Ask any web developer what he or she thinks of Internet Explorer and you’ll get pretty much the same response:
I once read a meme that said “If Internet Explorer is brave enough to ask you to be your default browser, you’re brave enough to ask that girl out”
Also if you scour the web for funny Twitter hashtags you might see Internet Explorer show up as the answer to this question: “Name something people only use once“.
IE sucks because it’s besieged by a bevy of idiosyncrasies that aren’t shared with other browsers. Internet Explorer is full of its own proprietary coding quirks so even if you’re a CSS king in Firefox, Chrome, and Opera, when you get to Internet Explorer you’ll have to do things differently. I can’t tell you how many times I designed something that looked beautiful in the other browsers but jacked up in Internet Explorer.
So here’s the thing: Microsoft only allows you to install one version of Internet Explorer on a single PC but – fortunately we have virtual PC’s with almost every version of Internet Explorer we could ever need.
This guide applies to people running Windows 8 Pro or Windows 8.1 Pro. Microsoft supplanted VirtualPC with a newer, faster, stronger iteration aptly called Hyper-V. It’s faster because it’s a bare metal hypervisor meaning it runs directly off the host machine hardware. VMWare and VirtualBox aren’t bare-metal hypervisors and therefore aren’t as fast.
Let’s get started yo.
Install the Hyper-V Manager
First we need to make sure Hyper-V is enabled. Press the Windows Logo key + w and type “turn windows features on or off”
Click inside the Hyper-V box. You’ll automatically enable the Management Tools and Platform. That’s cool. Click OK and wait.
Alright, now we have the Hyper-V manager installed. Think of it like the dashboard that lets you manage all your virtual machines. We’ll need one virtual machine per version of IE.
Where do you we snag the IE versions? Directly from Microsoft of course. How nice of Microsoft to provide these for free!
Get the Windows Virtual PC VHDs
Microsoft currently has virtual hard drive (VHD) images for IE6, IE7, IE8 and IE9. I’ll show you how to test IE10 and IE11 a little later. For now, go to http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=11575 and download the IE versions you need.
As you can, see the file are hefty in size so choose wisely. I downloaded everything because I’m greedy but you should only pick what you need.
Unpacking and extracting
Now it’s time to start unpacking and extracting baby.
Double-click the Internet Explorer VHD EXE and breeze through the installer. (wait, did that rhyme, V. H. D… E. X. E… haha)
Agree to giving Microsoft access to your browser cookies, browser cache and all the cash sitting in your checking account. Heck, who knows – maybe the license agreement even grants Microsoft the ability to steal your identity if they need it in a pinch. Anyway, failure to comply means you can’t run IE. So you might as well acquiesce: read and agree.
Go ahead and check the destination folder and click Install.
We’re off to the races.
Keep in mind after the green progress bar hits the end of its maiden voyage – the extraction process isn’t really done. That’s because that green bar indicates how long it takes to extract one file, not the whole collection. There are several other parts to the VHD that need to finish but the progress bar rudely ignores those. You’ll have to wait for all parts to extract before the installation really finishes. Annoying but true.
And there’s two things you’re going to need:
- A lot of time
- A lot of space
It took me about 30 minutes to extract the series which ultimately consumed a cool 20GB when it finished.
Ouch. Fortunately after you get the golden .VHD and .VMC files you can delete all the .EXE and .RAR files in the series.
The VHD is the virtual hardrive we’ll use in our new virtual machine and the VMC thingy are the settings for that machine. We’ll obviously need to keep these bad boys, so don’t delete ’em.
Now let’s open it up and see what we have.
Press the Windows Key + q, search for and open “hyper-v manager”.
Let’s create the virtual machine that will contain our VHD.
Press Alt + a + n + m and create the name and location for the VM in the Hyper-V Manager New Virtual Machine Wizard.
If you’re trying to ration disk space, you might want to store the virtual machine in a different location. A capacious external hard drive would make a fine candidate.
After clicking Next you’ll see a fun screen about generations.
If you’re PC can handle it (meaning it’s 64 bits) go for Generation 2. The second generation should install your VM a whole lot faster and boot time should be quicker.
However, when I used Generation 2, not only was boot time slower it was non-existent!
My universe collapsed and my world came to a screeching halt.
No Operating System was Loaded. Press a key to retry the boot sequence...
How’s that for boot time?
I ended up deleting the VM and going back through the creation process but the second time I changed it to Generation 1.
If anyone knows why this happens please share in the comments!
Anyway, let’s get back to what we were doing…
It’s time to apportion how much memory you need your VM to use. Since we’re only using this to test Internet Explorer we could probably get away with 1024MB maybe even 512MB; however, if you have the RAM to spare, go with 2048MB. You’ll thank me later.
