I have checked out several links, and also this question: https://stackoverflow.com/questions/2565505/whats-the-best-way-to-do-cross-browser-testing

I came to the conclusion that the best way to do a 100% accurate cross browser test is to do virtualisation. I am creating a website with a responsive layout, so it would be good if I could re-size the browsers, so browser screenshots are not an option.

Now I want to know if there is an easy way to set this up. Are there already ready to download vm's available that work out of the box, or should everything be installed separately.

And if everything needs to be installed separately, how do I get the keys for all the windows installations?

6 Answers 6


Microsoft provides IE App Compat VPC Images for free for exactly this purpose. They have images for XP, Vista, and 7 with IE 6, 7, and 8 respectively. Installers for later browsers are bundled into the image to save you from hunting for the download. You can simply snapshot or clone the images to install the other browsers if you need to.

Note that the images do expire periodically, but MS has also refreshed the images with the latest available security patches and new expiration dates.

Depending on what you need, this may be enough. Otherwise you should look into a TechNet or MSDN subscription.

In order to help web designers and web developers test their websites in older versions of Internet Explorer, we've provided the following VHD with Windows set up with the specified version of Internet Explorer. The images are patched with the latest security updates and are otherwise clean installs of the operating system with very few modifications.

This download page contains different VPC images, depending on what you want to test. These images are specifically designed to run on Microsoft Virtual PC, and may or may not work in other hosting environments.

  • @Alex: What do you have in mind? I use IETester myself in combination with a couple of VMs (for which I have valid XP licences to avoid expiration). Cross-browser also often means cross-platform (including mobile) today. I have never seen anything that properly emulates the actual device results. Oct 10, 2013 at 20:19

If you are ready to invest some money, than you should try the tool Browserstack. They use real VMs on their server, to test your website in a real VM. So you can use many real VM without any additional ressource on your computer.

On this website, you have the possibility to choose one of three "plans" each one has a different pricelist.

  1. Live
    So you can do interactive testing of websites.
  2. Automate
    Run Selenium and Javascript-tests(additional informations)
  3. Screenshots and responsives
    Generates Screenshots and show how your website looks.(screenshots, responsives)

I highly recommend the "Live"-plan. Because with this, you can test it interactive and don't just see screenshots of rigid websites.

You have many options which you can configure and don't have to install VMs to test your browser.

How many browsers?
There are many, many different browsers. Too many, to list them here. Have a look at them.

How many operation-systems?
Here you have a list:

  • Windows XP
  • Windows 7
  • Windows 8
  • Mac OS X Lion
  • Mac OS X Mountain Lion
  • Mac OS X Snow Leopard
  • iOS
    • iPhone 3GS - iPhone 5S
    • All iPads
  • Android
  • Opera Mobile

Beside the normal public-website testing, you can also test local:

  1. Test any web server running on your desktop, staging environment, private internal setup, entries in your hosts configuration file, or even a public web server.
  2. Tunnel to any local server environment: Apache, IIS, MAMP, local Wordpress, etc.
  3. Test HTTP Secure (HTTPS) pages.
  4. Create simultaneous tunnel connections when your web application loads content from multiple servers, this fully supports static files served via CDN.
  5. If you have subdomains in your web application, you can test them by setting up multiple tunnel connections.
  6. Test local design files (HTML, CSS, JS, etc) in our remote browsers, without any need to run web server.
  7. Highly secure tunnel setup providing restricted access to your files only to YOU, in allocated virtual machine. For more read security documentation.


If you want to have a look at some configuration examples, click here.

Pre-installed debugging-tools
There are many different debugging-tools already installed. For example Firebug etc. If interested in a list, click here.

No installation required
Because Browserstack is cloudbased, you dont need to install anything on your computer.

As I mentioned before, there are many positive opinions.
For example had Microsoft tapped Browserstack to launch Modern.IE.

It's possible, to test the service with a free trial.

