The definition of a web site that refuses to upgrade is one that does not "understand" anything other than Internet Explorer 6 or 7. For many this is a constant source of frustration for three very good reasons:

  1. Internet Explorer 8 has been in existence for almost seven months at the time of this writing. The administrators of these "IE only" web sites couldn’t figure out how to write in support for 8 in this span of time? Apparently not.
  2. Many choose not to use IE, but they’re out of luck when certain web sites will only support IE 6/7 and nothing else.
  3. Windows 7 comes provided with IE 8 (unless you’re in the UK.) These computers will be on the shelves very soon and in come places already are. What does one do in that situation since they can’t "degrade" to IE 7 or 6 just to get certain web sites to work?

There are two ways to get around problematic web sites like this.

Method 1. Using IE 6 or 7 in WINE for Linux

WINE has had the ability to run a whole bunch of different IEs for some time now. Versions 1 all the way thru 8 are available, but the ones you would be interested in for compatibility’s sake are 6 and 7.

The only problem you may encounter running IE this way is that certain plugins for IE may not work when used in WINE. This is rare, but it can happen if it’s some ActiveX oddball plugin or something like that.

Method 2. Windows 2000 or XP virtual PC

On my Windows 7 desktop I purposely keep a barebones setup of XP running with IE 6 in VirtualBox. When I upgraded to Win 7 I already had an existing fully licensed copy of XP Professional Edition, so that’s what I have used in the virtual PC.

In Windows you have three major choices for computer virtualization, that being the aforementioned VirtualBox, Microsoft’s Virtual PC or VMware. I choose VirtualBox because it operates exactly the same in Windows, Mac or Linux – and I truly like that kind of compatibility because no matter what OS I’m on, VirtualBox is always familiar. However you may like Virtual PC or VMware better as far as your personal preferences are concerned. I will say the easiest of the bunch is Microsoft’s version because it’s very straightforward – but it only works under Windows.

Setting up your virtual PC with IE 6 or 7, and other notes

If you have a fully licensed OEM disc of Microsoft Windows XP, such as I do, this comes with IE 6 as its bundled web browser. What I’ve done in my virtual XP PC is used Microsoft Update to patch up every single thing I possibly could except the browser. This can be done easily. What I have is an XP that does have IE 6 for those web sites that absolutely refuse to work right with anything else.

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VirtualBox running XP Professional Edition with the IE 6 browser

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A bunch of updates in the virtual PC with XP, including Service Pack 3 – but still on IE 6

It is the fortunate case that web sites that are IE6-only are dwindling slowly but surely off the internet, but instead of embracing multi-browser capability, they’re latching on to IE 7 which is just as bad.

For the time being, I use a virtual XP with IE 6 and if I have to go to 7, this can be downloaded without going to 8 with XP, and I’m sure Microsoft will be keeping this download on their web site for at least a few more years.

Even if you are running XP with IE 8 now and plan to stick with that for a while, you can still use Virtual PC or VirtualBox to install another Windows XP (assuming you have another legal licensed copy) with IE 6 or 7. This will work fine.

The only thing you cannot do is have both IE 7 and 8 in the same Windows OS at the same time. While that would be really great if you could do that, it’s simply not an option. The easiest workaround is to have a virtual PC with a previous-generation browser.

For those of you out there who do not have another legal copy of Windows, my suggestion is to use VirtualBox and install a distribution of Linux, such as Ubuntu, and use IE 6 or 7 via WINE. Most distributions make this very easy to install, and I may even write up another article on how to do just that so it’s even easier for you.