Making Internet Explorer Testing Easier with new IE VMs

When Microsoft first launched modern.IE and revamped the way that IE VMs were offered, I wrote up a post that talked about how to install them. Since then, the site has changed so it’s time to update this post to reflect not only the new UI of the site but the new method of downloading individual VMs.

If you haven’t heard about modern.IE, then definitely read up on it here:

Introducing modern.IE – Testing sites for Internet Explorer made easier

The New Way to get IE VMs

Up until now, if you wanted to test different versions of IE natively you had to download VPC images that would allow you to run virtual machines for the different versions of IE. It wasn’t a great solution because:

  • They were designed to be run in Microsoft’s Virtual PC software making it hard for non-Windows developers to use them.
  • They were broken apart into multiple, large download files

There were ways to use them on other OSes but it required some work or unofficial scripts to convert them. Either way, the IE VPCs weren’t very easy or convenient to use.

We wanted to make this easier so as part of the modern.IE project, we created a new set of VMs that targeted your OS and your VM-specific software.

When you hit the page “Test across browsers” page, scroll down until you see this:


This is the section that helps you to choose the right OS and platform. Now, you’ll be able to choose your OS:


then choose the VM software:


and download the VM with the version(s) of IE you’d like to install:


You’ll need to download ALL of the files listed for the specific version of IE you’d like work with. Depending on which OS you’re using, you may see a combo of *.exe/*.rar files (Windows) or *.sfx/*.rar files (OSX/Linux). The *.exe & *.sfx are self-extractors which will look for all of the files and combine them into the single VM you’ll need.

The great thing about this process is that:

  • You can use the VM software of your choice
  • You only have to download the files once per VM. They can be reused to recreate the VM after 90 days.

Currently, we’re offering VMs that will run on:

  • Windows
  • OSX
  • Linux

The VM software choices are specific to the OS you choose:

  • Windows – Hyper-V, Virtual PC, VirtualBox & VMWare Player for Windows
  • OSX- VirtualBox, VMWare Fusion and Parallels
  • Linux – VirtualBox

One thing to note is that it’s best to use an updated version of the VM software, especially for the Win8 VMs. Otherwise, you may encounter issues with the VM software not being able to run the virtualized OS properly.

The IE versions being offered are:

  • IE6 on Windows XP
  • IE7 on Vista
  • IE8 on Windows XP
  • IE8 on Windows 7
  • IE9 on Windows 7
  • IE10 on Windows 7
  • IE10 on Windows 8
  • IE11 Developer Preview on Windows 7
  • IE11 Developer Preview on Windows 8.1

For all intents you can now test against a full copy of any version of Internet Explorer.

Extracting the Virtual Machine


Notice that for IE9 on Win7 for VirtualBox on Windows, I’ve downloaded 5 files.


I need to run “IE9.Win7.For.WindowsVirtualBox.part1.exe” to kick off the extraction. This will prompt me for a destination folder to extract to:


Note that once the extraction is completed, the dialog box just disappears and you won’t get a prompt that it’s done. Hop over to your directory and you should find the newly extracted VM file waiting for you:



OSX users have it even easier because you can use cURL to pull down all the files in one swoop. Just look for the “Grab them all with cURL” link and click on it. It’ll give you a popup like this:


Open up terminal, “cd” to the directory where you want to download the files and paste the link displayed to kick off the download. Easy peasy.

To extract the virtual machine, you’ll need to go into terminal and set execute permission on the .sfx file like this “chmod +x filename.sfx”. You can then kick off the extraction by running the file: “./filename.sfx”.


You can find fully detailed installation instructions for the downloaded VMs in this PDF.

Installing the VMs

The VMs may come with some minimum resource settings already preconfigured. Here’s what I recommend to ensure you get a decent performing VM:

  • Give your VM a minimum of 1GB of RAM
  • Give it the most amount of video memory possible

Remember that you’re VM is an OS and it needs resources. Unless you’re loading multiple VMs at the same time, a gig of RAM shouldn’t have a major adverse issue on a decent system. Also note that while IE9 & IE10 support GPU-enhanced rendering, don’t expect the same performance in your VM as you would get from a native system.

The VMs you download are in compressed format. Once you’ve got them on your computer, you should run the extraction executable I referenced above to extract them for use. This will create the virtual machine file that you’ll import into your VM software. Again, you can find fully detailed installation instructions for the downloaded VMs in this PDF.

VirtualBox on Windows

Installing on VirtualBox is usually as easy as double-clicking the .ova file that you extracted.


When you do this, you should get a VirtualBox dialog like this:


Click on the “Import” button and VirtualBox will do the rest. It’s really that simple.

VMWare Fusion

The VM software I use on OSX is VMWare Fusion so here are the steps I went through to setup the Win8/IE10 VM.

Click on the “Add” drop down to create a new VM:


Choose “Continue without disc”:


This should present you with a screen to “Use an existing virtual disk” which is exactly what you want to do:


I chose the “Select to create a copy of it” so that my original download isn’t affected and it makes a copy in the default VMWare VM directory. When you select the image, it will display a prompt asking if you want to convert it to an updated format:


Don’t convert it. I tried to and it seemed to corrupt the VM.

