Multiple versions of IE
May 3, 2009 10:29 AM   Subscribe

In Windows XP, what is the best way to keep Internet Explorer versions 6, 7, and 8 all installed simultaneously?

This is for the purpose of testing websites.
When I say "best", I mean the browsers should function normally, and it should be unlikely to cause other problems with the system.
I've seen Multiple-IE, from 2006, which doesn't seem to go past IE6, and Internet Explorer Collection which looks promising. But I'm hesitant to install strange hacks until I've had some input from people more knowledgeable. Do any of you have experience doing this?
posted by kidbritish to Computers & Internet (19 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I worked as a web software testing engineer back in the day for which I had to test with lots of different browsers and combinations of settings and I would never try actually putting multiple copies of IE on the same OS installation. IE's tendrils are thoroughly-enough woven into the rest of Windows that I'd be afraid there would be no way to avoid having them interact with each other and thus cause non-standard testing results no matter how clever the hacks.

Nowadays I'd do this with VMWare or some other virtual machine software, of which there are many different products usually with a free "lite" version which would be sufficient. When I was doing testing before the advent of virtual machine technology we would do this by partitioning the hard drive into a multi-boot system that actually contained several different copies of Windows, assisted by drive imaging software to manage everything.
posted by XMLicious at 10:46 AM on May 3, 2009

Best answer: I only go with virtualisation after having had many problems with a number of multiple-install solutions. Microsoft make available VirtualPC images for testing purposes (for free) on their site, I've never had problems using them.
posted by gregjones at 10:52 AM on May 3, 2009

Best answer: The main problem here is that multiple versions of IE were never meant to be installed side by side. To work around this, you can use something like Virtual PC to run each IE in its own virtual environment. Microsoft's IE Blog has a good post explaining how to do this.

Also, IE8 contains the IE7 rendering engine, so you really only need IE6 and IE8. You can put IE8 into IE7 mode by using the "Tools->Developer Tools" menu option.
posted by worpet at 10:56 AM on May 3, 2009

If you're looking for rendering problems, keep things simple by running a few PCs, each with a different browser installed. That way, you can visually compare X number of screens simultaneously. Any anomalies will become immediately obvious.
posted by shinybeast at 10:56 AM on May 3, 2009

(I should note that I was usually testing web applications involving multiple versions of multiple ActiveX controls as well - sort of like if you were cross-testing all of the different versions of the Flash Player and Adobe Acrobat at the same time - so if you're simply testing HTML pages that might not have so stringent requirements, though I'd personally still want to have the virtual machines on hand to confirm any bugs I ran across. The Internet Explorer Collection guy seems to be willing to invest an immense amount of effort in what he's doing, for whatever reason.)
posted by XMLicious at 10:58 AM on May 3, 2009

posted by dydecker at 11:07 AM on May 3, 2009

You can use IE6 Standalone along with a (normal) installation of IE8, which covers most of what you really need: the two different rendering/compatibility engines.

IE7 can be ignored as worpet said, since IE8 can do that. (IE7 is also going to be a pretty thin wedge soon: big IE6, big IE8, little IE7 market in the middle.)

No hacks needed.
posted by rokusan at 11:18 AM on May 3, 2009

Seconding virtualization.
posted by NoraReed at 11:25 AM on May 3, 2009

A ditto for Virtual PC. It makes for really easy isolation of browsers -- and all sorts of other OS stuff, of course.

A handy tip for geeks: VirtualPC doesn't save state until you tell it to. So if you have a crashed VM you can get back to a running OS in just a few seconds.
Use a .bat file to do:
taskkill /f /im "Virtual PC.exe"
to kill off the running session, and then replace (from a saved copy) only the small .VMC and .VSV files. No need to replace the huge .VHD file.
posted by anadem at 11:28 AM on May 3, 2009

If you don't obtain a solution, try BrowserShots.
posted by Gyan at 11:56 AM on May 3, 2009

Seconding IEtester.
posted by ewingpatriarch at 12:12 PM on May 3, 2009

I've heard some good things about VirtualPC since Microsoft bought them out but I'm surprised to hear about it crashing, since even the Windows version of the core product is getting on a decade old now - Connectix was pretty established even before VMWare came on the scene. I don't think that VMWare has ever crashed on me while running Windows as the guest, only on unsupported versions of Linux during boot.

It also just has a "snapshot" option on the tool bar that saves the machine state, along with a "revert to snapshot" button, and a "power off" button to shut down if the guest OS itself crashes; copying files around isn't necessary unless you need to save multiple versions of the same machine. I noticed the absence of those things, I think, when I was playing around in MSVPC when it first was released, but I'm surprised they haven't taken care of it by now.
posted by XMLicious at 12:20 PM on May 3, 2009

You might want to try this collection of browsers from Xenocode - they have every major Windows browser available, and they run in a mini-virtualized environment, so you don't have to have three complete installs of XP lying around. I've had good luck with them so far.
posted by agentmunroe at 12:24 PM on May 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

You can try Altiris SVS, I've heard of people running IE 6 and 7 side by side.
posted by wongcorgi at 2:08 PM on May 3, 2009

Best answer: Microsoft has already created snapshots of Windows XP running various versions of IE so you don't have to do the work of creating them.

Download Virtual PC, then download the VHDs for IE6/7/8
posted by helios at 3:11 PM on May 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

I use Virtual PC and the Microsoft created VHDs (one for IE6 and one for IE8, with IE7 installed directly on my machine), as mentioned by others, for that exact purpose. Works like a charm.
posted by geeky at 5:23 PM on May 3, 2009

Response by poster: Download Virtual PC, then download the VHDs for IE6/7/8

This looks like the "right" way to do it. Thank you!

It says that the VHDs will expire in August 2009. After that time, will Microsoft continue to offer something like this for free, or is it a temporary service?
posted by kidbritish at 7:10 PM on May 3, 2009

In my experience so far, Microsoft usually puts out an update version before or around the time the old one expires. At least that's what they've done with the IE6 VHD so far.
posted by geeky at 11:03 AM on May 4, 2009

« Older Help me find my wedding site!   |   Sunday in Portland with dying brakes Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.