How to use Sandboxie for browsing, downloading and installing programs

Sandboxie is a great tool to have in your computer’s security arsenal. For those unaware, it creates an isolated space (sandbox) on your hard drive that you may execute files in that cannot interact with the underlying system.

sandboxed program

The activity of the sandbox don’t affect Windows or your other programs/files in any way; what happens in Sandboxie stays in Sandboxie.

Sandboxie has changed hands twice I think, from the original developer to Invincea, who were in turn acquired by Sophos (and there are rumors that Sophos is up for sale as well). Recently Sophos announced that Sandboxie is now freeware, and are planning to make it open source.

We are not going to discuss that here, rather we’re going to look at the basic usage of the program. In other words, you will learn how to use Sandboxie for browsing securely, downloading files and recovering them, and installing/running programs inside the sandbox.

You don’t even need to familiarize yourself with the interface to use the program. In fact, I would recommend beginners skip the UI and use the tray icon.

Browsing securely

You can run any program that you have installed in Windows inside Sandboxie; this also works with portable apps and regular files (that open in other programs). Some programs may not work with Sandboxie if you try to install them directly inside the sandbox.

If you have installed Sandboxie, you will see the icon on the desktop, start menu and system tray. You can use any of these to run Sandboxed versions of your programs. The most commonly sandboxed program is the web browser. Right click on the system tray icon and select Default box > Run Web Browser. Your default browser, regardless of whether it is Firefox, Chrome, Edge or another will open like it always does.

You will notice that it has a yellow border around the edges of the window (when you mouse over to the edge). You can also see that the program’s window title is enclosed in two [#] [#] like this [#] Mozilla Firefox [#]. This indicates that the program is running inside Sandboxie. If you don’t see either the border or the hashes, it is not running in sandboxed mode.

You can use the sandboxed browser like you would normally. You can send emails, check social websites, visit tech sites like ours, and do pretty much anything that you would do in the unsandboxed version.

One of the main differences is that in case a malware infects the browser, it will be restricted within the sandbox. Say you visited a website with a malicious ad and it tried to infect your PC. While it will run, it cannot spread to the underlying system because of the sandbox. The sandbox limits the reach of tracking cookies and other unwanted things as well.

You can use the “Default box > Delete contents” option to delete the entire sandbox and start afresh. It is recommended to clean the sandbox once in a while to start with a fresh one.

Note: This is not the same as browsing anonymously, if you need that you should go with a VPN or use Tor.

You can even open links from any application (email, chat, etc) through a sandboxed browser, though you will need to tinker with the program’s settings to achieve this.

Downloading files and recovering them

Now let’s say you want to download an executable file or any other file in Sandboxie. It won’t be visible in your Downloads folder in Windows Explorer if you do so because the download is isolated in the sandbox.

How to use Sandboxie for downloading and recovering content

You need to recover the download, and to do so click on Default box > Quick Recovery. Use the recover to same folder option and the file should appear in your downloads folder (and ready to use in an un-sandboxed environment). You can run the file inside the sandbox however if you prefer that without the need to recover it first.

In case you don’t see anything to recover, you can also use the “Explore contents” option (which opens File Explorer) to manually browse your sandbox and recover the content. The latter is common if you use a custom download folder instead of Windows’ default one.

For e.g. I usually save my downloads to my external drive, so these won’t show up in Sandboxie’s Quick Recover. The contents will be available inside the C:SandboxAshwinDefaultBoxdrive folder in that case.

Installing and Running programs in Sandboxie

Why would you want to run a program inside Sandboxie? The main benefit is that you can run questionable programs and files inside the sandbox to avoid any damage or issues. It is even possible to run malicious programs inside the sandbox but it is usually better to use a virtual environment for that instead.

For portable applications, just extract them to a folder inside the DefaultBox’s drive folder and run them. To install a program inside Sandboxie’s protected environment, open File Explorer and right click any program’s installer.

How to use Sandboxie installing programs 2

Select the run sandboxed option and you should see the installer has a yellow border and hashes just like the browser. This indicates you’re installing the program inside Sandboxie. You will need to run the installed program manually from the Defaultbox folder.

How to use Sandboxie installing programs

Note: You can optionally grant the installer UAC rights if it is required.

Closing Words

I used Sandboxie for a long time until I switched to Kaspersky. Then I came to know they had some compatibility issues, so I ditched Sandboxie until recently when I bid adieu to Kaspersky. Since you now have literally nothing to lose with Sandboxie, I figured I might as well go over the basics for users who haven’t tried it out yet.

