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Thing is, I have Docker set up on a couple of QA Ubuntu servers, acting as replicas of prod environments, and they are brilliant. It makes testing so much easier because the image acts as a clone of prod, so I have a faithful reproduction that I can test against.
Its isn't a turnkey solution, but what you describe is essentially what Microsoft's Desktop App Converter[^] does -- it virtualizes the file system, registry, etc. for the desktop app that's being converted, and creates an installable windows UWP package. It probably won't keep that installed app from mucking with the main file system and registry once the installation is running on your machine, but at least all the registry keys and files related to the app itself are in a container.
I keep waiting for MS to deliver the community version of Visual Studio that way, so I don't have to permanently suffer the 750,000 registry entries it creates during installation on my personal machine, just to have it around for the odd time I want to use it.
Or.. would a sandbox product work? Something like SandboxIE maybe?
In between all these article I'm writing I'm also reading this fantastic book I stumbled upon.
It tells the story of Faraday's life and his great discoveries.
He is very inspiring because he always liked to do experiments himself to prove or disprove the science that was being discovered: he never took the answers for granted.
That is the core personality trait that the book cites that led to his great success.