Workspace Virtualization and Streaming Group

Running IE6, IE7 and IE8 Side-by-Side Using Symantec Workspace Virtualization 

05-18-2010 11:11 AM

Corporate IT continues to have the requirement to support multiple versions of IE given the dependence of legacy web applications on an older version of IE.  Symantec Workspace Virtualization provides a solution for running multiple versions of IE simultaneously “side-by-side” on a single Windows XP desktop. This article describes the rationale for supporting multiple versions of IE and how to get started virtualizing IE6, IE7 and IE8 to run side-by-side on Windows XP. Wondering about running IE6 on Windows 7? Read on.
The Internet Explorer (IE) web browser still commands a 64.55% market share (as of April 2010) among popular web browsers (according to Statowl ) . All versions of IE continue to be used with IE6 still garnering approximately 17%, IE7 33% and IE8 coming in at 50% of the overall market share of IE usage on the internet today. IE has become more standards based with each release, however, there are many web-based applications that are developed to a specific version of IE. This presents a challenge to corporations as they strive to use the more secure, current versions of IE but must also support legacy web applications that are tied to an older version of IE. 
The challenge faced by Corporate IT was highlighted in a recent article entitled “Like it or Not, Internet Explorer 6 Lives on in Corporate IT”. The report mentioned in this article demonstrated that IE6 is still the forth-most used browser in corporate IT. The challenge is that only one version of IE can be installed natively on the Windows operating system at a time.  This puts corporate IT in the difficult position of trying to support web applications targeted to the most current release of IE (IE8), while at the same time continuing to support legacy applications targeted to older versions of the IE browser. The solution to this problem seems straightforward. Simply ask the owners of the legacy web applications to upgrade them to work with the current version of IE!
Unfortunately, this is often easier said than done for a variety of reasons. Cost of a web application re-write, lost time and workforce changes are a few of the prominent reasons that legacy web applications are not upgraded to work with current versions of IE.
Whatever the reason, the challenge remains that multiple versions of IE are required to support the spectrum of web-based applications required by corporate IT.  
Symantec Workspace Virtualization (SWV) provides a solution to this problem by allowing IE6, IE7 and IE8 to be virtualized and run “side-by-side” on the same Windows XP system.
 IE6, IE7 and IE8 Running Side-by-Side using SWV

SWV enables multiple versions of IE to run “side-by-side” by isolating each instance of the browser to run within its own virtualized “layer” of containment. SWV provides the capability to configure the degree to which the virtual layers (i.e. virtualized applications) are isolated from each other and the base operating system. This isolation allows the instances of IE to run side-by-side virtualized and also together with a version of IE installed on the base operating system. They can be configured to share browser extensions and plug-ins, or locked down to the degree where they only have visibility into their own virtual layer of containment. If desired, the virtualized instances of IE can simply share the browser plug-ins (ie. Flash, Adobe Reader, etc) installed to the IE browser in the base operating system. Functionality such as  “drag and drop” between browsers and printing, “just work” without any additional configuration required.
The isolation provided by SWV of the virtual IE layers from the base operating system also protects the OS from being compromised by browser exploits. Any changes made to the system during a browsing session can be immediately discarded by “resetting” the virtual layer to its original "pristine" state. If a user unwittingly downloads a plug-in, ActiveX control or some other exploit that attempts to do damage to the OS, these changes are contained within a “writeable” area within the virtual layer. The original state of the virtual application is left untouched in a “read-only” area within the virtualized layer. If the browser begins to behave erratically or exhibits signs that an exploit may have taken place the virtual layer can simply be “reset”. Resetting the layer removes the “writeable” area and reverts the virtual application to its original "pristine" state. It is even possible to reset the layer from a remote location. If a user calls the help desk with a complaint that their browser is not functioning properly, the help desk technician can issue a reset to the virtual layer and within a few seconds the virtual browser is reverted to its original working order.
Users often download files from the Internet and install them without recognizing the potential for damage to their systems. The virtual layer containment also protects the system from downloaded files by capturing all activity related to installing downloaded files using a virtualized version of IE. Again, a simple reset will remove all downloaded files and modifications made to the system during the browsing session or subsequent installations of downloaded files.
SWV provides the benefits of running an application natively (visibility across applications, printing, file associations, shared plug-ins, etc) on the OS while at the same time protecting the system from potential exploits.
We’ve been discussing the benefits of virtualizing multiple versions of IE for corporate IT, however, developers of web applications stand to benefit from this as well. Web Developers are often asked to test their web applications against multiple versions of IE (usually IE6, IE7 and IE8). Imagine the convenience of loading all of these versions together on the same desktop! Testing becomes a simple as dragging and dropping the URL address from one IE instance to the next.

