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  • The Ultimate Cross-Browser, Cross-Platform Testing Setup for Web Developers

    We here at HyperArts recently put together a single Windows machine that handles all of our cross-browser, cross-platform testing needs. We wanted to get rid of the desktop Windows PCs we were using for testing because they were getting slower over time and, frankly, they were taking up precious desk (and leg) space at the office.

    We replaced them with a Dell Precision M4600 Mobile Workstation that runs Windows 7 and two virtual machines.

    Our Cross-platform, Cross-browser Testing Requirements

    Prior to putting the new testing machine together, we first had to identify what we needed in order to test websites and HTML email on the various Windows OSs most used today. Here was our list:

    Windows 7:

    Outlook 2010, Windows Mail (Windows Live Mail).
    In IE 9 test: Hotmail, Gmail, AOL, Yahoo, Microsoft Exchange (aka Outlook Web Access).
    In Firefox test: Hotmail, Gmail, AOL, Yahoo, Microsoft Exchange (aka Outlook Web Access).

    Windows Vista (Business Version):

    Outlook 07, Windows Mail (Windows Live Mail).
    In IE 8 test: Hotmail, Gmail, AOL, Yahoo, Microsoft Exchange (aka Outlook Web Access).
    In Firefox test: Hotmail, Gmail, AOL, Yahoo, Microsoft Exchange (aka Outlook Web Access).

    Windows XP:

    Outlook 2003, Outlook Express 6, Thunderbird.
    In Google Chrome test: Hotmail, Gmail, AOL, Yahoo, Microsoft Exchange (aka Outlook Web Access).
    In IE 7 test: Hotmail, Gmail, AOL, Yahoo, Microsoft Exchange (aka Outlook Web Access).

    The Right Laptop PC for the Job

    Setting Up Multiple Windows Operating Systems – OS’s – on One Laptop PC

    Our challenge was to get all of the Windows OS’s on one machine and have them run the essential software listed above.

    The way to make this happen is to run the latest release of Virtual PC on a Windows 7 machine. According to this wikipedia article, the minimum system requirements to run Virtual PC are:

    • Computer running Windows 7 (all editions except Starter)
    • 1+ GHz processor (32- or 64-bit)
    • 1.25 GB memory required, 2 GB recommended
    • Additional 15 GB of hard disk space per virtual Windows environment recommended
    • Optional: if the processor supports hardware-assisted virtualization technology such as AMD-V or Intel-VT, it will be used. Before March 19, 2010, such a processor was mandatory.

    The Dell Precision M4600 Mobile Workstation

    With this in mind, we chose the Dell Precision M4600 Mobile Workstation. This machine exceeded all the minimum requirements to run Virtual PC. It has:

    • Windows 7 Professional with XP mode
    • Dual Core 2.50GHz Intel Core processor that supports Intel-VT
    • 8GB of memory
    • 500GB of hard disk space

    Virtual Machines

    You’ll notice that the Dell computer came with something called “XP mode.” Windows XP Mode (XPM) “is a virtual machine package for Windows Virtual PC containing a pre-installed, licensed copy of Windows XP Professional with Service Pack 3 as its guest OS.” This takes care of the Windows XP environment we need for testing.

    To run Windows Vista in a Virtual PC environment, we needed to acquire a full-licensed copy of Windows Vista Business edition ($108.99 at Amazon).

    We also purchased Office Professional 2010 which includes the Outlook 2010 we need for testing on Windows 7. We already had licenses for Outlook 2007 and Outlook 2003.

    After procuring these items, we moved quickly to the task of setting up the Virtual PCs. The Dell we bought already had Windows XP Mode installed. If you need to install Windows XP Mode, download the installer here and follow the steps below (Note: Windows XP Mode is only available in Windows 7 Enterprise, Windows 7 Professional, and Windows 7 Ultimate). The steps to installing Windows Virtual PC and Windows XP are:

    To install Windows Virtual PC and Windows XP Mode

    1. Download Windows Virtual PC and Windows XP Mode installers from the Windows Virtual PC Web site (
    2. Install Windows XP Mode by double-clicking the file WindowsXPMode_nn-NN.exe (where nn-NN is the locale code, for example, en-US) and then completing the wizard that opens.v
    3. Install Windows Virtual PC by double-clicking either of the files Windows6.1-KB958559-x86.msu or Windows6.1-KB958559-x64.msu, as appropriate for your processor type.
    4. Restart the computer.
    5. Once the computer has restarted, click Start, click Windows Virtual PC, and then click Windows XP Mode.
    6. Complete the wizard that opens. Be sure that you record the password provided during the setup process because you will need it to log on to the virtual machine.


    Installing Vista on Windows Virtual PC

    To install our Windows Vista Business edition on the Windows Virtual PC, I followed steps 3-7 and steps 13-21 on this page (

    Installing Other Programs

    While in each Operating System, virtual or otherwise, I proceeded to install programs from the install disks we had. For example, I installed Outlook 2007 on Windows Vista and Outlook 2003 on Windows XP. With the Office Professional 2010 disk, I installed the entire Office suite of apps, including Outlook 2010, on Windows 7.

    Setting Up the Various Windows Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome and Safari Browsers

    By default, Windows XP (SP3) comes with IE 7, Vista with IE 8 and Windows 7 with IE 9, so these browsers should already be installed on the machine. Recently, however, Microsoft started to automatically upgrade browsers to a higher version. To prevent Microsoft from doing this, you need to download and install the following toolkits from Microsoft:

    I then proceeded to install the other browsers to test on the main OS and the virtual machines: Chrome, Firefox and Safari.

    Let me know if you’ve come up with a different approach, or your thoughts on our approach!

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