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How to customize Spotify with Spicetify-cli themes

Spotify is one of the most popular music streaming services. If you use the desktop app on Windows, Linux or macOS, but dislike how it looks, you may be interested in customizing the client’s apperance.-

To do this, you need the free Spicetify-cli tool. It is an open source project that lets you change the looks of the official client quite a bit.

Spotify default theme before enabling Spicetify-cli

Spicetify-cli is the replacement of the now deprecated spicetify. The latter was a Rainmeter skin which was used for customizing the Spotify client; the former is a command-line tool.

How to install Spicetify-cli

Step 1: Download

Download the latest release from the official GitHub page and extract it to the C:Usersusernamespicetify-cli folder.

or

Open Powershell and run the following command (to download and install it)

Invoke-WebRequest “https://raw.githubusercontent.com/khanhas/spicetify-cli/master/install.ps1” | Invoke-Expression

Spicetify-cli install

Step 2: running the tool

You can now open Spicetify-cli from CMD or Powershell. Do it once by typing the command:

spicetify

This will generate a config.INI file in a folder called .spicetify (in the user folder).

Step 3: backup the defaults

Backup the default settings and apply the default theme of Spicetify with the following command.

spicetify backup apply enable-devtool

Wait for it to finish and Spotify will restart with a light theme applied. This is the default Spicetify theme (It does have one bug the top right corner is still dark).

Spicetify-cli default theme light

To restore Spotify’s original theme use the restore command.

spicetify restore

How to customize Spotify with Spicetify-cli themes

Every theme used by the program uses the Color.ini file to configure the colors and the user.CSS to inject additional options. Confused? Don’t worry. For starters, let’s use some community created themes. Here are some great looking themes for Spicetify-cli.  Let’s install one of those as you don’t need to know a bit about CSS or editing ini files to use these.

  1. Download the theme of your choice, like the WintergatanBlueprint Theme. Click on it’s color.ini. You will see some lines of text. Create a new document using Notepad in a new folder inside C:UsersUSERNAME.spicetify.
  2. Copy the text of the Color.ini from the theme’s page into the document and hit save.
  3. Similarly, create a User.CSS file with the theme’s settings.

Now, we need to activate the theme. To do this, open a command window and type the command:

spicetify config current_theme = WintergatanBlueprint

Run the command: spicetify apply and wait for it to apply the new settings. Spotify will restart with the new theme.

How to customize Spotify with Spicetify-cli themes

You can edit the values manually to create your own themes easily.

How to customize elements in the Spotify UI with Spicetify-cli

Spicetify isn’t just about changing the colors of Spotify’s interface; you can modify the elements of the UI too. This is done by modding the Config.ini which is in the root of the .spicetify folder. Edits that you make here are universal across themes. Refer to the screenshot below to see what the default settings look like.

Spicetify-cli config.ini default

Tip: You can run the command “spicetify –help config” to view an explanation of every setting in the Config file.

There are 2 ways to edit these: The easy way is to just edit the config.ini in Notepad and running the spicetify apply command.

If you want to use the commandline method, the syntax is: spicetify config ELEMENT VALUE.  Where Element is the name of the interface’s element that you wish to modify, and value is a number (-1 or 0 or 1).  For example, say you want to disable the Home section. Run the following commands one at a time

spicetify config home -1

spicetify apply

How to customize elements in the Spotify UI with Spicetify-cli

Note: Some of these don’t seem to work, like the search_in_sidebar. It seems to be hardcoded to the top of the GUI.

Extensions

Spicetify-cli comes with a few extensions that you can enable including Auto Skip Videos, Keyboard Shortcut, Shuffle+ and more. You’ll need to enable them from the config.ini. The filenames are as follows: autoSkipExplicit.js, djMode.js, keyboardShortcut.js, queueAll.js, shuffle+.js, trashbin.js.

Extensions should be separated by |, .e.g. Setting extensions = keyboardShortcut.js| shuffle+.js| will enable the 2 extensions.

I tested the tool mostly on Spotify 1.1.17, but it did work on older versions as well.

Note: Spicetify-cli does not disable ads in Spotify.

Spicetify is also available for Linux and macOS. Please refer to the official website for installation instructions.

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Back to Basics: How to block Windows programs from accessing the internet

Today, in our Windows 10 beginner’s guide series, we’ll be looking at how to block Windows programs from accessing the internet.