Getting Started

Getting started with virtualizing IE on Windows XP consists of three easy steps:

  1. Install SWV 6.1 SP1 (or higher) on a Windows XP system.
  2. Install the SWV Layer Definition Tool on the Windows XP system.
  3. Running a script to create an instance of virtual IE6, IE7 and IE8 on the system.


Installing SWV 

Download SWV from the existing customer download site ( or the Symantec Trialware site (
Creation of User account is required to download the software.
Select to download “Symantec Workspace Virtualization 6.1 SP1...”.  The download will include an evaluation license key that is required as part of the installation.
Invoke the contained installation file to install SWV on the system. Select to install the SWV Administration Tool as it will be used later.

Installing the SWV Layer Definition Tool

 Download the SWV Layer Definition Tool from Symantec Connect download site:
This tool adds the capability to create virtual layers from a layer definition file (LDF). Once installed, a command-line driven tool named “swvldf.exe” is available for use from the command prompt.

Installing the Virtual IE Applications (Layers)

The final step will make use of SWV and the SWVLDF.exe tool to create the virtual IE6, IE7 and IE8 layers. There is a separate LDF file for each version of IE. In order to install all versions of IE, the corresponding LDF file will need to be downloaded, extracted and the contained script executed (.bat file) in order for the virtual IE layer to be created.
The IE LDF files and associated executable scripts are available from the following links:
IE6 for Windows XP:
IE7 for Windows XP:
IE8 for Windows XP:
Some have asked, why not just make the IE packages available for download rather than requiring that the virtual IE packages be from LDF files? The answer is simple. Symantec does not have rights to package and distribute files owned by another vender. Use of LDF’s and the SWVLDF.EXE tool allows customers who are licensed to use the software in their environment to create the virtual packages for themselves. This mechanism also provides a way to create 100% reproducible packages without requiring customers to capture the install of the application in their environment. This is particularly useful for IE as it is problematic to attempt to capture IE installations. Attempting to capture an IE install will fail because of an existing IE installation already installed in the base operating system.
An LDF contains all the information required for SWVLDF.exe to download all required files from public websites, extract the contents and place them in a virtualized layer.

For more information on the process of using the SWVLDF tool please see the article “Virtualizing Internet Explorer Using the SWV Layer Definition Tool“.
Please be aware that it can take some time to create these virtual IE layers given that files must be downloaded and extracted as part of the process of creating the  virtual application layer. Especially in the case of virtualizing IE6 as it requires that Windows XP SP3 & SP2 be downloaded and extracted to obtain the appropriate files.
If a download fails for some reason or if the required file is already downloaded and available in your environment the SWVLDF tool can be instructed to skip downloading the file by placing the required file in a directory named “downloads” that exists in the same directory as the LDF file to be processed. Information about what files are required for each version of IE is found at the download links for the LDFs provided above.
After the IE Layer Definition Files have been applied, the virtual layers appear in the SWV Admin tool. Right click each “layer” and select the “Activate” action from the pop up context menu. As each layer is activated a corresponding icon will appear on the system desktop. IE is ready to be run.

What About IE6 on Windows 7?

The statistics concerning the continued use of IE6 in the corporate environment presents a challenge for those that plan to migrate to Windows 7 in the near future.  IE6 is not natively supported on Windows 7 so what is to be done about supporting legacy web applications that are tied to IE6? Microsoft’s answer is to use the “Windows XP Mode” included in Windows 7. This approach brings its own set of challenges. The Windows XP Mode technology consists of loading a Windows XP virtual OS image using the Virtual PC technology.  The drawbacks of this approach are:

  • Performance and increased system resources requirement. Loading an entire Windows XP virtual machine imposes a considerable performance hit just to access legacy web applications. The requirement to run a Virtual PC may also impose additional hardware cost as memory and storage may need to be upgraded to support this environment.
  • Corporate IT must support two desktop environments: Windows 7 and the virtual instance of Windows XP running on Windows 7. Installation of IE plug-ins and extensions must be managed for Windows 7 and the Windows XP, the same is true of software updates, etc. This automatically doubles the number of desktop workstations Corporate IT must support. This is not an appealing proposition for a Corporate IT staff that already has more on their plate than they can handle.

