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Run Internet Explorer 6 (or IE7, or IE8) images in VMware Fusion on Mac OS X

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By now, most front-end web developers have heard of the Standalone Internet Explorers (Wikipedia article). Although these are incredibly useful, they’ve always been hacky at best.

Because of that, we need to go the long way. We’ll download the “officially sanctioned” VirtualPC images containing a time-limited version of Windows XP SP3 and Internet Explorer 6.0, and then we’ll convert these images to the kind that work with VMware Fusion (which works on Mac OS X). This should only need to be done every 3 or 4 months when the images expire. These instructions are loosely based on the ones found at Running IE6, IE7 and IE8 on your Mac.

Update: Microsoft’s images are broken, and don’t work on anything except VirtualPC now. Mac and Linux users are out of luck for the time being. More information on the subject can be found at Running The IE VPC’s on other VPC Hosts?.


  • You need to have VMware Fusion installed on your Mac.

  • You need to have access to a Windows XP machine, as this is where the converting will happen.

Installing Qemu (FIRST-TIME ONLY)

  1. Download a small application to our Windows machine called Qemu. At the time of this writing, you want to download the regular version 0.9.1. Once it’s done, unzip it someplace that’s easy to get to via the command line (e.g., c:\qemu).

  2. Go into the Qemu folder, then into the bin folder and copy all of the files in the bin folder back to the original Qemu folder (you can simply copy-paste).

Downloading and Preparing stuff

  1. On Microsoft’s website, they have a page entitled Internet Explorer Application Compatibility VPC Image where you can download various time-limited images that allow you to test combinations of Windows XP SP3 or Vista, along with Internet Explorer 6.0, 7.0, and the 8.0 betas. In this example, we’re going to install the IE6/XP image but you can do whatever you need to do.

  2. We’ll need to unpack this download in Windows, so if you haven’t already, make sure you’re doing this part in Windows.

  3. Double-click it (in Windows) to begin unpacking it. It will warn you that it has an expiration date. On that date, we’ll have to download a fresh VPC image from Microsoft and do this all over again.

Converting the image

  1. You’ll want to copy the XP SP3 with IE6.vhd file into the Qemu folder. This will allow us to use simpler, more consistent commands to convert the image.

  2. In your Windows VM go to Start MenuRun, type the cmd command, and click OK.

  3. Using your deftly intimate knowledge of MS-DOS, use commands like cd to navigate to where you unpacked Qemu.

  4. If you don’t know MS-DOS commands from a hole in the wall, you can download Open Command Window Here from Microsoft, install it, find the Qemu folder in the normal Windows Explorer, right-click, and choose “Open Command Window Here”. One method is shorter and harder, while the other is easier and slower. Take your pick.

  5. Type the following command in your MS-DOS window:

    qemu-img.exe convert -f vpc "XP SP3 with IE6.vhd" -O vmdk IE6-XP.vmdk

    Note that XP SP3 with IE6.vhd is the path to the IE6 VPC file you downloaded, while IE6-XP.vmdk is the new file that VMWare Fusion will use.

  6. Wait. This will probably take 5–10 minutes.

Configuring the VM

  1. Move the new .vmdk file to your Mac.

  2. Open VMWare Fusion (or shutdown the Windows VM you may already have running) and click FileNew.

  3. Go through the wizard and when you get to the “Virtual Hard Disk” page, expand “Advanced disk options”, check “Use an existing virtual disk” and use the dropdown to find the new .vmdk image you just copied back to your Mac.

  4. Finish the wizard and start it! If prompted to upgrade the virtual hard drive, click “Yes.”

Installing the drivers and VMWare Tools

  1. With VMWare Fusion running, download and decompress vmware_xpsp3_drivers.tar.gz. Copy all of the resulting files to c:\windows\system32\drivers. Make sure you install these BEFORE the VMware tools!

  2. Download vmware_mouse.reg and double-click it to load its settings into the Windows registry. VMware doesn’t correctly overwrite these setting upon install of the VMware tools, and the mouse can start doing wonky things. These registry settings fix it.

  3. In VMware, click Virtual MachineInstall VMWare Tools.

  4. Follow the instructions. If Windows asks for additional drivers, point it to c:\windows\system32\drivers.

  5. Make sure that you shutdown the VM and configure your memory (etc.) settings appropriately.

Ryan Parman

is an engineering manager with over 20 years of experience across software development, site reliability engineering, and security. He is the creator of SimplePie and AWS SDK for PHP, patented multifactor-authentication-as-a-service at WePay, defined much of the CI/CD and SRE disciplines at McGraw-Hill Education, and came up with the idea of “serverless, event-driven, responsive functions in the cloud” while at Amazon Web Services in 2010. Ryan's aptly-named blog, , is where he writes about ideas longer than . Ambivert. Curious. Not a coffee drinker.