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Virtual PC image ensures things work in IE6, IE7

A downloadable image from MIcrosoft can help administrators make sure that everything works in both Internet Explorer 6 and IE 7.

Now that Internet Explorer 7 is being rolled out to Windows users, many administrators (and developers) are wondering: How can I test what I have—my intranet, my public Web site, my custom applications—to make sure they work in both IE 6 and IE 7 if I can't have them running side by side on the same computer?

It's a thorny problem. I've grappled with it too. My solution has been to use a single standalone Windows XP box running IE 6 that simply doesn't get upgraded. But after a while, that arrangement becomes impractical.

So leave it to Microsoft to come up with an elegant solution: a pre-activated Windows XP Service Pack 2 Virtual PC image with IE 6 and the IE 7 Readiness Toolkit. The only user requirements are:

  • At least 1.5 GB of free hard drive space.
  • An existing licensed copy of Windows.
  • Virtual PC 2004 or better (although Virtual PC itself is free now). Virtual PC 2007, which is available in beta, runs on Windows Vista and will also run this image without issues.

The full download is 500 MB and requires validation, but once installed and set up, it will run exactly like a full edition of Windows XP without needing an additional Windows license. Software can be installed in the virtual machine and other programs can be run on it. In short, it works like a conventionally licensed copy of Windows. To that end, it can also be used as a quick-and-dirty way to do isolated software testing in general, and not just for IE's sake.

The only limitation is that the virtual machine is timed to expire after April 1, 2007, but the IE developer team blogs that they have plans to release future iterations of the virtual machine to make parallel testing and development easy. Ostensibly this is to prevent cheating, but it may also be because the IE team wants to eventually replace it with a more up-to-date image that can be downloaded, and also provide images that that run other editions of IE (such as 5.0 or 5.5) for the sake of regression testing.

About the author: Serdar Yegulalp is editor of the Windows Power Users Newsletter, which is devoted to hints, tips, tricks, news and goodies for Windows NT, Windows 2000 and Windows XP users and administrators. He has more than 10 years of Windows experience under his belt, and contributes regularly to and

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