Running The IE VPC’s on other VPC Hosts?

I’ve had a few people email me, or email the IE blog to ask about running the IE VPC’s on other VPC hosts than Microsoft VPC so I figured I’d post this to my blog.

I don't think anything has changed in the images since we've started producing them back in 2006. I'm pretty sure they've never worked on in Parallels, Fusion, or any other VPC environment than Microsoft VPC.  For whatever reason, the hardware key on a non-Microsoft VPC host is different than that of the Microsoft VPC host, and so Windows thinks that the hardware has changed, and it requires re-activation.  If you have your own XP activation code, you can use that and reactivate the image.

According to the EULA that the legal folks wrote, you're only allowed to run the VPC's on Microsoft VPC, not on other VPC hosting environments.  I understand that this solution doesn’t help some of you.

If you have a Windows XP license, I'd highly recommend building your own VPC's.  First you don't have to worry about re-activation or anything like that, but secondly, your own VPC images won't expire every three months like ours will.  We time bomb the images because we are effectively giving away a free copy of Windows.

Hope that clears things up a bit. 

UPDATE [9/15/09]: I've spent some time investigating this issue, and now understand that the VPC images used to work on other hosting environments, but with the latest release, don't any more.  We have a better understanding of the issue now, and while we're looking for a solution, we don't have one right now.  If you're using the VPC's, and they don't work any more, I encourage you to email me, with your name, how you're using them and the hosting environment that you're using. 

Comments (16)
  1. Tom Robinson says:

    Would it be possible to supply an activation key which would only work on this particular build of Windows XP? Then it could be re-activated on other VPC hosting environments.

  2. Keith Adler says:

    I find the VPC IE images extremely useful, but please update them to support Windows 7 Virtual PC without us having to hanker around with drivers, etc.

  3. There’s an issue with VirtualBox and some device drivers missing from the images to support it if I remember well (have to find those drivers [mostly Intel ones] on the web or on Windows CD)

  4. Sixten Otto says:

    I promise you that the IE8+XPsp3 image from the previous batch (June-August 2009) worked *great* in VirtualBox; and from what I’ve seen on various blogs/fora, I’m not the only one who had success. I don’t know about previous batches images (I wasn’t aware of them back then), or other host apps (I didn’t try them, because VirtualBox worked). It was an extremely convenient–and much appreciated!–way of making sure that people in the office had access to IE8 to test our sites, even if that person was on a Mac.

    Obviously, yes, we could create our own virtual machines with various combinations of OS/IE, but if that’s the solution, why bother providing these prebuilt images at all?

  5. Matt Keeble says:

    I have been using all of the VPC images for around 2 years converting them to work on my Mac in VMFusion. They  have worked great until the August 2009 versions were released and then this EULA issue was introduced.

    Please please please put them back to how they were – they were great and made actually supporting IEvil possible for me. As it stands, I am struggling to meet my clients requirements and it’s costing me time and money in finding alternative solutions.

  6. Julio Loayza says:

    I’ve also been using the VPC images just to test my work on IE on my Mac. I don’t see the point of offering these Windows images for IE testing if they just can work on Windows. As I’ve read on some forums there are a lot of people with the same problem right now. We just want what we were having until now: a legal solution, with no extra cost for us, to be able to give support to Microsoft’s browser.

  7. revive says:

    The Bottom Line for Microsoft is this.. if you want the vast majority of Mac developers to support and design/develop for IE, then this is a no brainer. If, on the other hand, you want to have that majority abandon IE and blast it to pieces with Blog postings, rants, etc. (which you know the community is fully capable of).. then don’t change a thing. 🙂

  8. Simon says:

    This is pretty devastating news. I was so very pleased that Microsoft had finally provided a legal and (almost) easy way of testing sites in IE on a Mac. Like Matt Keeble, I’ve been converting the VPC images for use with VMWare Fusion. Please fix this ASAP.

  9. rabidgremlin says:

    I was really pleased when I found these images they certainly saved us heaps of time in setting up our cross-browser testing farm.

    So we were none too pleased when the old images expired and the new images failed to run under VMware right in the middle of one of testing cycles !

    Please fix this ASAP!!

    More info on how we were using these images is here:

  10. Jimmy says:

    I’ve been using these images to test my pages in IE in VirtualBox on the Mac, but of course this is no longer possible. I guess the question is why do the time-limited versions require activation at all? What is it intended to prevent you from doing?

  11. Julio Loayza says:

    <blockquote>I guess the question is why do the time-limited versions require activation at all? What is it intended to prevent you from doing?</blockquote>

    That is THE point. Absurd.

    The only reason for MS to make this change is to annoy a bit non Windows users. Which is not a very friendly policy to gain Windows users.

    When I discovered these images I was very pleased and surprised. I thought: "Nice, Microsoft is changing a bit …"

  12. ST says:

    You asked for contact about environments this is being used on:

    VirtualBox 3.0.6

    Mac OS X 10.5.8

    Trying to run the IE7 disk.

  13. Jon says:

    You know… it’s decisions like this that truly make me want to express to your organization that if I could stop developing for your stupid f-ing browsers altogether, I would do it in a heartbeat.

    Why don’t you try to make the process of supporting your busted products easier for us, instead of maddeningly convoluted and frustrating.

  14. revive says:

    This is simply another arrow in the quiver of most web developers.. who already despise MS for these types of tricks.. first, build a standards compliant browser that doesn’t require separate styling or CSS hacks to make it present web pages like every other web browser.. then, make it SIMPLE AND EASY for non-windows based developers to test in that browser, so you can retain all the users you’ve worked so hard to get.. it’s called business sense, and it stumps me that Mr Gates keeps dropping the ball on this one.. he’s usually a pretty sharp guy.. you’d think he’d direct his team to handle this in a more ‘enterprising’ manner….

  15. Dave Land says:

    Thanks, PeteL, for a clear explanation (here and elsewhere) of the situation, and for your efforts to continue to provide this free service to those of us Web developers who don’t happen to own Windows machines for testing.

    Before we get all hot under the collar because of what PeteL seems to think is a temporary set-back, let’s recall that Microsoft has provided the VPC images for free for several year. In fairness, where is Apple’s Virtual Machine for running various versions of Safari on a free copy of Mac OS X Leopard or Snow Leopard?

  16. Jørgen Wahlberg says:

    I have been using the IE VPC images a lot and they worked great for me. The activation issue is a great problem for me.

    You recommend making own VPC images if we have valid XP licences. That was exactly what I was doing before I discovered your images. What I really liked about them, and made me abandon my own images, was that they are stripped down to the bone and much less memory hungry than my own.

    Some way to make the images available for non-Windows users again would be highly appreciated.

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