Peter M Howard ::

IE6 and 7 on OSX

20September2008 [webprog]
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In which I run IE 6 and 7 on OSX; the entire process using free software

Some design work recently necessitated running both IE 6 and 7 for testing purposes. But I don’t always have access to a Windows machine, and I haven’t seen the need to purchase Parallels or VMWare’s Fusion — I’ve been running the latter’s beta trial version, but even that requires, theoretically, a licensed version of Windows.

Fortunately, Microsoft come to the rescue with free VirtualPC images designed specifically for browser testing. The only trick, then, is getting them working on OSX. VirtualBox is the answer there. With a little Googling I found The Mozmonkey Blog, which had instructions for getting the VirtualPC images converted and running. It seems that since that page was written VirtualBox has developed the ability to run VPC images without jumping through hoops, so it’s slightly easier. The main problem I’m still having is that MS’s IE6 image doesn’t work. There’s a solution to that though, it just means going back through some of those hoops.

So, the complete steps to running IE 6 and 7, completely free (as in beer):

VirtualBox has its tradeoffs — it’s not as well-rounded as Fusion. The graphics support isn’t as good — I get the occassional rendering glitch while scrolling in the browser. ‘Seamless Mode’ is nowhere near as good as Unity (or Coherence). And I can’t get DHCP working using their bridged networking. But the NAT networking is fine for testing on localhost, and gets out to the outside world without a hitch. And I can setup a fixed IP for the internal network. For a home user without a network, the default settings would be fine. With VirtualBox continuously being worked on (the bridged networking is only a new feature on OSX) and the unbeatable price tag, I’d say Fusion and Parallels will soon have their work cut out for them justifying their price.

I’ve been running these images for a couple weeks now on my MacBook Air, and it’s perfect for testing. The images boot up in seconds, meaning I don’t need to keep them running and can just load up IE6 or 7 when I need to test. Even Command-tabbing between OSX and Windows feels snappy, so I can make a change and hit Refresh without waiting.