Virtualizing Internet Explorer 7 on Windows XP

Created: 20 Sep 2006 • Updated: 29 Jul 2010
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The naysayers said it couldn't be done. Screenbert and his team has proven them all wrong by successfully virtualizing Internet Explorer 7 as they prepare for Vista. Get his detailed notes here.

Issues with Internet Explorer 7 Deployment

We are looking at deploying Windows Vista in the not too distant future. (If it ever gets released) As a stepping stone to get to this point we decided that deploying Internet Explorer 7 on our desktops would ease our transition. We could get all our web applications working and then move on to our other applications. In order to do this we knew we would need to test all of our web applications against Internet Explorer 7. We estimated that there would be around 200 applications that would need to be tested.

In order to get all of our application teams to test this we would have to go through an intensive internal process to allocate their time to this project.

This could be a show stopper or at least delay deployment for a significant amount of time. There would also be a tremendous amount of work in coordinating all of this.

So knowing about Software Virtualization Solution, I begin to wonder if it was possible to Virtualize Internet Explorer 7.

Is it possible to Virtualize Internet Explorer 7?

Yes it is. OK, everyone go home now. If only it were that easy. There have been other articles and tips written about virtualizing Internet Explorer 6, however they all focus on running Internet Explorer as part of a layer, even though it is not contained in the layer. This results in the ability to dump changes to the file system and registry values. This is great since Internet Explorer 6 is included in Windows XP. However we want to virtualize Internet Explorer 7 which is not included and therefore we want to actually include it within our layer.

My first thought was to run through the installation of Internet Explorer 7 and just use that for my capture. Knowing it wouldn't be that easy, I Instead performed a google search on IE7 and IE6 and found that there was a web programmer that had figured out how to have both INSTALLED at the same time. In order to do this he ran Internet Explorer 7 in standalone mode. Even so he could not RUN both at the same time, only one version at a time.

What is Stand Alone mode and how does it work?

I had never heard of running Windows in Stand Alone mode, however some research found that since Internet Explorer 3 was released they had a way for Windows to have multiple versions of Internet Explorer running on your machine by creating an "iexplore.exe.local" file in the same directory as the iexplore.exe file.

When Microsoft Released Security Bulletin MS05-054 for Internet Explorer last December they snuck in a change that broke the Internet Explorer Standalone Mode, so that if you want to run Internet Explorer 7 along with Internet Explorer 6 on your machine you have to have Internet Explorer 7 fully installed. Jon Galloway documents this well in the article listed in the Resources section below and points out that people could get standalone to work, but it required that you modify registry values before and after opening Internet Explorer 7, so that your Internet Explorer 6 would still work. He created some batch files that worked around this. There are numerous web references on doing this, but his method seemed to be the most comprehensive.

Can I run Internet Explorer 7 and Internet Explorer 6 at the same time?

Absolutely! I've modified an installation batch file for Internet Explorer that I will post as a tech tip that will assist you in this. Basically you download the Full version of Internet Explorer 7 (RC1 is the latest that is out) Start your capture, extract the files into the directory you want Internet Explorer 7 to be in, modify some registry keys and end your capture. You will also need to install a hotfix included in the Internet Explorer 7 package so that Internet Explorer 7 will allow for tabbed browsing. It does not require a reboot and should not be included in your virtualized application, since the Software Virtualization Solution does yet support virtualizing patches. I'd also recommend creating a shortcut on the all Users desktop or at least on your desktop.

Once you have done this and activated the layer, you can run Internet Explorer 6 and Internet Explorer 7 at the same time. I haven't seen any issues yet, but remember as of right now Internet Explorer 7 is still in release candidate mode.

Why would I want to this?

This business case for doing this would be to allow a person to deploy Internet Explorer 7 to their Information Technology department and eventually the entire enterprise, allow people to use both, and then to document any issues encountered and create an exception list of machines that cannot run Internet Explorer 7. If there are any issues with the Internet Explorer 7 layer you could easily deactivate the layer. You could then deploy the actual Internet Explorer 7 to all machines except for your exception list and get rid of the SVS layer. Who knows, some organizations might want to keep both around. I would see some issues in doing this on a long term basis, since Internet Explorer gets patched pretty often.

This would be especially useful for your Information Technology department as they are developing their web pages and applications. Instead of having to manage a Virtual PC or another system running a different version of Internet Explorer they could have both running thereby allowing them simplified testing.

Remember Internet Explorer is considered part of the operating system, so I would carefully plan out any deployment using this. I am sure Microsoft would not support this configuration in any shape, fashion or form. Also some people might counter that now you have to test two versions of Internet Explorer, so you are actually creating more work. Plan twice, implement once.

How do virtualize Internet Explorer 7?

Ok here's the part you have all been waiting for. Follow these steps as outlined in the Tech Tool Readme.txt file.

I've included screen captures for this article to ease your layer creation. Since I'm not sure on the licensing of Internet Explorer I will be not be posting the VSA, only these instructions on creating your own.

  1. Download the full version of Internet Explorer 7 Release Candidate 1 from http://www.microsoft.com/windows/ie/downloads/default.mspx
  2. Start the SVS Admin tool, click File, and Create New Layer.
  3. Select the Install application Radio button and click next.
  4. Enter Internet Explorer 7 Standalone for the layer name and click next.
  5. Choose global capture and click next.
  6. Click Finish to begin your capture. Remember everything you do is now being captured in the layer.
  7. Create a folder called C:\Program Files\IE7Standalone
  8. Copy the Internet explorer 7 executable the folder created in step 7.
  9. Copy the registry file and batch/command file to the folder created step 7.
  10. Execute the "IE7 Standalone setup.cmd" batch file.
  11. Right Click on the iexplorer.exe and drag the icon to the desktop to create a shortcut. You can also create a shortcut in the all users directory if desired.
  12. Right Click on the SVS Capture icon on the taskbar and choose Stop Capture.

