Using Windows 7’s Windows XP Mode to Run Multiple Versions of Internet Explorer
Published: 4 February 2011
This document contains step-by-step instructions for setting up multiple copies
of Windows XP Mode
on a Windows 7 PC in order to run Internet Explorer 6, 7, and 8 simultaneously with
IE9 in Windows 7. Windows XP Mode is available on Windows 7 Professional, Enterprise,
and Ultimate editions.
These instructions assume a moderate degree of experience working with your PC and
are provided “as-is” for developers comfortable performing its steps.
Installing Windows XP Mode
- Configure your PC’s BIOS for Hardware-Assisted Virtualization (HAV) by following
the instructions here. HAV is not required but XP Mode will run much better
if hardware-assisted virtualization can be enabled.
- Navigate to the Download Windows XP Mode page. Choose your Windows 7 edition
and language and then download, save, and run Windows XP Mode setup. Depending on
the speed of your Internet connection, this can take up to an hour.
- Return to the Download Windows XP Mode page, if needed choose your Windows
7 edition and language again, then download, save, and run Windows Virtual PC setup.
You will need to restart your PC after this installation.
- After restart, click the Windows 7 Start button, select All Programs > Windows
Virtual PC > Windows XP Mode to begin first-time setup of the Windows XP Mode
virtual machine. When first-time setup completes, you’ll find yourself in an XP
Mode window with IE6 pre-installed.
- Install an anti-virus program in the XP Mode virtual machine. Microsoft Security Essentials is free and works well with Windows
- Install all the important and high priority updates except IE7 or IE8 using
the Custom option of Window Update (this assumes you want this first virtual machine
to stay with IE6). Since Windows Update will keep pushing either IE7 or IE8 on you,
you should open each of these and choose “Don’t show this update again.”
- Install any other software or utilities that you want available in the XP Mode virtual
Once you’ve configured this first virtual machine, you can move onto copying it
to create two more: one for IE7 and one for IE8. To do that, close all open applications
then close your Windows XP Mode virtual machine. By default, the virtual machine
will hibernate but that seems to be okay for the following steps.
Create a Second XP Mode Virtual Machine for IE7
Creating a second XP Mode virtual machine for IE7 is easier than setting up the
first though the steps below are longer because they’re more complete. Briefly,
all you need to do is copy the virtual hard disk file, create a new virtual machine
using that hard disk file, rename the virtual computer, and use Windows Update to
install IE7. Here are the steps in more detail:
- Go to the folder where the virtual hard disk files are stored. These will be in
the \AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows Virtual PC\Virtual Machines folder under your
user account. To find this folder:
Select Windows XP Mode file with the type Virtual Machine Hard Drive Image (.vhd
extension if you’re showing extensions). Press Ctrl-C to copy the file and then
Ctrl-V to paste a copy of it. Copying the file may take a few minutes.
Select the file named “Windows XP Mode - Copy”, press F2 to rename the file, and
change the word “Copy” to “IE7”. The resulting name should be “Windows XP Mode -
IE7” (the actual name is not important; this is just the convention I’ve used).
Now navigate back to your top-level user folder and open the Virtual Machines folder.
Click “Create virtual machine” on the command bar. This starts a multi-step wizard
to create a new virtual machine.
Name the machine “Windows XP Mode - IE7” and click Next and then Next again on the
On the third screen, choose “Use an existing virtual hard disk”, then browse down
to the \AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows Virtual PC\Virtual Machines folder under
your user account and select the “Windows XP Mode - IE7” virtual machine hard drive
image file you created in step 3 above. Click Create.
Double-click your newly-created “Windows XP Mode - IE7” virtual machine. Log on
using the password you used when you created the original Windows XP Mode machine.
Rename this “computer” so that it won’t conflict on the network if you run two virtual
machines at the same time. In the running XP Mode virtual machine:
- Use Windows 7 Start menu to open your root user folder (the user name link at the
top of the right column of the Start menu)
- If you don’t see AppData in the list of folders, you need to turn on viewing
hidden files and folders:
- Press the Alt key to display Windows Explorer’s menu
- Choose Folder options… from the Tools menu
- Select the View tab
- Click the radio button for “Show hidden files, folders, and drives”
- Click OK
- Double-click the AppData folder, the Local folder, the Microsoft folder, the Windows
Virtual PC folder, and, finally, the Virtual Machines folder. Here you should see
three files all with the root name “Windows XP Mode”.
