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Sandboxing? [SOLVED]

I'm not 100% sure it's a sandbox program I need, but basically I want to be able to load up an XP program within Windows 7 without it being able to affect my Win 7 installation, and thought a Sandbox would be what I need, but those I've looked at tend to seem more related to specific programs themselves e.g. browsers, audio players etc.

So really just wanted to get some info & also some suggestions of appropriate (free) software to sort me out :). Thanks.

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The answer is in your hands if you do not need it to "load within Windows 7": Download Windows XP Mode

With Windows XP Mode, you can get very close, but being a virtual machine it will not even know Windows 7 is the host operating system.

When we talk about using a sandbox, you have the option of using a physical partition for testing an additional copy of Windows 7, or what is now more reliable and commonplace is using a workstation virtualization suite to get that job done. If you would like to make Windows XP programs appear as if they are loading in Windows 7, even though they are not, XP Mode is a quick and efficient way of accomplishing that task. Included with XP Mode is an updated version of Microsoft Virtual PC which is embedded specifically for this functionality. The standalone version of Microsoft Virtual PC does not appear to have been updated in a long time, with rumors of its discontinuation as a product being likely. It has been, in most instances, replaced with Microsoft Hyper-V under Windows Server 2008 and as a stand-alone server product.

For conventional use, you could use Windows XP in a number of virtual machines:

Oracle VirtualBox is freeware and is provided to encourage large corporations to adopt their more advanced virtualization products.

VMWare Player is also freeware and is designed around the same concept. However, its limitations do not lend itself well for full experimentation, and that is why I highly recommend VMWare Workstation. For years, VMWare Workstation has been the front-runner in desktop virtualization for software testing, demonstration, evaluation, and productivity purposes. Workstation is similar to VirtualBox and Player but includes numerous advanced features that are just in a league of their own. Competitors can only try to match up.

In the server field, companies like Citrix and VMWare have created their own products for turning entire systems into datastore hosts of virtual machines. These servers are then managed from workstations over TCP/IP and command and control software. This is probably way out there, and unnecessary,

Microsoft's Virtual PC product is free, easy to download and install, and with it, you can get a virtual machine up and running fairly easily. However, for whatever reason, the version provided is not as good as the one that was released, in a limited way, for Windows 7. This seems to be because product development was halted or publication of any new developments in the development of the software has been suspended. Virtual PC has gaping holes in comparison to its competitors, but it runs Windows like a champion. However, do not expect Virtual PC to support any operating system other than the Microsoft Windows family of products without incurring some major difficulty and burning a major amount of time.

At the end of the day, for sandbox testing I will recommend Windows 7 XP Mode or VMWare Workstation. Even if you absolutely needed to test Windows XP apps "in Windows 7", you could install a guest operating system of Windows 7 under Workstation and have "Windows 7 running within Windows 7". This has no effect on your original host operating system, which is the beauty and simplicity of virtualization. You can create automatic snapshots of your systems, have them run concurrently, and revert to these snapshots at any time. This allows you to completely test every possible nuance of an application.

As an IT professional, I utilize TechNET and MSDN subscriptions and VMWare Workstation to author a lot of the site's YouTube videos. I frequently test and demonstrate many different scenarios using virtualization, and with TechNet and MSDN, I have full access to the entirety of Microsoft's modern software library - every application, and every operating system: commercial or business. With MSDN, you also gain access to Visual Studio and developer resources which can help you learn how to begin programming basic Windows applications under a number of different programming languages, including .NET, C++, etc. As of late, I have taken a renewed interest in this area. I used to work in Visual Basic to compile and design basic applications, but most of my programming work and experimentation has taken place in Linux using C as a programming language. I even have some source code from a MUD project still posted online at SourceForge.

But ultimately, I would suggest virtualization. And if I am going to suggest that to you, I will suggest the best, which is VMWare Workstation. Randy Baker (Trouble) had been toying with VMWare Player some time, and I successfully convinced him to go with Workstation. I am doubtful he has looked back since, seemingly satisfied with his purchase. He had previously had difficulty with the file formatting and use of Microsoft Virtual PC.

If on a tight budget, experiment with Virtual PC, and especially XP Mode. But know for certain that you can even convert your XP Mode image to VMWare Workstation at any time. From there, you could clone your "XP Mode" image a hundred times if you wanted, and experiment with a hundred copies of Windows XP at the same time!

The only limitation is processing power, memory, and disk I/O. Assume, at worst case scenario, that you will give each virtual machine 1GB of RAM and 40GB of hard disk space. Each OS runs as though it would if it were on a regular PC, so dedicated hard disk drive(s) become a major consideration since a disk I/O bottleneck becomes very likely if you decide to run more than one VM at a time.


New Member
Thanks SO much Mike - not just for your taking the time to reply but also for the extensive amount of info you've provided for me. I'll have a go with the free version first and see what happens. It's not hugely important to me to have the program running - least not enough to break my budget 10 times over (on benefit-only income :frown:). I'm grateful for the sensible advice on space/memory constraints too as stupidly (despite building my own PC) I'd have probably ignored that one entirely when I really should know better.

I'll have to print off your email & take some time I think to digest all you've mentioned - no point in just rushing in with the 1st thing only to find that something else may have suited my system better.

TRULY appreciated. ;), Romayne

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