Fortunately, Symantec will soon deliver a virtual IE6 layer that will run natively on Windows 7 (32 and 64 bit) that will not have these drawbacks. The configurable isolation characteristics of SWV will even allow browser extensions (i.e. plugin-is) such as Adobe Flash, Adobe Reader and Java installed to the base operating system to be shared by the virtual IE6 layer. Other native functions such as printing and drag and drop will also be supported.
A public beta for interested customers is targeted for mid to late summer of 2010.
(If this is of interest to you, please make it known in the comments section provided at the end of this article!).
This is great news for those that are concerned about how legacy web application support may impact a migration to Windows 7. Symantec Workspace Virtualization will make supporting legacy web applications that are tied to IE6 as easy as importing and activating any other virtual application layer! Add to that the system protections provided by its inherent isolation characteristics and it is clear that SWV is an indispensible tool in Corporate IT’s Windows 7 migration toolkit.


Older versions of IE are not going away any time soon. Browser market share reports continue to demonstrate that there are a significant number of web sites, both inside and outside the enterprise, that require the use of older versions of IE to function properly. Symantec Workspace Virtualization makes it possible to run multiple versions of IE on the same Windows system “side-by-side”.  In the near future (mid to late summer 2010) a virtual IE6 layer will be made available for Windows 7 which will allow Corporate IT to move forward with plans to migrate to Windows 7 and continue to provide support for their legacy web applications.

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08-29-2011 03:33 PM

Hi Karl, since this is an older post I hope this will be an easy question for you.  We are using the IE6 layer with IE8 being the verison installed on our XP machines.  I have some shortcuts that get delivered with the layer to launch specific URLs in IE6.  The problem comes when someone is inside one of those browser sessions and clicks on something which then spawns a new browser window, because that new version will be IE8.  We are looking to see if there is a way to make IE6 be the "default" browser on specific machines.. but if we can only do it for specific URLs that will be better than nothing.


07-05-2011 12:46 PM

Regarding the Microsoft KB article for non-support for virtualizing IE - Symantec expects to support it's customers that need to virtualize IE. 

For customers that virtualize IE using Symantec's technology, the following KB details Symantec's support of Virtual IE:

Regarding the Microsoft representative statement for virtualizing IE as an "unlicensed solution", Symantec is unable to find specific information on IE licensing within Microsoft's standard agreements. 

Based on our experience customers may be subject to different or varying licensing terms with Microsoft.  Therefore, customers should review their own licensing agreements with Microsoft to ensure actions in compliance with their own licensing arrangements with Microsoft.

07-05-2011 04:29 AM

What achojwa is reffering to is also described in following KB article:

The possibility to virtualize IE6 on Windows 7 is very attractive, but unfortunatelly it seems to be against the license. Looking forward to hear what answer to you guys Microsoft will have.

12-16-2010 11:25 AM

Our Microsoft representative thrills us writing


- Running multiple versions of Windows Internet Explorer, or portions of Windows Internet Explorer, on a single instance of Windows is an unlicensed and unsupported solution. Microsoft strongly discourages the use of any solution or service (hosted or on-premises) that repackages the executable components of Internet Explorer, or portions of those components, into a separate installation. Any attempts to repackage Windows to execute multiple versions of Internet Explorer from such packages on a single instance of Windows will result in an unsupported configuration by Microsoft Customer Support Services.   This statement includes solutions that attempt to incorporate 揳pplication?level virtualization for running multiple repackaged versions of Windows Internet Explorer on a single operating system instance. 
- Microsoft supports solutions that enable virtualized usage of multiple versions of Windows Internet Explorer through a separate operating system installation. This means that only one instance of Windows Internet Explorer is supported per operating system.