Tip: check out some of the previous parts of the series, e.g. on changing default save locations or configuring programs to start on shutdown.

While it may work sometimes to cut the Internet connection, e.g. when installing Windows, it is usually necessary to use finer controls when it comes to blocking programs from communication with Internet servers.

How to block Windows programs from accessing the internet - Firewall step 2

The Windows operating system comes with a firewall that you may use for the purpose. While you may get a better experience when using third-party tools like like Windows Firewall Control, the built-in firewall is all that is needed to block programs from going online.

Before we show you how to do it, we’d like to discuss why you may want to block the Internet connectivity of certain programs.

Why would you want to do this?

Privacy is a core reason. We have seen applications phoning home, when they shouldn’t be (I’m looking at you CCleaner).  Programs may transfer data about your computer or Internet usage, your PC’s hardware, or other information, even files, to Internet servers.

Blocking internet access for programs is also a good way to prevent automatic updates. Maybe you want a program to stay on a specific version, e.g. uTorrent on a “clean” version or a version that comes without changes that you did not like, e.g. Bandizip’s upcoming changes that introduce ads in the free version.

Other reasons may include preserving data if your connection is capped or making sure that other applications get to use the full bandwidth.

How to block Windows programs from accessing the internet

Step 1: Open the Control Panel

How to block Windows programs from accessing the internet - Control Panel

Open the Control Panel and click on the “Windows Defender Firewall”. If you have troubles locating the Control Panel use the shortcut Windows-Pause to open it, select Control Panel Home, make sure small icons are selected, and start Windows Defender Firewall.

Tip: you may also use our guide on opening Windows Control Panel applets directly.

How to block Windows programs from accessing the internet - Firewall step 1

Select Advanced Settings from the side-panel on the left.

Step 2: Creating rules

How to block Windows programs from accessing the internet - Firewall step 3

We are going to create a new rule for the Firewall. So, we’ll need to select Outbond Rules from the left panel. Click on the “New rule” option on the right side of the screen.

An Outbound rule wizard window should pop up and it will have the “Program” option selected. Just click on Next to proceed.

Click on the browse button under the “This program path” box and an Explorer window should pop-up. You may also paste the path of the executable file (the program that you want to block) directly if you have it at hand.

How to block Windows programs from accessing the internet - Firewall step 4

Navigate to the folder which contains the executable (.EXE) of the program that you wish to block internet access for. Select the .EXE, and click on Open to add it to the Firewall.

You’ll be back on the Outbound rule wizard window, click on Next. Ensure that the “Block the connection” option is selected and click Next.

How to block Windows programs from accessing the internet - Firewall step 5

You now have to choose which networks it should be blocked on, Domain, Private and Public. If you are unsure, leave all three options checked and click on the next button.

How to block Windows programs from accessing the internet - Firewall step 6

Give the rule a name and add a description if you want (it is optional). I recommend using the program’s name for the rule’s name so you can identify it easily. Click on Finish, and you’re done.

How to block Windows programs from accessing the internet - Firewall step 7

Note: The description section can be left empty, or you could type something like “network not needed for usage, last known good version, or something similar”.

Repeat the process for every program that you wish to block from accessing the internet.

Tip: Programs like Windows Firewall Control display options to you when they notice Internet connections by programs for which no rules exist. They make this a bit easier as it just takes a click to block or allow connectivity.

Some programs may display news or ads, which are delivered from their own servers or from ad servers. In case you have an application which does something like that, you may want to create a Inbound rule using the steps that we have outlined in this article.

This method should work in Windows 7 and Windows 8 as well.

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Back to Basics: How to change the default save location in Windows 10

Continuing with our beginner friendly back to basics guides, this time we show you how to change default save locations in Windows 10.

The operating system saves all documents, pictures, music etc to the drive Windows is installed on by default: this has always been the case in prior versions of the OS as well.

While that is the desired location for many users, some may prefer different locations, e.g. to store files on another partition or hard drive that has more space.

Tip: check out other parts of the series such as Windows Shutdown Autostart Explained, our Registry backup primer, our this part of the network troubleshooting series.

How to change the default save location in Windows 10

Microsoft implemented functionality in the Settings application of the Windows 10 operating system that allows users to change save locations in a simple and straightforward manner. It just takes a few clicks to do it.

Previously, you had only a couple of options, e.g. to use symbolic links / NTFs junctions.