To enable the tabbed browsing (This installation should not be virtualized):

  1. Activate the Internet Explorer 7 layer you created in the step above.
  2. Copy the C:\Program Files\Ie7StandAlone\Installation\Update folder to a network share.
  3. Deactivate the Internet Explorer 7 layer.
  4. Execute the hotfix by running C:\Program Files\Ie7StandAlone\Installation\Update\xmllitesetup.exe

Final Thoughts

I currently do not know of any way around installing the hotfix for tabbed browsing, but since it does not require Internet Explorer 7 to be fully installed or a reboot, it does not seem to pose a huge issue.

Group Policy still seems to work fine against Internet Explorer 7, although you might want to tweak various settings before giving it any large groups. I'd recommend getting to an internal test group before allowing anyone within your Information Technology department to use it. Well that is it for now, I am on to my next project, virtualizing Windows Vista. ;)

Resources

Information on using Internet Explorer 7 in Standalone mode -
http://weblogs.asp.net/
Microsoft Download Site for Internet Explorer 7 - http://www.microsoft.com
The Bulletin that broke Standalone mode in Internet Explorer - http://www.microsoft.com
 

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Comments

jjesse
Trusted Advisor
Accredited
Certified
21
Sep
2006

Good post

There was a discussion on Channel9 (http://channel9.msdn.com) about what would happen for Web devs once IE7 was released and how would they test their sites for IE6 as well. I pointed the poster in that thread to this article.

Thanks for the good article.

Jonathan Jesse Practice Principal ITS Partners

Screenbert
Certified
25
Sep
2006

IE6 issues with clicking on a link that opens a new window

I found that when you click on an IE6 link that opens a new window, two IE6 windows pop up, with one being blank. To get arround this problem I added the IE6 iexplore.exe executable to the Program Ingore list as outlined in Jared's tech tip found here.

It works great after that. I'm checking to see if there is a way to do this through Layer prioritization.

Screenbert

Screenbert

27
Sep
2006

IE6 Issues after using IE7 SVS

Hi All,

I had a Windows XP machine running both IE6 and Firefox installed in the base system. I imported and ran the IE7 standalone package I created using the steps in this post.

The issue seems to be when I try and browse a website in IE6 (when IE7 is activated or deactivated). It opens the page in Firefox and not in IE6.

Really weird issue. Tried the above progam ignore list regedit but the issue is still occuring.

Any ideas?

JC

28
Sep
2006

RE: IE6 Issues after using IE7 SVS

Hi all,

I have done some more research on this issue and have found that this seems to be an issue with the IE7 standalone install. Check out this link to workaround this issue.

Cheers

JC

29
Sep
2006

RE: IE6 Issues after using IE7 SVS

Perrrrfect.
Thank you,

Justin

27
Sep
2006

I like the idea of two explorers, but not the side affect

I have used the process outlined above including the Programignorelist commented by screenbert. Problem is, when I open any link in IE it opens a new IE window and throws a "windows cannot find'(null)' error.
Did I enter the value improperly?
Do the other exlusions have to be formatted in the same manner?
[_B_]PROGRAMFILES[_E_]\NAVNT\rtvscan.exe
[_B_]PROGRAMFILES[_E_]\Symantec_Client_Security\Symantec Antivirus\rtvscan.exe
[_B_]PROGRAMFILES[_E_]\Symantec Antivirus\rtvscan.exe

Before I beat my head against this too long, can someone help out?

02
Oct
2006

Tools bar

When I try to click on the tools bar, there is a error message saying "the procedure entry point InternetGetSecurityInfoByURLW could not located in the dynamic link library WINNET.dll."

Does anyone know how to solve this issue?

Thanks,

12
Nov
2006

Any news about this

Any news about this questions ?

I am really interested in this issue ...

Thanks

17
Oct
2006

What is wrong?

I'm trying to understand how to do this.

The thing is that when I followed the instructions, and then launch IE7 I keep getting errors that the settings cannot be saved.

Did I install this wrong?

Also do you need to activate the IE7 Standalone layer for IE7 to work?

Thanks,
Jake

25
Oct
2006

Thanks

It's been nice to run IE7 concurrently with IE6, especially since not all pages have been rendering correctly on IE7. Now, if only we could virtualize IE6 so that I could pick which one was installed at any given time...

KSchroeder
Trusted Advisor
Certified
16
May
2007

How about running IE6 on Vista?

Great work figuring this out Robert...any efforts put into running IE6 on Vista?

Thanks,
Kyle
Symantec Trusted Advisor

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10
Aug
2007

browser archive

You might be interested in this collection of browsers for web dev. Includes multiple versions of IE6

evolt.org's - browser archive

16
Oct
2007

seems to work pretty good,

seems to work pretty good, but iam having problem opening the favoits. It just doesnt open the Tag. Nothing is happing at all ? Anybody got a clue or has the same problem ?

28
Jan
2011

Virtualizing?

What exactly do you mean by virtualizing <a href="http://www.internetxplorer7.net/">Internet Explorer 7</a>? This is my thinking. I have 2GB of RAM on my computer, but I have 1.4 GB of virtual RAM, which is harddrive memory used as RAM (it's really not as powerful as RAM, but it's still very good). Is this similar to whart you're talking about?