How to run Microsoft’s IE VPC images in VirtualBox

Update: the official IE testing images are now compatible with VirtualBox. Get them at modern.IE.

Need to run Internet Explorer on Mac OS X or Linux? Here’s how, without having to purchase a Windows license:

  1. Download the VPC image you’d like to use. For testing IE6, IE7, and IE8, I find it easiest to download the Windows XP image and make copies of the VHD for each version of IE. We’ll get to that.
  2. Rename the .exe file you just downloaded to a .rar file, and use any RAR extractor to get the VHD file.

    I like to move and rename the VHD file to stay organized, so let’s move the VHD file that was just extracted to ~/VirtualMachines/ie6.vhd.
  3. Start VirtualBox and create a new VM. I like to name my VMs by the version of IE they contain. Go with the default options in the new VM wizard, but when presented with the disc image option, choose to load the VHD file that was downloaded - ~/VirtualMachines/ie6.vhd if you’re following along.
  4. Boot the new VM. Windows will ask you for a password - it’s “Password1” at the time of this writing. The screen will be tiny when the VM starts. Close the Notepad window that is open and cancel all of the prompts to install device drivers and new hardware.
  5. The official IE VPC images don’t come with VirtualBox compatible network drivers. Since Micro$oft requires you activate the images over the internet before using them, you’ll need to install the drivers yourself.

    Follow the instructions provided by Rick Harris, or just do this (cribbed from Rick’s instructions):
    1. Download the network drivers here.
    2. With the IE VM running, go to “Devices > CD/DVD Devices > Choose a Virtual CD/DVD Disk file…” and find the ISO you made in the previous step.
    3. Once the driver ISO is mounted, click “Start” and then right click on “My Computer” and choose “Properties”. Click on the “Hardware” tab, then open “Device Manager”. Find your non-functioning ethernet card and right click on it and choose “Update driver…”
    4. In the window that pops up, choose “No, not this time”, then “Install from a list or specific location”. It’ll find the driver in the ISO you just mounted - install the one selected by default. When the installation finishes, you should be connected to the internet.
    5. Click the key icon in the task bar to start activation. Choose “Yes, let’s active Windows over the internet now”, then “Hell no, I don’t want to register now; let’s just activate Windows” and it should be successful.
    6. Click the blue star in the task bar and choose “Validation Failure Details (online)” to start the genuine verification process. It will open up a browser window and ask you if you want to install something. Click “Install”. In a few moments, you’ll see a webpage with a green banner that says something like “Welcome to Windows”.
  6. Once Windows is activated, you can install VirtualBox Guest Additions. This will fix some driver issues and make Windows work better with VirtualBox. Don’t install Guest Additions until you’ve activated Windows, or you’ll have to start over.
  7. OK, the hard part’s over. Windows will still prompt you to install drivers when you start the VM, but you can safely cancel those prompts.

    Now we’ll make copies of the VM for the other versions of IE so that we don’t have to go through the validation process again. Shut down your VM if it’s running, and make 2 copies of your ie6.vhd file - I went with ie7.vhd and ie8.vhd.
  8. VirtualBox needs every disk image to have it’s own UUID - don’t ask me why. After you’ve made copies of ie6.vhd, run the following command on the copies:

    VBoxManage internalcommands sethduuid /path/to/image.vhd
  9. You can now configure VMs for the disk image copies that were just made. The IE6 VPC image comes with installers for IE7 and IE8 - just use the installer shortcuts found on the desktop to upgrade each disk image copy you made.

And that’s it! Easier, cheaper, and faster than buying a copy of Windows and trying to install it from scratch on VirtualBox.

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