We’ve written a lot about protecting your computer while browsing the Internet, and now we thought it was a good time to cover an application that quite a few of you have recommended. Sandboxie is a free (for the most part) application that can wrap itself around your browser to provide a more secure session when downloading applications or trying out new extensions.
Sandboxie serves as a middle man between an application, which for our purposes today is a Web browser, and the hard drive. When you want to protect the browser you simply run it in a “sanboxed” mode through the Sandboxie menu:
Then anything that you do from within the browser is stored in a sandbox that can be deleted at anytime. Don’t quite understand? I’ll walk you through a common scenario that explains it a little better. The first thing I did after installing Sandboxie was start Internet Explorer by using the menu option seen in the screenshot above, but you can use your default browser by choosing the respective option.
One thing that you’ll notice in the screenshot is that the window title for Internet Explorer has a “[#]” on each end. This represents that I’m running that program in a sandbox.
Now lets say I came across a program that I want to try out, but I’m not too sure whether I’ll like it or I’m not sure if it is going to try and install a virus on my system! With Sandboxie you just download and run the installation as you normally would, and if you watch the Sandboxie process explorer you’ll notice that even the installer runs in a sandbox:
Don’t worry about doing anything special…Sandboxie takes care of it all! After the program is done installing you can go ahead and run it. The program will work just like you expect it to, but underneath lies a secret that is keeping you secure! When the program installed everything it did was placed in a special location on your hard drive (registry settings, files, Start Menu links, etc…).
If you want to get to the location where the files are stored just go to Function -> Contents of Sandbox -> Explorer Contents and you will instantly be presented with the area where all the files are being stored. After installing Taskbar Shuffle into the default sandbox that I made, here is what the file structure looked like in Vista:
It replicated everything in my Vista folder structure perfectly, and as you can see, it will create a different folder for each sandbox that you make. That way you can switch between sandboxes depending on what you are doing, and if you ever want to get rid of a program you don’t have to worry about uninstalling it…just delete the corresponding sandbox!
If you’re looking for the ultimate privacy control in your Web browser then Sandboxie also has a setting for you. You can designate a sandbox to automatically be emptied after each use. If you run your browser in a sandbox, as soon as you finish everything will instantly be wiped clean…talk about covering your tracks! :)
Some of these features are compliments of the new Sandboxie version 3 that was just released yesterday. Features such as automatic sandboxing of a Windows Installer as well as sandboxing Windows Explorer is all new, and I have thoroughly been enjoying the work that has been put into this new version.
Sandboxie doesn’t cost a thing and you can use it as long as you would like, except for one small catch. After 30-days it will periodically pop-up asking for you to enter in a registration code. You can continue to use the program for as long as you would like, but you will have to get a valid registration code for $25 if you don’t want to get nagged.
Sandboxie supports 32-bit versions of Windows 2000/XP/2003/Vista and 64-bit versions of Windows XP/2003. The installer is just 245KB, so the whole thing is a small and efficient application.