My question is, where can we find official Symantec position with respect to its support to virtualized and cohexistent virtualized IE browsers?

thank you

10-07-2010 07:58 AM

I'm patiently watching this thread to see the official outcome of the references and/or research; as presented.  Especially because I was under the impression (and believe me, I'm no legal authority) that MS was forced to remove IE6 (specifically) from the Operation Systems years back?  That said, I'm not sure that OS references (even if specifically identified) would apply to IE, although I could see that if there were references to this specific to the IE EULA that it may have some impact.

I also find it unusual that IE licenses would include virtualization references or language, given the time frame in which IE6 was introduced - and the relatively low visibility of virtualization (in general) at that time.  And in most cases, the specific language included in similar references almost always indicate the purpose for the limitation or restriction (for use in dissemination, copy in part or in whole, etc).

But, as I said, I'm interested in the outcome.


10-06-2010 06:45 PM

We have reviewed as many instances of the Microsoft EULA as possible, and have been unable to find any references to IE and virtualization in any Microsoft license agreement (much less any reference to this scenario being prohibited).

Symantec legal is reviewing the Microsoft EULAs, as well, and we have reached out to Microsoft to get clarification.  

If any of you can provide specific instances of a Microsoft license agreement where it says this cannot or should not be done, or if any of you have received notice from Microsoft that this is not allowed, please let me know.

Leslie Bonsteel
Director, Symantec-Microsoft Alliance

10-06-2010 01:45 AM

The End User License Agreement (EULA) of both the Microsoft operating systems and the Internet Explorer supplemental EULA's prohibit the use of application virtualization software for this purpose. It is not allowed to virtualize operating system components this way.

Whatever the reason of virtualizing IE, the current license agreements do not allow this.

09-23-2010 09:01 PM

Gartner analyst Neil MacDonald has discussed the specific statements Microsoft are making here:

Sadly, Redmond doesn't  seem to be publishing anything specific on their site which makes it very difficult to discuss this in the IT community. For this reason I was hoping Symantec has addressed Microsoft's licensing concerns with this virtualization approach.

We are not overly concerned with support for IE6 in our organisation - IE6 will only be used for a handful of legacy apps that will eventually be decommissioned. The licensing issue is more alarming and a significant hurdle for us at the moment.

09-13-2010 05:46 AM

Microsoft has publicly stated via a KB article that, from a product support perspective, they will not support IE6 running on the same kernel as Windows 7.  For Symantec customers, we have specifically developed and are now supporting this solution on the same kernel as Windows 7 - meaning customers have a clear path to get support for running their IE6-dependent web applications on Windows 7.

As far as licensing goes, you'll need to quantify what you mean by Microsoft making "a lot of noise" on this issue.  Is there anything substantive you can point to such as a section in their license agreements, a KB article, or other credible source? 

09-13-2010 01:28 AM

Interesting product, however Microsoft are making a lot of noise about virtualising IE6 with these kinds of solutions being in breach of Windows licensing.

Do you know if Microsoft permit the use of this product to run IE6 from a licensing perspective? Has anyone consulted Microsoft specifically regarding this?

08-30-2010 04:40 PM

HI Karl,
Sorry for the lack of response.
I was able to get the isolation launcher as directed and it definitely helped with the various programs throwing the weird errors. (mstsc, adobe reader, etc. )

I still see the inetcpl.cpl error when trying to flush the temp folders, cookies, etc. but that may not be a critical but not sure at this time.
However, it seems everything else is ok now that it's isolated.


08-24-2010 06:25 PM

Hello, have you tried running IE8 isolated? That will usually solve problems of this nature. Please see:

You Create the IE8 layer first, then create the isolation layer for it (use the above link). 

08-24-2010 04:16 PM

We need Internet Explorer 6 running virtualized on Widows 7, as many people will. Sign me up for the beta!

08-24-2010 02:34 PM

Hi Karl,
I was wondering if there has been any progress made with the errors with virtual IE8 on XP? From what i have been seeing the more I use it is that plug-ins or other windows components that have some link into IE exhibits errors.
For instance, simply running MSTSC to remote into a system will produce an error about "iertutil.dll not found".  Click pass the errors and it works.