Select the proper version of Windows. These are 32 bit versions of the OS so the standard OS selections are fine (i.e.: not 64-bit). At the “Finish” screen, click “Customize Settings” to give the VM a better name like “Win8 – IE10″ and from there, VMWare will beging the process of copying the disc to the default VM directory and present you with the new VM:


Before you start the new VM, change the RAM settings so your VM won’t have any trouble starting up. Again, I recommend a minimum of 1GB of RAM:


Your VM should now be ready to use.

REALLY IMPORTANT: If you’re using a Win8.x-based VM, be sure to set your screen resolution in the VM to a minimum of 1366×768 if you want to be able to use Internet Explorer. Internet Explorer desktop can launch in smaller resolutions but IE10 for Win8 and IE11 Developer Preview for Win8.1 are a Windows apps and needs the higher resolution. You’ll also want this for testing snap mode.

VirtualBox on OSX

Chris Wharton has written up a quick guide on how to get the Virtualbox VMs running on OSX. Just follow the steps I outlined for extracting your VM and then follow Chris’ steps for installing in VirtualBox.

Time Limits on the VMs

All of the VMs have a time limit 90 days of total time from the moment you first use the VM. Basically it’s 30 days usage with two 30-day rearms. To rearm, go into a command prompt with Administrator privileges and type in “slmgr –rearm

At the end of the 90 days, you’ll be able to use the VM for an hour before it shuts down. At this point, you’ll need to decide if that’s okay or if you’d like to recreate the VM and use it for another 90 days. Remember, you can reuse the same files you originally downloaded to recreate the VM so don’t delete them (unless you just love downloading big files).

Functional Limitations

I’ve been told that these images aren’t crippled and in my testing, I was able to apply updates and do installs with no issues. I would HIGHLY RECOMMEND that you run Windows updates when you use these VMs to get the latest updates and patches. Also, install an anti-virus software. Microsoft Security Essentials is free and will do the trick. If you’re running a Windows 8.x VM, it comes with anti-virus already.

  1. I had a similar issue with the corrupt download or unable to find the file to unarchive.
    It appears this is an issue related to 64 bit arch vs 32 bit executable. Most likely those experiences this issue are in the same boat I was trying to extract this on a 64 bit system.

    Run the following command (in Ubuntu) will install the 32 bit libraries needed to run these VM’s.
    sudo apt-get install ia32-libs

    I was able to extract this after installing these libraries.
    I hope this helps. (No other software was required)

  2. There’s no fonts and IMEs for East Asian on WinXP.

    When I tried to install eastern languages by “Regional and Language Options”, “Insert Disk” Window appeas.
    I don’t know ‘Windows XP Professional Service Pack 3 CD’, I know only ‘Windows XP Professional Service Pack 2′ or ‘Windows XP Service Pack 3(just service pack)’. Which one shoud I use?

  3. 1.)Do the time limits on the VM’s only apply if your using Vmware(rather than windows virtual PC)?

    2.)What is the purpose of putting time-limits on the VM’s?

    3.)Will the time limitations still exist even if I uninstall, and re-install the virtual machines from my workstation each time the “rearm” is exhausted?

    • Daniel,

      The time limits apply regardless of which virtualization software you use. If you delete and reinstall the VMs from scratch, then the time limit starts over. The rearms are meant to give you 90 days usage so you don’t have to create a new VM over & over within a short period of time.

      Ultimately, if you want to not have time limits, then you’ll need to purchase a fully licensed copy of Windows. We’re providing these images as a tool to allow you to test browser versions without having to purchase multiple copies of Windows.

  4. I’m trying to open the Vista-IE7 image on VMWare Workstation, Windows is never able to fully boot. I tried starting in Safe Mode, and when it gets to \Windows\System32\Drivers\crcdisk.sys, it just stops.

  5. With my thanks for the provided service,
    The Virtualbox XP MSIE6 image I just downloaded, had expired February 14, 2013.
    I’d welcome a new image!

    • Hi Joris,

      I downloaded the IE6/WinXP VM from and ran it with no issues or timeouts. Could you please delete your existing VM and redownload it to see if you still have the same issues?

      Also, what OS were you using?

  6. These VM’s seem very poorly made. This Vista VM with IE7 crashes every few minutes, and the XP VM with IE6 comes pre-expired. What’s up with that?

  7. I work on a Mac and have been testing with Parallels for years. I have not been able to test IE9 or 10 without shelling out for Windows. I do not understand how to work a PC, which is partly why I am in this bind.

    These instructions:

    1. Download all SFX and RAR files for the VM.
    2. From the terminal, allow the downloaded file to execute by typing chmod +x filename.sfx on the SFX file only.
    3. Run the SFX file from a terminal, such as by ./filename.sfx and it will expand into the PVM you can open with Parallels.

    On this site: after selecting Mac, Parallels are somewhat Greek to me.

    My questions please are these, referencing the install steps above:

    1. I assume I am downloading these from within Parallels, and not via a browser in my iOS?
    2. “From the terminal”. What does that mean? Do I click on the Start button and then the Run option, and then type what is given? Is that it, or something else?
    3. “Run the SFX file from a terminal” – again, what does that mean? How do I do that?

    Any other tips given my obvious ignorance on how to install this would be appreciated.

    And finally, I am running Parallels version 7. Do I need version 8 to run these?

    Thanks so much.