...when they rolled out Internet Explorer 8 Beta 1 earlier this week is that they would be offering a "canned" version of IE8. As I suggested, the safest way to try IE8 is by running it on a virtualized operating system. Well, great minds think alike, and Microsoft has now put up the download links you need to make it easy - and safe - to try IE8.
Download, Add VPC 2007, and Stir
For some time, Microsoft has offered combinations of Windows XP SP2 and IE6 or IE7 as preconfigured virtual hard disk (.VHD) files you can run with Virtual PC 2007. Now, it's added a VHD featuring Windows XP SP2 and IE8 Beta 1 to the list (IE8_VPC.EXE, 438.6MB). Choose your favorite combination at the Internet Explorer Application Compatibility VPC Image webpage. You can also take Windows Vista with IE7 for a spin (IE7-VIS1.exe). However, there's no word on whether Vista + IE8 will be offered - or when.
Take It for a Test Drive - until July
These preconfigured images aren't "dead in 30 days" demos, either. The images expire on July 3, 2008, so you have plenty of time to see what's happening. Read on to see how easy it is to get started with Virtual PC.
What You Need to Get Started
Because these .VHD image files contain both a host operating system and your choice of Internet Explorer "flavor," all you need is a free copy of Virtual PC 2007. Here are condensed instructions to get your VHD image up and running.
1. Download the VHD image file you prefer and note its location.
2. Install Virtual PC 2007. You can install it on Vista Business, Enterprise, or Ultimate editions (you'll be prompted for administrator credentials, thanks to UAC), or on Windows XP Professional, XP Professional x64, or XP Tablet PC editions. Read over the release notes before continuing.
3. Start Virtual PC 2007.
4. Click New to create a virtual machine with the New Virtual Machine wizard.
5. Select Create a Virtual Machine. Click Next to continue.
6. Enter a name for the VM, such as Windows XP + IE8 Beta 1. Click Next to continue.
7. Select Windows XP as the operating system. Click Next to continue.
8. Select Adjusting the RAM to allocate more RAM. Click Next to continue.
9. Adjust the allocated memory to 512MB (if you have 1GB or more RAM in your host system). Click Next to continue.
10. Select the option to use an existing virtual hard disk (.vhd). Click Next to continue.
11. Browse to the location of the VHD file you downloaded in Step 1 and select it.
12. To enable changes to the VHD file to be saved, click the Enable Undo Disks checkbox. Click Next to continue.
13. Click Finish.
14. Click Start to run your virtual machine. After it boots, you have Wndows XP SP2 running IE8 Beta 1 running in a window on your desktop!
Getting Networks to Work in Your VM
By default, the Windows XP VM installs a virtual Intel network adapter driver that is linked to the physical network adapter in your system. By default, it points to the Ethernet adapter on your system. If you can't get it to work, or if you need to have it point to your system's wireless adapter, see the following websites for advice:
Digit-Life has a great, well-illustrated multi-part series on networking in VPC and Virtual Server.