4 Ways to test your website in old versions of IE

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Twice this week I’ve been asked how you can test older versions of Internet Explorer once whilst delivering a guest lecture at Stafford University and then just a few hours later via email. So I thought that it was probably worth while to write up the few methods I use to test sites in IE:

1. Developer tools

Firstly both IE8 and IE9 developer tools (just press F12 whilst in Internet Explorer) allow you to change your document and browser mode to go back to IE7 and IE8.

2. Expression Super Preview

You could also use Expression Super Preview which allows you to test your site rendering in various IE browsers, Firefox, Chrome, Safari and Opera  It even allows you to test Safari on a Mac from a windows machine by using a cloud service.

3. Application Compatibility VPC Images

For the most accurate results you could use the “Internet Explorer Application Compatibility VPC Images” which are Windows Virtual PC VHDs that are free and licensed for the purposes of testing your websites in IE6, IE7, IE8, IE9 across XP, Vista and Windows 7 . The images are patched with the latest security updates and are otherwise clean installs of the operating system with very few modifications. These images are specifically designed to run on Microsoft Virtual PC.

For those using Mac OS or Linux there is a project on GitHub to enable you to take these images and get the running on VirtualBox, I have no idea how well this works and have had mixed reviews but it may prove useful for you https://github.com/xdissent/ievms

4. 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..)

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.

This is quite an involved solution but  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.

Comments (19)

  1. Andrei Rinea says:

    What about http://browsershots.org/ ? Isn't this a viable tool, too?

  2. Robert says:

    I quite like IE Tester. It's not 100% reliable (somewhat different to actually using IE6/7/etc on XP) but it's a fairly good test of various IE6/7-specific features. my-debugbar.com/…/HomePage

  3. Jim says:

    Another great Testing service is http://www.usertesting.com

  4. thebeebs says:

    @Andrei Rinea whatever works for you. I'm not suggesting that these are the three best… just the one's I use.

  5. thebeebs says:

    @Robert I can't say I have used it very much. Although a number of people tell me it's good. When you say it's somewhat different, how different?

  6. Anonymous says:

    The VPC images are expired and no longer a viable option 🙁

  7. thebeebs says:

    @Anonymous the IE6 one is currently expired, but the IE7,IE8 and IE9 ones are live. I've contacted the team that provide these images to see if IE6 will be supported in future.

  8. thebeebs says:

    The IE6 image is now back online and is licenced until April 4, 2012.

  9. Chris says:

    I like the idea of the VPC images, but I am using Server 2008 as a development platform. Do you know if there are any hyper-v VMs for this usage? I think there are some ways of converting a VPC to be usable on Hyper-v, but my understanding is that it needs to be done on the VPC before opening in Hyper-V, and that's not currently an option for me.

  10. Matt says:

    This is a great article, now all you need to do is make internet explorer not a huge piece of junk so we don't have to run 4 virtual machines to test for a web browser that isn't capable of rendering web pages properly…

  11. Mario says:

    ^^ what he said (but thanks for this helpful article!)

  12. Guss says:

    It's hard to believe that Microsoft has had qualified people (supposedly like Mr. Beeby) all these years and never been able to create a compliant browser.  Unless it's been intentional, which is what most of us have thought all along.  Thanks for the article just the same.  I would use option #3, but I don't see any sense in having those "precious" versions of IE expire every 30 days.  And by the way, thanks for all the years of grief.

  13. Nan Shaw says:

    F12 worked but I had to go into IE7 mode to recreate IE8 setting.

  14. performance testing says:

    Another very strong and powerful post. I’ve been reading through some of your previous posts and finally decided to drop a comment on this one. I signed up for your newsletter, so please keep up the informative posts!

  15. pd says:

    I have just discovered that using F12 Developer Tools to switch into older Browser/Document modes is misleading. For example, running IE9 and switching it to IE8/IE8 via F12 hides text given color: transparent. Running XP with IE8, the text displays in the body colour. Thanks for yet another failure to support developers Microsoft.

    Ballmer should have danced to this rant: Developers, developers, developers (except web) developers, developers, developers. I just installed IE10 today and to see that there were zero improvements to the F12 tools was an enormous (though predictable) disappointment.

    If you think this comment is too critical, it represents less than 0.001% of the frustration with Internet Explorer that all developers I know have felt and continue to feel.

  16. B says:

    Developer tools seems to just change the browser identity, I run html5 test (beta.html5test.com/index.html) all versions shows the same score.

  17. Kenneth says:

    Can you check my website is good to on your browser http://krules.net thanks

  18. Felipe says:

    Thanks, i was using IETester before but F12 console in IE11 works fine.

  19. Heroselohim says:

    I’m just leaving this message to congrat all the brave developers/designers that fought in the old days until the death of the IE menace. You will be remembered !! For a… short time… but… remembered

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