Sandboxing Your World of Warcraft Installation

No not that one!

Like many folks, I mess with addons and I raid. Sometimes that can create conflict as if I’m not ready to raid because that new alpha version of an addon has broken my lovely UI I’m screwed and as a healer and raid leader so are my guild, That simply isn’t cool. So what I do is have a test environment which replicates my normal WoW but if that new addon breaks my UI, I have a safe “live” version ready to go and the idea was originally put to me via a post by Matticus, but as I recently tried to direct a friend there and neither of us could find that post, I thought I’d share the technique with you all.

Now I could have copied my entire World of Warcraft folder to a new location and it DOES work but I will show you a way that saves you space on your HDD and will save you from having to repeat the process everytime a patch hits WoW. The base install is currently 20 gigabytes and 19.3 gigabytes is the “World of Warcraft Data” That’s a huge amount to copy repeatedly, so I don’t. My solution involves making a virtual folder using a Directory Junction to share that huge Data folder among all my sandbox installs. I’m going to show you how to do this too. 
It will involve a little Windows command-line (DOS style if you’re that old!) work and some copy and paste. Now I’m running Windows Vista at the moment and I believe the steps I will show work equally well on Windows 7 if you’re running Windows XP try the steps (it won’t break your WoW install) and if it works let me know. Mac and Linux users have tools in their respective OS to do what I’m doing here and while I can’t help out with a step by step I’m sure you can use the concept and create your own sandbox. Before we start run through this checklist:
  • Make sure you are patched up, if you’re able to play you’re patched.
  • Move those patch files out of your install folder. I delete them you may prefer to back them up.

Step 1: Create the sandbox installation folder.
Create a new folder in the desired location but NOT inside your World of Warcraft folder. You could choose a separate drive, “/Program Files”, or in “/Users/Public/Games”, depending on your Windows version. I called mine “World of Warcraft 2”. 

Step 2: Open Command Prompt 
This is where the command line work happens, if you’re not familiar with command line, don’t panic it’s easy. So you need to open the Command Prompt application by holding down the shift key and right clicking on your desktop and selecting the “open Command Window Here”. 

Command Prompt AFTER inputting the command

Step 3: Create a Link between your World of Warcraft Data folder and the Sandbox Data folder. 
The command involved is called “mklink”, we will be creating a Directory Junction, which uses the switch “/J”. The command is a little unintuitive as links are created backwards. The link order in the command is “To” to “From”, not “From” to “To”. In this case, we would use:

mklink /J “C:World of Warcraft 2Data” “C:World of WarcraftData”

This should create a hard link between the two, meaning when you go into “C:World of Warcraft 2”, you should see the full contents of “C:World of Warcraft”.
Files to be copied

Step 3: Copy the needed game files into the sandbox installation folder.
Copy the contents of “C:World of Warcraft”, not it’s subfolders, and paste them into “C:World of Warcraft 2” You do not need any other folders in “C:World of Warcraft” as the /WTF, /Cache, /Interface, all the other necessary folders will be created the first time you launch the game.

The sandbox folder AFTER copying the needed files

Step 4: Launch the Warcraft.
Navigate to your /World of Warcraft 2 folder, and double-click WoW.exe. You should know it all worked out fine if you see the first-run cinematic, and your login screen is lower resolution than usual. Log in and you should see the base interface! It’s all over but the shortcuts!

Step 5: Create desktop shortcuts to your new test installation

While you have that folder open, right-click WoW.exe and choose Send To > Desktop (create shortcut). Name this shortcut “WoW 2”.

Step 6: Play! 
That’s it! You should be able to launch your default WoW setup separately from your testbed setup, and create as many of these installations as you wanted to, as long as the folder names are different. 

Other Uses of Sandbox Installations

  1. My son plays on my account. He hates the addons and I love ’em. I could just enable and disable addons, but that gets old quick, and I risk breaking something anyway. I created a default install for him with no addons.
  2. Multiboxing.
  3. Patch day sadness. Patch won’t install? Have to do one of those “Repair and Resets”? Don’t want to wipe your UI, or count on the Blizzard Repair Tool to back everything up totally? Create a bare testbed, and log in and try patching with that. The most work is done in the Data folder, so it can wreck the sandbox all it would like, while tending to your /Data. I used this a few patches ago when my UI would not load fully, getting to a full load bar and stopping. Instead of unloading all addons, I created a bare testbed and logged in and everything loaded fine. Back to my main, untouched UI, and the same character loaded up normally too. Go figure.
  4. Finally you can use this for NON-Warcraft related applications too.
Post Completion Notes
Always patch the ORIGINAL install Patching from a sandbox install leads to weirdness. Again: Patching from a sandbox install makes things weird. Don’t. Patch up before you do this, and when you patch again, patch from your original installation. Always.

Posted by Evlyxx


This article has 6 Comments

  1. Great info mate, schoolboy error having wow on your OS partition though as windoze issues result in a full 20gb wow reinstall and that will make you a sad panda

  2. Has something changed with patch 5.2? My sandbox isn't working anymore. I deleted it, and made a new one, but no luck. All my macros are missing, and none of my settings will save. I have to go through the EULA process and create new system settings every time.

    1. Nevermind. I figured it out. My sandbox is in my program files folder, and I forgot to run it as an administrator every time.

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