VirtualBox: Testing IE on Your Mac

VirtualBox LogoAs a long time Windows user recently converted to Mac, I’m surprised that I don’t miss more programs than I do. Unfortunately, the most popular browser Internet Explorer (though my least favorite), hasn’t run natively on Apple’s operating system since 2003. With Internet Explorer users accounting for at least 50% of our sites’ traffic here at the Academic Health Center, it’s imperative that we ensure our pages render properly on the most popular browsers, of which IE reigns king (for now). So how do we test without resorting to a separate Windows workstation? That’s where VirtualBox steps in.

Why VirtualBox?

There are many commercial virtualization software solutions on the market today (e.g. VMWare, Parallels, etc). While their setup and integration with Mac OS is more streamlined and user-friendly, their price tags tend to be a bit hefty for testing a single application – in our case, Internet Explorer. VirtualBox happens to be the only major, freely available open-source virtualization product, and it seems to fill the void perfectly fine. If your needs exceed testing beyond Internet Explorer, you may want to consider the aforementioned virtualization solutions.

One major drawback, however, is that the online documentation may needlessly be overly-cryptic and complicated for the average end-user. These instructions are intended to simplify the process a bit. Hopefully this will save some of you the hassle and time I went through on my initial installation of VirtualBox.

Installing VirtualBox

*Before we get started, make sure you have a licensed copy of Windows XP/Vista/7 on hand to install on your shiny new virtualized environment.

Step 1

Insert Windows disc.

Step 2

Download VirtualBox: http://www.virtualbox.org/wiki/Downloads

Step 3

Install VirtualBox. Click ‘New’ option in top left to begin the ‘New Virtual Machine Wizard’.

  • Give it a name and select the operating system relevant to your enviornment.
  • Allocate memory to your VM.
  • Make sure ‘Boot Hard Disk’ is selected, then choose ‘Create new hard disk’.

Step 4

Complete the ‘New Virtual Disk Wizard’.

  • Select ‘Dynamically expanding storage’.
  • Select hard disk size (I used default of 20GB)

Step 5

Click on the newly available green ‘Start’ button, this will begin the ‘First Run Wizard’.

  • It should automatically detect the Windows 7 disc and will proceed to install on the VM.

Step 6

We could stop here, but there’s some additional functionality missing. The default mouse behavior is incredibly annoying, as it gets ‘trapped’ inside the VM. Additionally, it’s difficult to resize the VM window. To solve these issues there’s an add-on for VirtualBox called Guest Additions.

Step 7

Mount to disc using a program like PowerISO, MagicISO. Double click from ‘My Computer’ to install. Now you should be able to easily resize your VM window and click back and forth from Windows to your Mac OS with ease.