Previous posts described the importance of developing sites with feature detection and debugging a site’s behavior in older versions of Internet Explorer using IE’s browser and document modes. Testing production Web sites against multiple browsers and multiple browser versions is a reality of Web development. IE9’s emulation of older IE document modes makes this easier but those emulations are not exact. Some developers need a convenient way to run multiple versions of Internet Explorer on one PC. Windows 7’s Windows XP Mode is an interesting option for testing sites across versions of IE on one PC.
Running Multiple Versions of IE Using Windows XP Mode
One way to run multiple versions of Internet Explorer on one PC is to run the older version(s) of Internet Explorer using Windows XP Mode on a Windows PC running Windows 7 Professional, Enterprise, or Ultimate edition. (Windows XP Mode is an optional downloaded feature of Windows 7 Professional, Enterprise, and Ultimate editions that provides you a pre-installed image of Windows XP SP3 that you run using Windows Virtual PC. A recent update allows Windows XP Mode to run on a CPU without hardware virtualization.)
It is even possible to set up and run multiple XP Modes on one Windows 7 machine, thereby allowing you to run Internet Explorer versions 6, 7, 8, and 9 simultaneously on a single machine.
Screen shot of my 24" monitor showing IE9 running natively and IE6, 7, and 8 in three separate Windows XP Mode instances
Interested in trying this? This linked document provides detailed instructions for setting up a Windows XP Mode virtual machine and then copying it to create two additional XP Mode virtual machines and configuring them to run IE7 and IE8.
This page links to white papers describing other solutions for virtualizing Internet Explorer.
This page contains links to Windows Virtual PC virtual machine hard drive images (VHDs) for testing websites with different Internet Explorer versions. These images were recently updated and now expire on May 18, 2011.
IE9 on the Horizon
Now is the time to prepare your production Web sites for IE9 while not forgetting your site’s visitors who use IE7 or IE8. Windows 7’s XP Mode is a no-additional-cost solution to testing multiple versions of Internet Explorer on a single PC running Windows 7 Professional, Enterprise, or Ultimate.
—Ted Johnson, Lead Program Manager, Internet Explorer