Incidentally, if you check “Use Dynamic Memory for this virtual machine” the VM will intelligently adjust the amount of RAM the guest OS uses based on changing circumstances. So in theory, you could run more concurrent VMs – but today I’m not going fiddle with it. Just leave it unchecked for now and click Next.
Okay we’re on the home stretch now. Leave the Network connection disconnected. We’ll setup our virtual switch in a bit.
Let’s continue our procrastination streak by clicking Attach a virtual hard disk later. Zip to the finish line.
Adding the virtual disk
Now back in the Hyper-V Manager you’ll see a shiny new VM waiting to do your dirty work. Right click it, go to Settings and choose SCSI Controller (or IDE Controller) from the left pane. In the right pane you’ll see a button to add your Hard Drive. Click that.
Now browse to your VHD.
If it doesn’t show up in the window, change the file name to *VHD (that’s star dot VHD) or manually type the full path in the location bar.
The reason it may not show up is because the latest version of Hyper-V searches for *.VHDX files. These newer files are superior to plain old VHDs because they have better data corruption protection and larger storage capacities.
Incidentally, you could always convert your .VHD files to a .VHDX by editing the virtual hard drive; however, get ready to wait until the second ice age before it finishes.
Simply select the VM in the Hyper-V manager and choose Edit Disk… from the right pane.
Next, browse to the VHD, choose Convert, pick a Fixed Size (for performance) and start the edit.
When it completes you should be able to start the VM by right-clicking it in the console and choosing Connect.
The VM should boot beautifully with two users:
In the IE8 VHD you might see a IEUser too. If so, use that guy to sign-in.
Use the super insecure password “Password1” (sans the quotes) to get in and then click the Cancel button in the bottom right corner of the Windows Activation pop-up.
By the way, when the software expires you can bust open a command prompt and type slmgr -rearm to extend the trial for 30 days. Or better yet, create a VM Snapshot (now called a Checkpoint) so you can rewind to the initial installation state. Just hit Ctrl + n to save a new Checkpoint of the current settings and then when you hit the expiration day hit Ctrl + r to revert back to the original checkpoint.
Install any drivers and cancel any pop-ups that are getting in the way of the desktop.
Now we’re almost there. We just need to bind our physical network adapter to the guest OS so we can connect to the internet.
Incidentally, you can access the other versions of Internet Explorer by clicking the appropriate desktop shortcuts in your VM. Double clicking it let’s you browse to the VHD that contains the IE version you want. When asked to authenticate just use Password1.
Tip! Pressing Ctrl + Alt + Left arrow gets you in and out of the virtual machine window but it’s also the default key combination to rotate the display on my Host PC. Sometimes when I pressed Ctrl + Alt + Left my entire screen flipped 180 degrees! You should disable this stupid setting immediately. Press the Windows Key + q, type “intel graphics and media” click on Options to disable hot keys.
Getting your VM online
In the Hyper-V manager click “Virtual Switch Manager” in the right pane and choose the Create Virtual Switch button.
You’ll have the opportunity to create a virtual switch for your virtual machine in a virtual world of your own making. Okay, that was virtually stupid. Ignore that little bit I just said.
Make sure External is selected in the right pane of the Virtual Switch Manager.
Pick your network adapter and click OK.
Now dip back into your VM settings and make sure the Virtual Switch is set to your new virtual switch.
In the left pane of your VM settings you’ll see a section called Network Adapter which, when clicked, displays your Virtual Switches in the right pane. Pick the New Virtual Switch you just created from the drop down list and click OK.
And there you have it.
If you can’t get the network to work for some reason make sure the External Network is set to your Ethernet Adapter (instead of your Wi-fi adapter). Also toggle Allow management operating system to share this network adapter off and on. In other words, click to disable click Apply and then click to enable and click Apply again.
To get the other versions of IE, just click the appropriate links on the desktop. Also don’t try to cancel the Applying changes box. Yes I know it takes forever but just wait for it to finish or your network in the VM will never work.
Testing IE5.5 through IE10
Is anyone still using IE5.5? Seriously.
I don’t know but if doing the whole VM dance isn’t your thing just download the latest version of IETester and be done with it. Keep in mind IE10 is only available to IETester if it’s your default version of IE so this only works on Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 machines.
That begin said, once you download the file (60MB) you’ll be on your way to IE testing excellence.
As you can see, my site looks like crap in IE6. Thank God no one is using this browser anymore.
Use the web to test Internet Explorer!
There’s still one more choice for testing every version of Internet Explorer. You can use sites like SauceLabs or BrowserStack (but these have monthly fees). Testize is better because it’s only a one time payment of $30 bucks but BrowserShots is 100% free. So you have options!