08-18-2010 10:37 AM

See the following article for more information on IE6 on Win7:

You can sign up for the beta at the following URL:

08-18-2010 10:24 AM

please add me to your beta list.

08-06-2010 03:07 PM

Yes. IE6

08-05-2010 11:44 AM

What do you have running in the base? IE6? 

08-05-2010 08:19 AM

HI Karl,
First off, great article. We're undergoing a lot of dev testing trying to get our company apps to support IE8 (yes we're behind the curve). I used your IE8 virtualized layer process and it works great. I even layered in the MUI pack for iE8 and mad it a dependeny layer for IE8 and that works too so it seems i'm almost ready to present this to our dev team.

I did find one issue that may seem to be an isolation thing or perhaps a global exclusion issue.
So far I have tested all the tools, settings, etc to make sure they work. The ONLY thing I have found is when you attempt to delete browsing history, cookies, etc. I get an error:
"Error loading C:\Windows\System32\inetcpl.cpl. The operating system cannot run %1."

Any ideas?


07-30-2010 12:24 AM

Thanks Karl.

07-29-2010 09:57 AM

It is available in beta. You can request access to the beta by registering your interest with Erik_Hughes AT symantec DOT com . He is the Product Manager for this solution.

07-28-2010 10:22 PM

hi karl does the ie6 LDF file for windows 7 already out ?

07-26-2010 10:29 AM

If the SID-* folder exists for an existing user in the RW sublayer then the USER_TEMPLATE area is not copied. The current version of the SWVLDF.exe fixes this when creating the layer by deleting the SID-* folder for the current user, thus forcing the USER_TEMPLATE content to be copied to the user-specific area of the RW sublayer.
If you recreate the layer using the version of SWVLDF.exe available at: that will fix it, 
OR you can force this copy to happen by deleting the SID-* folder yourself by navigating to c:\fslrdr\(RW Sublayer)\SID-* then activating the layer.

07-22-2010 11:16 AM

Have the IE layer working great but I am having trouble getting our default Current User registry settings imported into the layer.  I have tried exporting all of the registry settings to reg file and importing them into the layer but the Current User reg keys never shows up.  I have also tried importing them into USER_TEMPLATE but while they show up in the layer they don't change the user's IE settings.  What is the proper method for getting HKEY_CURRENT_USER registry setting into a layer? 

07-21-2010 04:29 PM

Good to know! I've had one other report of slow load times with IE6. This may have been the culprit in that case as well. SSVHelper is the Java Console and is really only needed for troubleshooting purposes and can be disabled without impacting the ability to run Java content within the browser.  Thanks for the feedback.

07-21-2010 04:11 PM

I found the issue; I disabled the Sun Microsystems SSVHelper Class in Manage Add-ons.  Am still able to keep the Java enabled with SSVHelper disabled.  Seems Java stills fucntions correct and now IE 6 layer launches normally.


07-21-2010 12:20 PM

Out of curiosity, if you reboot the system does the load time improve?

07-21-2010 12:09 PM

Kevin, try an isolated IE6 layer to see if that helps

07-21-2010 11:26 AM

With the IE 6 layer activiated; I've notice a 15- 20 second delay for IE 6 to open.  Are there any setting to improve the launch delay?


07-19-2010 11:20 AM

The easiest way would be to add shortcuts to an empty layer that is then made dependent on the IE6 layer. The shortcuts then become available when the IE6 layer is activated.
Do the following:
Activate the IE6 layer.
Create a shortcut on the desktop (right-click->New Shortcut). For the location of the item put something like the following:

"C:\Program Files\Internet Explorer 6\iexplore.exe" ""


Name the Shortcut "Yahoo from IE6"

Deactivate the IE6 layer.

Use SWVAdmin to create an empty layer.

Name it "IE6 Shortcuts". 

Double-click "IE6 Shortcuts".

Click the "Files" Tab. Expand "IE6 Shortcuts (Read only) \ System \ [COMMONDESKTOP]. Drag and drop the shortcut you created on the desktop to this folder. A file named "Yahoo from IE6.lnk" will be moved from the desktop to the [COMMONDESKTOP] folder. 