Start Windows Update and choose Custom. You should see something like this:
- Click Start > My Computer
- In the System Tasks panel, click View system information
- Click the Computer Name tab
- Click Change… to rename the computer
- Change the computer name as you wish; I just change the last digit of the generated
- When prompted, restart the virtual machine to make this change
It’s somewhat tricky to get Windows Update to offer you IE7 because IE8 supersedes
it. This sequence worked for me:
After installing IE7, run Windows Update from the Start menu, choose Custom, and
install the IE7 security updates. Windows Update will still tell you “You've hidden
important updates.” That’s IE8, which we’ll install in a moment in a third
XP Mode virtual machine
Shut down this virtual machine by selecting Close… from the Action menu and choosing
Shut down in the drop down list
- In the message box above, click “Restore them now”
- Check Internet Explorer 8 for Windows XP and click “Restore and Check Again”
- You’ll again see the “You’ve hidden important updates” message box. Click “Restore
- Check Internet Explorer 7 for Windows XP and click “Restore and Check Again”
- You’ll now see only Internet Explorer 8 for Windows XP because IE8 supersedes IE7
but there’ll be no message about hidden updates. Uncheck “Internet Explorer 8 for
Windows XP” and click “Don’t show this update again”
- Close Windows Update, restart it from the Start menu, and choose Custom
- You’ll once again see the hidden update message but you should also have one High
Priority update: Internet Explorer 7 for Windows XP
- Ensure IE7 is checked, click “Review and install updates,” and then “Install Updates”.
This will take a while and restart your XP Mode virtual machine
Create a Third XP Mode Virtual Machine for IE8
Creating a third XP Mode virtual machine for IE8 is even easier as we’ll start with
the IE7 virtual machine hard disk image. The steps below assume you just completed
the previous sequence and don’t repeat all the specific details.
- Go to the folder where the virtual hard disk files are stored (the \AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows
Virtual PC\Virtual Machines folder under your user account), make a copy of the
“Windows XP Mode - IE7” virtual hard disk image, and rename it “Windows XP Mode
- Go to the Virtual Machines folder directly under your root user folder
- Click “Create virtual machine” on the command bar
- Name the new virtual machine “Windows XP Mode - IE8”, click Next, and Next again
- On the third panel of the wizard, select “Use an existing virtual hard disk”, browse
to the folder containing the IE8 virtual hard disk file from step 1, choose the
file “Windows XP Mode - IE8”, and click Create
- Double-click the newly created “Windows XP Mode - IE8” virtual machine
- Sign on to the machine as “xpmuser” with the password you provided when you created
the first XP Mode virtual machine
- Follow the steps in item 9, above, to rename this new virtual computer
- Run Windows Update from the Start menu and choose Custom
- Click “Restore them now” in the “You’ve hidden important updates” message box, check
Internet Explorer 8, and click “Restore and Check Again”
- Under High-priority Updates, ensure that Internet Explorer 8 is checked, click “Review
and install updates”, click “Install Updates”, and then reply to the various prompts
as IE8 installs
- Run Windows Update / Custom and install the offered security updates
The process outlined above took me about 2-3 hours to complete with interruptions.
When finished, I could run the three Windows XP Mode virtual machines simultaneously
and access the Internet from each.
One thing I’ve noticed is that the two copies of the original XP Mode virtual machine
do not auto-logon like the first. There also appear to be other domain security-related
issues but nothing that stopped me from using these additional XP Mode virtual machines
to test old versions of IE against Internet content. If the host PC is part of a
corporate domain, you may want to join your XP Mode virtual machine to that domain
and add your domain account as a local user on the XP Mode virtual machine.
If you care mostly about just one previous version of IE, updating the base Windows
XP Mode virtual machine to that version may be a bit smoother than the procedure
I’ve outlined here.
—Ted Johnson, Microsoft Internet Explorer Team