Run IE9 in Virtualbox for free

Update, 31. march 2013: this article is now out of date. Microsoft now offers free virtual machines and hosted virtualised solutions for cross browser testing at:  (thanks to Graham Ashton for the update).

Like many, I ditched Windows for other operating systems a long time ago and never looked back. But being a web developer I need to be able to test web sites in Internet Explorer. I had briefly considered buying a licence from Microsoft, just to be able to run a virtual copy of Windows 7 with IE9, but luckily Microsoft doesn’t want my money. What’s that, you say? Let me explain.

Microsoft provides “Windows Virtual PC VHDs for testing websites with different Internet Explorer versions” for free on their download page. I downloaded the Windows7 IE9 version, which is quite handy, since IE9 can emulate IE8 and IE7 too.

Once downloaded, I extracted rar files with Ubuntu’s Archive Manager. Then I fired up VirtualBox, created a new WIN7 machine and skipped creating a hard drive. I added the extracted VHD file afterwards, as an IDE drive. This step is important, because running it as  SATA would cause BSOD headaches.

Once it booted, I had no problems getting inside using the “Password1” password. Windows asked me to activate, but Microsoft advises you skip this step, and extend the testing period by running slmgr –rearm as administrator in the command prompt. This will extend the testing period for 30 days. That’s more than enough: once you’re happy with your virtual image, take a host snapshot and just use it as a starting point if the trial period expires (Microsoft actually encourages that). Don’t forget to install VirtualBox guest additions to enable screen resizing and what not.

References: I found this blog entry very useful (albeit outdated):


  1. You could have just done it with BrowserShots to save the time. 🙂

    1. drye says:

      Can’t really debug javascript with BrowserShots. I’m sure it’s useful for some though. 😉

      1. Indeed. Javascript debuger in IE9 not really helpful though. 🙂 The whole web developer tools there are a bit odd to use when u’re used to Firebug. 🙂

        Tried Firebug Lite and gave up.

  2. Thanks for this – this worked perfectly for me on Mac OS X. The IDE vs SATA hard drive part is definitely crucial, I wasted a lot of time fighting BSODs until I switched it over as per your instructions.

  3. i like how they only make the RARs available as a self-extractable archive…requiring windows…

    so much for ditching windows.

    1. Doug says:

      I am running Linux (Ubuntu in this case), and I just used the unrar command, pointed it to the exe file, and it unpacked everything without any problems.

    2. Thai says:

      I think unrar is free (which is in the Debian repositories) but rar is not (which is not in the Debian repositories).

    3. james says:

      for mac download “The Unarchiver”, it’ll extract .rar files just fine.

    4. I used wine 🙂

  4. When your evaluation is expired and you revert back to the snapshot do you execute the slmgr -rearm command again? After I revert my evaluation period is still the same as before I did the revert.

    1. The way I understand it, you shouldn’t need to do the rearm, but truthfully I don’t have experience with an expired evaluation. I pretty much always just load the one snapshot when I need IE9, and turn off the VM after I’m done needing it. This way it never expires.

  5. Greg Lappen says:

    Worked perfectly in Mac OS X. I did have to disable mouse integration initially to get the mouse to work, but after I installed the vbox guest additions, mouse integration worked fine.

  6. Worked perfectly in suse tumbleweed and vb4.1.6. I`id have to disable mouse integration too and with vbox guest additions it works pretty good. I’ve used SATA drive without any complications.

  7. Paul Charles Leddy says:

    Had to turn off “Enable absolute pointing device” under Settings -> System -> Motherboard under Virtualbox to get mouse working within Windows.

  8. murray says:

    Sorry, I’m confused by this step:
    “Once downloaded, I extracted rar files with Ubuntu’s Archive Manager.”
    I’ve downloaded 7 files, 6 of them are rar which is fine, but the first is an exe… what do I do with this?

  9. Eddo says:

    Thanks for this tutorial; worked like a charm on my local machine 🙂

    @murray: rename the first .exe to a .rar.

  10. Garry says:

    I know this is a bit of an old post now, but have all your images expired now? I says in the microsoft site they they will stop working Feb 14th 2013. Any alternatives if this is the case?

    1. @Garry – you can now download images that are setup for VirtualBox direct from Microsoft. See (they’ve linked to it from the bottom their old download page, in really really tiny writing).

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