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September 29, 2022

Win10 Sandbox Still Shows Activate Windows Watermark


Last October, I wrote a Windows Enterprise Desktop item for TechTarget entitled No Windows Sandbox Activation. Just for grins I went back to check if this status has changed at all since then. As you can see from the lead-in graphic for this story — which shows a watermark exhorting the user to “Activate Windows” — the answer remains “Nope.” Likewise a check for updates within the Sandbox throws a kind of mystery error message as well:

Sandbox doesn’t run the Windows Update Service (WUserv), so how could it update itself?

In the Windows 10 Sandbox Expediency Trumps Accuracy

That’s my recently-refreshed understanding of what’s going on in the Sandbox. Sure, MS could rewrite certain OS functions to inform you it’s a Sandbox and can’t be activated or updated (as is manifestly true). But that would not only require extra effort to build in the first place, it would create another code fork for Microsoft to test and maintain separately. My gut feel is they just use a standard OS image, with some plumbing removed (like the WUserv being disabled) to provide a runtime image for the Sandbox as each Feature Update goes out (and whenever a CU touches on the Sandbox itself). Running Winver on my 20190 Dev Channel fast machine in its Sandbox shows the same Build number as its parent/host OS (20190).

Basically, the Sandbox is intended as a throwaway environment, good only until closed (see this Tech Community post for lots more good Sandbox info). Thus, the Sandbox does not exposure the kinds of capabilities you’d need for a more persistent OS, such as activation and updates (and probably, a whole lot more). That said, our own Kari has created a pretty nifty PowerShell script that allows users to pre-configure (or re-configure) Sandbox instances so they don’t have to do a lot of (or even much) tweaking by hand to add themes, browsers, and other applications to the Sandbox each time it’s started afresh. Read all about it in his Win10.Guru story Windows Sandbox — How to Configure. Enjoy!

Author: Ed Tittel

Ed Tittel is a 30-plus-year computer industry veteran. He’s a Princeton and multiple University of Texas graduate who’s worked in IT since 1981 when he started his first programming job. Over the past three decades he’s also worked as a manager, technical evangelist, consultant, trainer, and an expert witness. See his professional bio for all the details.

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