Using Microsoft’s IE6, IE7, IE8 VHD / Virtual PC images with Virtualbox

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I often have the need to test web development compatibility across multiple browser versions….and we all know the redheaded stepchild of the web browsing world starts with Internet and ends with Explorer.

Luckily, Microsoft has been nice enough to provide VHD images ready to go for VirtualPC.

They are available here… Normally I just worry about the last three in the list:

XPSP3-IE6.EXE 312.0MB  Download
XPSP3-IE7.EXE 570.0MB  Download
XPSP3-IE8.EXE 570.2MB  Download

As nice as this is, VirtualPC isn’t included with all versions of Windows. Enter Virtualbox.

Virtualbox has the ability to use the Microsoft supplied IE testing VHD (virtual hard disk) images natively.

Once you’ve downloaded, the first step is to update the UUID for the VHD image(s), this is very important.

C:\Program Files\Oracle\VirtualBox>VBoxManage internalcommands sethduuid c:\vm\IE7Compat.vhd
UUID changed to: a18e7fcc-b1fb-40c0-a46a-45017f20294a

So you load up the VHD into a new VirtualBox machine, and if you reboot before installing drivers, you get all sorts of weird errors because of missing drivers for the new hardware that is VirtualBox oriented (as opposed to VirtualPC).

If you reboot, you get stuck in an activation loop, because there’s no network to activate over the internet.

You  can get around this.

You’ll need MagicISO Maker or some sort of ISO / DMG creating utility.

Download the Intel network drivers here.

Extract the Intel executable (using 7zip or WinRAR) into a folder, copy said extracted folder into a new ISO image.

Extracting the Intel executable is an important part of the process as the VHD images are setup to not allow installations, so you need the driver files in their raw form. You may want to take a moment and include any other files you might want in this image, it’s just easier to do it this way and have the image for all of the virtual machine installations.

Save the ISO to a safe and memorable place, like your VHD folder.

With your machine in the off state, change the network adapter to the Intel adapter:

  • Right click on the machine, select Settings
  • Click on Network on the left
  • Click the advanced link label
  • Change adapter type to Intel PRO/1000 MT (82540EM)
  • Click OK.=

Safe mode command prompt works when the activation loop is keeping you from logging in.

You can launch into that via tapping F8 before the Windows startup screen and selecting Safe Mode w/ Command Prompt.

Make sure to click into the machine as soon as you turn into on and get the keyboard focus into the machine, I immediately start hitting F8.

Once into command prompt, cancel out any driver dialogs and type :

explorer<enter>

Hit Yes to the dialog about continuing in Safe Mode.

Go back to the host machine in the window for the running  VirtualBox, goto the Devices > CD/DVD device menu > More CD/DVD Images…

Click Add… and find the ISO you created earlier.

Depending on your VirtualBox version there may be more steps to mount the drive, but ultimately it will be mounted in the Guest OS as a virtual CD drive.

Now you have your network drivers available to the Guest OS!

Use device manager to find the non-working network adapter, and reinstall / update driver using the drivers in the extracted Intel folder.

Once this is done, restart the Guest machine and boot normally, when it asks to activate, go for it, and activate over the internet.

You should have network activity and after some prompting about registration and a few clicks, you should be in a fully activated test environment.

You may want to install the Guest OS additions at this point =)