Activate the "IE6 Shortcuts" layer. The shortcut to be launched in IE6 will appear on the desktop.


Double-Click the IE6 layer in the SWVAdmin tool. Select the "Dependent Layers" tab. Right-click->"New Dependent Layer". Select "IE6 Shortcuts" from the list. 

Now the "IE6 Shortcuts" layer will be activated when the IE6 layer is activated.

I'm going to write an article on how to create shortcut layers using LDF files but the above sequence describes how to accomplish this manually. 

Finally, we are nearing a release of a "Whitelist" utility which is a Browser Helper Object for the IE installed in the base that will "select" the proper browser to invoke based in the URL. A configuration file can be used to define what URLs should be opened by a specific browser. Using this tool it would be possible to run IE6, IE7, and IE8 all side-by-side and have specific browsers invoked for specific websites. Stay tuned for more information on this tool.

07-16-2010 09:51 AM

I'm with Bala - How do we make certain websites use the IE6 layer as opposed to whichever version of IE is installed in the OS?  Shortcuts or an ini files or something?  Any info on this would be much appreciated.

07-16-2010 08:02 AM

Hi Karl,

Quick Question: How about creating URL shortcuts that will only launch in the virtual layer for IE6?


07-09-2010 04:09 PM

I am very interested in IE6 on Windows 7. Please let me know ASAP.


06-28-2010 03:08 PM

Hello Karl,

After executing running the "make-ie6-winxp.bat",  it does create IE 6 layer in SWV admin.  However, I received error when trying to activate it.  Here is the error.

The machine I used for this test has XP SP3, and IE 6 in OS.


06-22-2010 10:13 AM

1. Yes
2. SWV 6.1 SP4 will work fine (SP1 is the minimum version supported)
3. Integrated install should be fine.
4. It is generally a good idea to keep the most current version of IE in the base then it can take advantage of System updates.

06-22-2010 09:50 AM


Thanks for help.  The company likes to use this solution to upgrade IE 6 to IE 8 and also virtualize IE 6 for some applications.  I am going to test your solution this week, and have more questions as below.

1.  We have SVS 2.1.3062, 2.1.3064, and 2.1.3066 in intranet which were deployed by Altiris.  Can these versions be upgraded to SWV 6.1 SP1?
2.  On the link in your instruction, I can not find SWV6.1 SP1.  There are two SWV 6.1 SP4 packages on the web site.  Where can I download SWV 6.1 SP1?
3.  The company intranet will use SWS in the future,  and shall I use "integrated install" version?
4.  The company have IE 6 now.  Shall we virtualize IE 6 and then push IE 8?  What shall be recommended sequency to make this happen so that it will not have impact on end users?


06-21-2010 12:20 PM

1. Virtualized IE6 has been tested with Win XP SP3 so that is the recommended configuration. Yes, you can upgrade SVS2.x to SWV 6.1 (SP1 is required).
2. No dependency on SWS
3. No, running the SWV install will recognize existing SVS 2.x and upgrade to SWV 6.1.

06-21-2010 12:14 PM


I am very interested in Virtualize IE 6 on Win XP, and have the following questions.
1.  I have a Win XP SP2 with SVS 2.x.  Can I upgrade SVS 2.x to SWV 6.1?
2.  Does installation of SWV 6.1 have any dependency on SWS? 
3.  Do I need to remove SVS 2.x to install SWV 6.1?


06-18-2010 10:27 AM

The IE6 on Win7 Beta Administrator is making note of all requests for participation. Thank you!

06-18-2010 03:21 AM

please add me to your beta list.

06-17-2010 01:09 PM

I am interested in the beta testing for IE6/Windows 7

06-14-2010 08:48 AM

This will absolutely help in growing Windows 7 business as the biggest objective to not migrate is now fixed.

06-02-2010 03:43 PM

I am interested in the beta testing for IE6/Windows 7

05-25-2010 06:18 AM

We are looking at implementing Win7 but still need older IE.

05-24-2010 12:00 PM

We have NS7 development and test enviornments available and would like very much to participate in Beta testing.

05-21-2010 12:44 PM

05-21-2010 12:11 PM

05-20-2010 03:33 PM

I am interested in seeing the IE6 Windows 7 Beta.


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