Microsoft is now offering an updated collection of free Windows client offerings via its Download Center.
Two free Windows 7 downloads are available directly from the Redmond company, accompanied by Windows Vista and Windows XP releases. The OSes are packed inside pre-configured virtual hard disk images, but otherwise they’re fully functional copies of Windows.
The software giant has even made sure that customers can grab the three operating systems upgraded to the last Service Pack for each platform, namely SP1 for Windows 7, SP2 for Windows Vista and SP3 for Windows XP.
The new Internet Explorer Application Compatibility VPC (Windows Virtual PC) images posted on the Microsoft Download Center are offered free of charge, as was the case with previous such releases.
Microsoft continues to insist that the IE Application Compatibility VPC images come to help web developers better test the websites they’re building in multiple versions of Internet Explorer.
In this regard, each Windows virtual image also packs specific versions of IE. But of course, there are no actual restrictions as to their usage, or who can access them.
Two images contain Windows 7 Service Pack 1 (SP1), and the remaining two pack Vista SP2 and XP SP3. Customers can use the password: “Password1” for all the user accounts set for each OS.
“You may be required to activate the OS as the product key has been deactivated. This is the expected behavior. The VHDs will not pass genuine validation. Immediately after you start the Windows 7 or Windows Vista images they will request to be activated,” Microsoft said.
“You can cancel the request and it will login to the desktop. You can activate up to two “rearms” (type slmgr –rearm at the command prompt) which will extend the trial for another 30 days each time OR simply shutdown the VPC image and discard the changes you’ve made from undo disks to reset the image back to its initial state.
“By doing either of these methods, you can technically have a base image which never expires although you will never be able to permanently save any changes on these images for longer than 90 days.”
Windows 7 and its predecessors can only have a single version of Internet Explorer installed at any given time. This default behavior hurts web developers that need to test their projects in multiple IE releases, sometime on the same machine.
Hopefully, the Internet Explorer Application Compatibility VPC images will simplify testing. At the same time, the VHD downloads provide free Windows releases that can be leveraged in additional testing scenarios, with the only caveat being that they need to run inside virtual machines.
Microsoft detailed the contents of each of the Internet Explorer Application Compatibility VPC downloads:
“Windows XP Image - Windows XP SP3 with IE6 VHD file and was fully patched to July 2011. This image also contains the install files for IE7 and IE8. If you want to have separate base XP images for IE7 and IE8, you can copy the VHD, rename it, and install the other desired version of IE. This image will shutdown and become completely unusable on November 17, 2011.
Windows Vista Image - Windows Vista SP2 with IE7 VHD file and was patched through March 2011. The install files for IE8 and IE9 are also available for install on the image.
Windows 7 IE8 Image - Windows 7 SP1 with IE8 VHD file and was patched through March 2011. The install files for IE9 are also available for install on the image.
Windows 7 IE9 + Tools Image - Windows 7 SP1 with IE9 VHD file and was patched through March 2011. This image also has the ACT Toolkit 5.6, IECTT, and Expression Super Preview software installed.”
Internet Explorer Application Compatibility VPC images are available for download here.