I’m looking for recommendations on Windows Application Virtualization software. I’ve looked for options over the years but have never found the perfect (or even good enough) solution for my needs.
Windows Application Virtualization software means a lot of different things to different people, so lets start by establishing exactly what I’m looking for…
The virtualized application should run on the local computer without the need for a separate server.
From my perspective this excludes Microsoft’s App-V, Cameyo, and Turbo which all seem to require a separate server.
Isolates at the Application Level
In other words I’m not looking for a full OS virtualization solution, it is only an individual application that needs to be virtualized.
This rules out Microsoft’s Hyper-V, Oracle’s VirtualBox, Docker, etc.
Persists the Data and Allows Interaction with the Host File System
Windows Sandbox, while not virtualizing at the application level this is an attractive option due to how light the VM is. I could almost me swung to use it with multiple applications BUT it doesn’t persist applications (which is great for its intended use case) nor does it provide access to the local file system.
In my case I’m not working with untrusted applications. Its trusted applications that I simply don’t want become enmeshed with the OS, hopefully delaying the inevitable need to perform a clean install on the base OS (and potentially expediting the setup process once the OS is installed).
Ideally the packaging process should be fairly simple. A UI is nice but not necessary. Avoiding having to setup a separate virtual machine for packaging purposes is ideal.
I’m not looking to use this in an enterprise environment but on my own systems (though these are used for professional purposes). Something with a high price tag won’t do.
What Am I Trying to Accomplish?
When the average Windows application installs itself it inserts files and other modifications into numerous locations – this can include
Program Files and
Program Files (x86) as well as
Users\username as well as (seemingly) randomly choosing
Don’t forget the numerous records in Windows Registry and potentially the installation of various dependencies (e.g. redistributables).
Something akin to the virtualization Microsoft’s MSIX performs but without needing the software vendor to provide an MSIX package.