After installation of Sandboxie it will generally show a window titled Software Compatibility, where it shows a list of software for which Sandboxie has made adjustments for compatibility. It is just for information. Finally, it will show a very short interactive tutorial on how to use Sandboxie.
On completion of installation, Sandboxie will also place a shortcut named Sandboxed Web Browser on the desktop, which when clicked, will run the default web browser of the system, inside Sandboxie. However, if you use a different browser for your normal everyday work, then a shortcut for it can also be created very easily, which we will learn about in the next section.
When Sandboxie is installed and runs, it will show a window titled Sandboxie Control, as shown in the image below. This is the main Sandboxie window. With no programs running inside Sandboxie, it will simply show a yellow wedge shaped icon named Sandbox Defaultbox in the window.
The same yellow wedge shaped icon will be in the system tray too.
When a program is running inside Sandboxie, the main window will show the list of programs/processes running currently inside Sandboxie, and the icon will change to yellow with red dots.
The Sandboxie icon in system tray will also change to yellow with red dots.
That's how you know that something is running in Sandboxie.
Now to find if a program is running in Sandboxie or not. Let's say you are running a web browser in Sandboxie (our prime example for this article). If you take the mouse cursor towards the top of the web browser (i.e. the title bar), you will see a yellow border appear around the edges, as shown in the image below. You will also see a [#] sign on either side of the name of the program in the title bar on the top, and/or in the taskbar.
These are ways to know, and confirm that the web browser is running in Sandboxie because otherwise it will simply feel that the web browser is running normally: you won't notice the difference at all, that's how convenient and non-intrusive Sandboxie is.
The yellow Sandboxie control icon in the system tray can be used to perform several operations, which can also be performed from the main Sandboxie window. Right-clicking the Sandboxie tray icon shows the different operations that can be performed.
As can be seen from the image, you can run the default web browser, email client, or any other program you want, sandboxed. You can terminate programs, delete the contents of Sandboxie, or access the Quick Recovery (explained later) folders.
The main Sandboxie window can be easily accessed by either double-clicking the Sandboxie tray icon, or by right-clicking on it, and selecting Show Window.
By default the main Sandboxie window is in Programs mode, which means it will show the list of programs/processes running inside Sandboxie. To view the files and folders created inside Sandboxie, you can switch the mode by clicking View --> Files and Folders, from the menu.
Individual programs running inside Sandboxie can be closed normally. But they can also be closed all at once, by just a few clicks:
This is especially helpful if you encounter a malware while running programs inside Sandboxie. In such situations, also remember to delete the Sandboxie contents, after terminating the programs, which will get rid of any malware inside. Alternatively, just deleting the contents of Sandboxie (explained next) will also terminate the programs, and immediately empty Sandboxie.
Programs can also be terminated from the main Sandboxie window by clicking from the menu:
Sandbox --> DefaultBox --> Terminate Programs.
Deleting Sanboxie contents
To delete Sandboxie contents:
The same can also be achieved from the main Sandboxie window, by clicking from the menu:
Sandbox --> DefaultBox --> Delete Contents.
Remember to delete the contents of Sandboxie on a regular basis, because the files and folders created inside Sandboxie can keep on accumulating, taking up hard disk space.
Sandboxie contents can also be set to delete automatically via settings (explained here).
Running programs in Sandboxie
Running programs in Sandboxie is very easy, and can be done in several ways:
Creating shortcuts for sandboxed programs
Creating a shortcut for a sandboxed program is also pretty easy. Just follow these steps:
That's it, the shortcut for the sandboxed program will be created on the desktop. Whenever you double-click that shortcut, the corresponding program will automatically run in Sandboxie.
I hope this article helps you to get to know Sandboxie, and understand about it, and helps you in setting it up easily, and using it.
If there are any suggestions or feedback about this article, please feel free to share them.
If there are any questions, or you want to learn more about Sandboxie, please post in the freeware forum, where other Sandboxie users will help and guide you. There are many knowledgeable members on the site and forum, who use Sandboxie and are more than willing to help you.
Just a little note: Sandboxie is not a replacement for security software, like antivirus, or anti-malware programs. Therefore, it is advised to keep the system updated and patched, and also install a good antivirus, and keep it updated. While Sandboxie will keep you safe while browsing inside it, but it's still advisable to follow good and safe surfing practices, and make it a part of your habit.
Detailed help for Sandboxie is available on its website, here:
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