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Howto: Run Internet Explorer 8 under Ubuntu 11.04 (Natty Narwhal) in VirtualBox

As a web developer, I am constantly aware of the problem that every browser seems to have a mind of its own when rendering a webpage. Especially earlier versions of Internet Explorer are a big problem for a lot of developers as these browsers were not updated with new options and/or visual fixes (only security updates). As a result, most web developers want to test their creations in various versions of Internet Explorer to make sure that everyone can experience their website as intended. Earlier, I wrote an article that explained how you can run Internet Explorer 7 under Ubuntu 10.04 Lucid Lynx. However, the package provided by PlayForLinux seems to be broken now and I had to find a new way to test websites before putting them online. In this blog I will explain a new method that actually runs Windows within Ubuntu enabling developers to exactly mimic the conditions of real users. Before starting, I should note that the files required for this method are somewhat large (3x 700Mb & 1x 553Mb), so you might want to download the files first (step 1) before continuing with the rest of these steps.

1. For this method, you need to download a ‘Internet Explorer Application Compatibility VPC Image’ provided by Microsoft. You can pick any VPC image you like, but in this blog I will make use of the Windows 7 Internet Explorer 8 image which consists out of four files. You can download your image of preference directly from the Microsoft website.

2. We need two pieces of software from the Ubuntu Software Center before we continue. Open the Ubuntu Software Center and search for the package ‘VirtualBox OSE’. Install it and search for the package ‘Wine Microsoft Windows Compatibility Layer’. Also install this package before you continue.

3. We will use the WinRAR archiving tool from RARLAB to extract the images from the first step. You should download the Windows (32-bit) trial version from the RARLAB website.

4. Navigate to the directory containing your WinRAR download and select WinRAR. Now righclick on the icon and pick the option ‘Properties’ from the menu. In the new Windows make sure that the file is set to be executable (third tab ‘Permissions’, as shown below). Click ‘Close’ when you are done to close the window.

5. Now rightclick again on the icon and pick the option ‘Open with Wine Windows Program Loader’ to start the installation process of WinRAR. You can now install WinRAR by following the wizard and using the default options.

5. After installation, you can start WinRAR as a normal program. Once started, click ‘File -> Open archive’ (Ctrl + O) and select one of the image files you downloaded in first step (note that one of the downloaded files will not show up; this is expected behavior from WinRAR). Click ‘Ok’ to open the archive in WinRAR.

6. Once opened, click the “Extract to…”-button and select a location where you want to save the extracted image. Now click ‘Ok’ to start the extraction process. Once done, you can close WinRAR.

7. Now start VirtualBox OSE and click ‘New’ within this program to create a new environment for your image. A wizard should appear to create your new environment.

8. Click ‘Next’ in the wizard to continue to the second page. On the new page you can give your test environment a name and you have to select the type of environment that you want to set up (this of course depends on your image of choice from the first step). Afterwards, click ‘Next’ to continue.

9. The third page allows you to allocate working memory (or RAM) to your environment. I usually allocate 1024Mb of RAM to my test environment as this allows me to run more programs in it and I have enough spare memory to continue my normal work while my test environment is active (NOTE: it is recommend to not dedicate more than half your total working memory to an environment). After you have allocated your working memory, click ‘Next’ to continue.

10. The next page allows you to either create a new empty environment or create an environment using an existing image. Select the second option which will enable you to select your downloaded VPC image. After you have selected your image you can click ‘Next’ to review your choices. Finally, click ‘Finish’ to create your new test environment.

11. Your new environment is now almost ready for you to use! However, due to a configuration ‘error’ made by VirtualBox your environment needs one more change in order to work. In the VirtualBox window select your new environment (left click on it) and click the button ‘Settings’. A new window should appear that looks like the one shown below.

12. Navigate to your Storage devices in the list on the left. You should now see a screen similar to the first screenshot below. Select the ‘SATA Controller’ and hit your [Delete]-key to remove this item from the list. Now click on the small ‘Add Hard Disk’-icon next to the ‘IDE Controller’ (it’s the second icon) and add your hard disk again like you have done in step 10. The final result should look like the second screenshot below.

12. Click ‘Ok’ to close the ‘Settings’-window. Your new environment is now ready to be used for the first time! Select it (left click) and click the ‘Run’-button to start up your Windows test environment with Internet Explorer.

Your test environment will have ‘Password1’ as a default password for all accounts available. If you use the administrator account, you can temporarily ‘activate’ your test environment for 30 days using the command slmgr –rearm. More information on this is also available on the Microsoft website.

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Comments (13)

This is slightly off topic I suppose but since I have never used VirtualBox or any other virtualizer so I need come clarification of the implications of this technique. FWIW, I’m a retired mainframe programmer.

1) I am on a tight budget. Are there any licensing issues involved in this approach? In case this matters, my laptop came with Windows Vista preinstalled and I still have it though I seldom boot into it.