Why would do you want to do this? Storage space can be an issue for some users. For example, I have a 120GB SSD in my computer and Windows 10 is installed on it along with a few programs. It gets accumulated with media, documents, etc, fairly quickly. This is a big deal, because it not only takes up precious disk space, but it also becomes a chore to move the data manually from time to time.

How to change the default save location in Windows 10

  1. Open the Settings app.
  2. Click on System and then on “Storage” from the side-bar on the left.
  3. Scroll down to the bottom of the page, where it says “More Storage Settings”.
  4. Click on the text that reads “Change where new content is saved”.

You are taken to a new screen which displays the default save locations for six different types of data: Apps, Documents, Music, Photos and Videos, Movies and TV Shows, and Maps.

Each of these options is set to “This PC” by default. To change the default save location click on the menu next to a data type and pick one of the available locations from the menu that opens; Windows 10 lists all partitions that are available on the computer.

How to change the default save location in Windows 10 - choose a drive

How to change the default save location in Windows 10 - apply

If you want to change the save location of Apps, simply click the button next to the icon and select a different drive. Click on the apply button which appears. You will see a progress cursor, wait for a few seconds and it should be done.  You will have to repeat this for each of the 6 options if you want to change the save location for each of the data types.

Once you have done this, Windows 10 will save the data to the selected partition. You may have to re-open existing applications for the change to be reflected though.

Note: Windows will still create its Documents folder for each of the selected drives. It will be created in the following format: “UsernameContent Type”. For e.g. selecting D: as the new location for pictures on my computer created the folder in D:AshwinPictures. It’s too bad that you can’t pick a custom folder for the saved data, but this option should be fine for most users.

Windows 10 allows you to pick different partitions for different categories. Continuing with the previous example, you could select a different drive for Documents, say E:. You could set Music to be saved on F: and so on. It also lets you select other hard drives installed on the computer. So, you can use them for saving content as well.

But what about USB hard drives? Can I use those? If you have an external drive connected to the computer, you will see it listed as well. But I’d really only recommend using it for the save location, if the drive will be permanently connected to the computer.

Closing Words

Moving save locations to a different partition or drive is a welcome feature but it is a bit unfortunate that the folder structure itself cannot be changed at all. Windows 10 replicates the default storage path on the new partition and there is no option to change that.

Other than that, it is a good option for users who run out of space on their primary partition regularly.

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Extract images and other content from Office documents with this simple trick

Here is a quick tip to extract images and other content from Microsoft Office, LibreOffice, or OpenOffice documents among others. While it is possible to save images embedded in Office documents in Office, e.g. by right-clicking on an image and selecting the save option from the context menu, it becomes a burden if you need to save multiple images from a document or extract images or other content regularly.

I reviewed a software program in 2011 called Office Image Extraction Wizard which automated the process but it has not been updated for a while.

The main idea behind the trick is simple: the default document formats of Office suites, e.g. docx, xlsx, or odt, are zipped XML-based files and that means that they can be extracted using archive software such as Bandizip, 7-Zip and other programs.

Most extraction programs don’t support the default Office file formats by default on the other hand which makes it necessary to rename the file extension of the files to zip before running the extraction.

Office software does not need to be installed on the system for this to work and it is also supported on all platforms and not just Windows. All you need is the document in question and an archive software.

explorer show file extensions

Here is how that is done in Windows:

  1. If you see all file extensions in Explorer already skip to step 3. The default file explorer hides the file extension for known file types by default which interferes with the renaming of files.
  2. Open Explorer and select View  and make sure that “file name extensions” is checked under Show/hide there. You should see file extensions, e.g. .odt, .zip and others in Explorer.
  3. Right-click on the document that you want to extract and select rename from the context menu.
  4. Leave the file name but replace the file extension with .zip. The file test.odt would show up as test.zip afterward.
  5. Right-click again on the file (now with zip extension) and select the extract option. Most archive programs add context menu options.
  6. Wait for the extraction to complete.

You may now open the extracted zip archive and explore its content. The folder structure may differ depending on the document that you have extracted.

extracted office document

Extracted ODT Office documents may have a Pictures folder in which all embedded images are stored in; Word documents a word folder with media and fonts subfolders.

One of the advantages of the method is that you get access to all embedded media files and fonts right away which speeds up the process significantly. The process may also be useful if the document is corrupt and won’t open anymore in the Office program. You may still be able to extract content from it.

Now You: What is your preferred Office suite and format, and why? (via Genbeta)

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