Sometimes I need to test new software or I am looking for a utility program to handle a task, say, converting the formats of audio files. Reviews are no longer reliable, so it is a matter of downloading a bunch and try them out.
How unreliable are reviews? On Amazon, reviews can appear from customers who were paid $10 by the seller to write a positive one. Software companies buy up review sites to maintain a facade of neutrality, or else write blogs that mention no negatives of their own products. Product descriptions themselves can be misleading, such as stating they are free to use when (surprise!) they are time- or duration-limited.
The good thing today is that we can effortlessly download 3 or 4 or 5 products to test out free. The bad thing today is that we can effortlessly download 3 or 4 or 5 products to test out.
Of the ones I download, I might end up keeping one -- or none. The others now clutter up my computer's hard drive with files and folders, or might have stealth-installed nag software, or might have added stuff to my Web browser, or just generally act like a bad flu.
The good news is that the solution is to test software a sandbox. The bad news is that sandboxing is available only in the Professional version of Windows. For me, it was worthwhile paying $130 (Canadian) to get that peace of mind.
A sandbox runs a second copy of Windows in isolation. When you close the sandbox window, everything you've done disappears. In my case, the utilities I installed to try out disappear from my computer. This is secure, because Intel CPUs have long had the ability to run processes independently of each other.
Otherwise, the sandbox acts like normal Windows. It uses your computer's display, network connection, mouse and keyboard, and you can even copy and paste between regular Windows and sandbox Windows.
TIP Windows Sandbox includes the Edge browser, which you can use to visit dodgy Web sites.
How To Install Software in Isolation
In this tutorial, I am trying out a utility for converting WAV files to MP3 files. By using it as an example, I am not disparaging the software vendor.
1. Purchase and install Windows Professional.
2. Download the software you want to try out.
3. Start Sandbox. (Click the Windows taskbar logo and start typing s a n d...). Notice that the Windows Sandbox windows opens.
4. In the download folder, right-click the downloaded software, and choose Copy.
6. To install the downloaded software, double-click its icon and then follow the steps of the setup program.
7. Run the software.
8. When done testing it, just close the Sandbox window. Click OK in the warning dialog box.
In this particular case, I found that this audio converter program did not read CDs, and so I could eliminate it from consideration. Later, I found that software I already had on my computer, AnyBurn, does the job exactly as I wanted.