  • Assuming you don't work for them, and you think its a good tool, nothing wrong with talking about tools you use. Dosen't look like spam to me
    – Journeyman Geek
    Oct 11, 2013 at 11:18
  • Cool. happy to hear that. Thx.
    – Christian
    Oct 11, 2013 at 11:23
  • sounds good, but i still like the VM idea more. Since it is just can more "fit exactly" to target audience. For general testing, it would be better to do with some official stacks. The consideration is based on "authority".
    – user218473
    Oct 11, 2013 at 14:48
  • @AntonyLee Browserstack uses VMs. The tests will be made in VMs on their servers. So it is a real browser in a real VM.
    – Christian
    Oct 11, 2013 at 14:51
  • @Chris - What exactly is a "real" virtual machine?
    – Ramhound
    Oct 11, 2013 at 15:43

If you want it done right, well you've got to do it yourself.

There's a few things worth taking into account here - whether you're just checking rendering or functionality, and what versions you intend to support.

If you want to test functionality, nothing beats a VM -I'd suggest virtualbox or vmware workstation since you can do snapshots or clone VMs at specific states - which is easier than updating cause you accidentally replaced the old IE6 install you have on XP with IE7. You can also clone from a ideal/standard test state.

If you're wanting to test XP or better, MS's official images are at modern.ie.They should cover the spectrum of IE versions on windows should they work but these do expire though, and there's no way around that. You simply need to spin up a new VM when they do.

If you want to test other OSes that will run on a commodity PC, and you're using virtualbox, vagrant is a nice way to automate installs - you can add, remove and delete VM instances pretty much automatically using its commands.

If you want to test older, or unusual clients for some reason, spin up a VM with a suitable base OS you can get them off evolt, which maintains a fantastic repository of browser installers (though for some reason not firefox) or oldversion, which has a general repository of older software.

For mobile devices it gets trickier - android has a VM as part of its sdk, or you could use the x86 varient of it.

If you just want screenshots - browsershots is what I'd use - the other answers cover this in depth


An MSDN subscription is designed exactly for what you want. You get lots of keys for all the Microsoft operating systems, and you can setup a number of virtual machines, all with different browser levels. There is an annual cost for this though, but it's rather reasonable for all the licenses that you receive.

  • and i note the fees are for access, the installs remain functional even after the subscription ends
    – Journeyman Geek
    Oct 27, 2011 at 12:03
  • Thanks I will take a look at the pricing, and make my decision. Oct 27, 2011 at 12:33
  • @JourneymanGeek Technically you are supposed to stop using your MSDN subscription when it expires, and MSFT was talking about cracking down on that, so you should really not consider the VMs as eternal licenses but more of a rental while you are subscribed to MSDN. Oct 11, 2013 at 14:58

There are many such tools, free and commercial. Here are some of the better-known ones.

This browser sandbox supports Chrome 30, Firefox 24, Firefox Mobile 5, Opera 16, Opera Mobile 12, Opera Mini 6, Safari 5, Internet Explorer 10 as well as many legacy browsers.

Browsers run within an isolated virtual environment, where virtualized browsers behave exactly like installed browsers. Because they run locally, you can test web applications hosted on your own development machine or on internal servers.

Standard browser components are supported like Java applets and ActiveX controls as well as popular browser plugins like Firebug, IE Developer Toolbar, and CSS and JavaScript debugging consoles.

Browser Shots
If you have a website, you could use Browser Shots to obtain static screenshots of a URL on up to 130 browsers, while also specifying the screen size, color depth and the availability of JavaScript, Java and Flash.

Sauce Labs
Similar offering.

BrowserStack (commercial)
Instant access to 200+ desktop and mobile browsers on different Windows, Mac & mobile OS flavors. 3 months free testing.

Cross Browser Testing (commercial)
Similar offer, free 25 pages per month.

Browsera (commercial)
Similar offer, 30 days free trial.

Some Internet Explorer compatibility tools :
IETester (alpha release)
Utilu IE Collection

See this article for more : Review Of Cross-Browser Testing Tools.


I know I will get downvoted but have you heard of spoon.net ?

No need to work with vm. Just use spoon.net.. Download any browser, any version and you are good to go. Native browser in your hands.


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