2) Is WinRAR really needed to open the image files from the first step or is there a native Linux tool that will do the job? I take it from your last sentence before step 1 that there are three image files. Are two of them the packages “VirtualBox OSE” and “Wine Microsoft Windows Compatibility Layer” and is the latter the standard Wine package that I’m now using for other applications?

3) Do I need to repartition my hard drive?

4) I have several other programs that I currently run using Wine. Can I dispense with the use of Wine after I create this virtual Windows environment?

5) Do the native Linux environment and the virtual Windows environment behave nicely with each other in accessing the LAN/WAN?

6) Is there any problem with the virtual Windows environment accessing a device connected via the USB?

7) Are there any other “gotcha”s of which I need to be aware?

1) VirtualBox is open source software released under the GPL 2 license. The ISO with Windows that is used is released by Microsoft to help developers to test websites in Internet Explorer. The ISO has a limited usage of 30 days (the trial period of Windows), which can be extended to 90 days with the instructions found on the download page. After that you need to download a fresh image from the Microsoft website for further testing.

2) The image provided by Microsoft is a RAR-package with self-extractor (an ‘EXE’-file). Because of this, I was unable to open in with the tools provided in Ubuntu. You can of course also extract the package in a Windows environment using other extracting tools, but the method described in this article is ‘Ubuntu-only’.

3) No, the ISO file will be your ‘hard drive’ for this environment.

4) As far as I know, you do not need Wine to run VirtualBox and its virtual environments. As I think that you want to use this method to run Windows programs, you might however need to consider the fact that the image provided is limited to 90 days (see above). If you have a license for a full Windows-editions however, you might want to consider using this Windows-edition and license so you do not have to worry about the 90-days period.

5) The new environment will use your existing network connection.

6) Apart from my keyboard / mouse, I have not tried many other USB hardware due to the fact that I only use this method for testing websites in Internet Explorer. However, my Yubikey seems to be working correctly using the described method.

7) Not that I am aware of.

I greatly appreciate the detail and clarity in your original post and your very prompt and thorough response to my query. Thank you.

Re: 1) Too bad. My need for IE on Kubuntu is not for web site testing so I don’t qualify for that. I am also told that I cannot legally use my license for the installed Windows Vista to cover use of Windows through VirtualBox even though there is no way that I can be running both at the same time.

My need for Internet Explorer is that I have some XML files to process with a style sheet that “exploits the IE DOM.” Processing any of the XML files interfaces with Google maps using data accumulated in the XML files by my GPS as it tracks me travelling in my work (a tool to help record business travel expense).

Is there a good way to get something better than ies4linux for processing these files? I have tried nine browsers including Firefox, Chrome, and Opera and none will process these files other than Internet Explorer. Some display the raw XML without any inerpretation and/or formatting while others like Firefox issue a complaint about the content of the associated style sheet file and give up.

Re: 5) It needs to access Google maps as I just stated.

Re: 6) The GPS connects to my computer via the USB.

Thanks for this post very useful.
I am also running ubuntu and I found that I can simply run

unrar x Windows_7_IE8.part01.exe

in a terminal to extract the image.

is a unrar-free and a unrar-nonfree package in ubuntu.
Some files (rar 3.0) works only in unrar-nonfree
Maybe this files works only in unrar-nonfree

Thanks…works great on 11.10

Vincent Blouin

No need for wine. I’ve renamed xxx.part01.exe to xxx.part01.rar, then I’ve extracted it after having installed RAR compression/uncompression tool from Ubuntu Software Centre.

Also, I couldn’t use a mouse in the virtual OS, so I had to install guest additions. But I also had another problem with guest additions and I solved it by downloading the VBoxGuestAddition iso from corresponding to my version of virtual box. Then I mount the iso from my virtual OS, installed guest OS and everything went well.

By the way the password for login in the virtual OS and other useful info are available at the Microsoft website


This is a very good instruction. I like to add a remark. I’m running VirtualBox 4.0.0. I needed to check the checkbox for IO-APIC in System in the list on the left.


In step 5, I have uncompressed only part of the four files. Then why do I have to download all four files?? (3×700 MB and 1×553 MB)

The actual file you need is rather large (about 8.5Gb I believe) and therefore Microsoft has split the file into these four files. So, in step 5 you only open one of the files, but you are actually using data from all downloaded four files to regenerate the original large file that you need. It is therefore very likely that you will not be able to uncompress the required file if you miss one of the four files.

I used the process to install IE8 on the VM. Problem is that the mouse doesnt work in the guest OS session. It says that I need some guest additions.

I am a noob with Ubuntu. Can you help with instructions?

any other method? without installing windows?

I did wrote an article which allows you to install IE7 without installing Windows. There might now be updates for the software packages used which allow you to install IE8 or higher. The problem is that most of the files required for IE are embedded within Windows and installing IE without Windows will thus remove 90% of the functionality (including plugins and developer tools). Anyhow, the original article is here:

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