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IE x 3!

November 06, 2003 thumbnail of screenshot of IE5 in action

Ethan, excellent find! The big news for today is that it is possible to get multiple versions of Internet Explorer running on a single Windows box.

Joe Maddalone has written up the process in detail, and while there could be a couple of tweaks to make it easier to understand, I was able to follow it and verify that, yes indeed, IE5.01, 5.5 and 6.0 can all run on the same computer. Here’s my screenshot of IE5.01 in action on an XP box normally running IE6.0.

Great thinking Jon, this is exactly what we need! Now the question is, as Matt Haughey puts it, what possible explanation would keep them from releasing the simple info and making developers the world over happier to use MS products? I’m hoping to get an answer. Stay tuned.

update: Luke Redpath has put together a great set of colour-coded icons for the various IE installs.

Reader Comments

November 06, 01h

BTW, if anybody wants some alternate icons to use for shortcuts to their multiple versions of IE, I’ve put together 3 here:

Nothing special, just IE logo on a white box with matching color border, three colors, blue green and red. No text label, couldn’t get anything readable at a small size. Icon includes 48, 32 and 16 square size.

November 06, 01h

My brain just about exploded when I saw how cool this was. I plan to keep these up as long as humanly possible, and I will try to add Windows 98/Me-compatible versions by this weekend. This is, of course, as long as Microsoft doesn’t kick my ass over it. =)

November 06, 01h

Been tracing a lot of traffic back this way.. Thanks Dave!

If anyone has new findings I’d be more than happy to add them to the existing article which keeps getting updated thanks to all the support out there.

I am currently trying to find time to keep up actually, but it is really fun.

By the way, my name is Joe Maddalone, not Jon… thanks!

Dave S. says:
November 06, 01h

Sorry about the name glitch Joe; fixed here and on WaSP.

John says:
November 06, 04h

Thanks Joe and also skyzyx. Works a treat and is what can only be described as “value adding”.



November 06, 04h

There is a fairly legitimate box model correction technique that does not work with IE5.* installed in this manner. The idea is to use a proprietary hack to solve a proprietary problem, calling in a stylesheet with box model corrections in this manner:
<!–[if lt IE 6]>
<style type=”text/css” title=”stylesheet” media=”all”>
@import url(/css/IE5LayoutFix.css);
The problem is that while these stand alone installations behave in every manner like IE5.*, they think that they are IE6. Go to Help -> About to see what I mean.

November 06, 05h

For Linux users the possibility to run multiple versions of IE has existed as long as Wine ( was able to run them. Just create different wine installations and wrapper scripts for each of them. Instructions for IE501, IE5.5 and IE6-SP1 are available at

The only problem I’ve encountered so far was that IE on Linux doesn’t display PNG’s at all.

MikeyC says:
November 06, 06h

I’m freaking out!!! ;)

Last year I installed IE3 on XP under the impression that it could co-exist with IE6 thinking it was the last standalone version of the browser before being integrated into the OS (mabe it was IE2?). Let’s just say I really messed up my system. IE3 was running fine, but IE6 was trashed and I was getting all sorts of system errors and had to do a reinstall. So I am bit reluctant to try this myself until I know it’s safe. So to those brave souls out there: have you noticed any weirdness yet?

November 06, 06h

These don’t have an installer. They’re just files that are zipped up. You can unzip them anywhere you want, and the only files that will run are the ones in the unzipped folder.

I’ve added more of the downloads to my site, , to include 98/Me versions of the browsers as well. I’ve also posted an IE6 which I’m about to test under 98 and 2000 (where IE5.x is the installed version).

As I said on my website, I’ll keep them posted until Microsoft forces me to take them down.

MikeyC says:
November 06, 07h

Ryan:”These don’t have an installer. They’re jusr files that are zipped up.”
Ryan:”I’ll keep them posted until Microsoft forces me to take them down.”
Hopefully by then enough of us will have copies/mirrors available…Brilliant!
Nils: “The idea is to use a proprietary hack to solve a proprietary problem”
I use conditional comments on my site to feed IE5 specific style rules to deal with its box model and you are correct: IE5/IE5.5 standalones think they are IE6, and thus, do not obey the comments.

Ruth says:
November 06, 08h

So basically, the only things that slightly screwy with the IE5 and IE5.5 hacked versions that everyone is currently installing are:

1. IE 5.0 and IE 5.5 behave like themselves, but think that they are IE 6. This only matters if one is using browser detection scripts.

2. Conditional comments don’t work in IE 5.0 and IE 5.5. This only matters if one is using conditional comments.

Browser detection scripts are decidedly unkosher, and I’ve never had occasion to use conditional comments (and besides, there are other good ways to feed IE-specific styles to IE only.)

In conclusion, life is now better for web developers. Joe Maddalone, you rock my world.

MikeyC says:
November 06, 09h

“…to use conditional comments (and besides, there are other good ways to feed IE-specific styles to IE only.)”
Other methods, like the voice family hack, have validation issues which is why I choose to use conditional comments and see nothing wrong with doing so. This, of course, is besides the point anyways. The issue here is simply people noting that these standalone versions do deviate in some ways and therefore you should be aware of the differences whether or not you personally use scripts or conditional comments.
“In conclusion, life is now better for web developers. Joe Maddalone, you rock my world.”
No argument there.

Ruth says:
November 06, 10h

“1. IE 5.0 and IE 5.5 behave like themselves, but think that they are IE 6. This only matters if one is using browser detection scripts.” (from comment #15)

Hmm, I probably should do a bit of testing before posting. Apparently, the hacked IE5.0 and IE5.5 browsers send out the proper user agent string; that is, they identify themselves as…themselves. The only place where they wrongly claim to be IE6.0 is under Help -> About.

So it looks as though browser detection DOES work for the hacked IE’s. Try going to using one of the hacked IE’s; the correct browser was detected when I did.

November 06, 11h

Best news I’ve heard in a while…just dloaded 5.01 and 5.5 SP2 and have got them all up and running. Finally been able to get my company site working in IE5.x *

* O/T: if anybody has had some unexplainable behaviour in IE5.x and is stumped, are you using the original Tantek box model hack? I found it’s caused me no end of rendering grief and reccomend switching to the high pass method instead.

November 06, 11h

This only reminds me how bad we had it back when the IEs were the best browsers available on Windows. How depressing.

But seriously, this will be a big help with design. Joe, you’re saving a lot of people from some headaches here. Thank you!

And thanks for pointing us in the right direction as usual Dave. :)

November 06, 12h

*mumbles something about the browser being inextricably intertwined with the OS, and not a standalone product…curses…then goes off to mod his second machine’s installation*

good stuff. thanks MS for keeping it a secret for so long…

Aaron S says:
November 06, 12h

If you’d like to get it directly without downloading 90MB and then deleting all but a dozen files, I’ve made a direct ZIP:

Dave S. says:
November 06, 12h

Smaller downloads of the final result are also available here:

Grab them fast; I’m pretty sure redistributing bits and pieces of IE this way violates a EULA, so they probably won’t be around long.

Ian Firth says:
November 07, 02h

A much more elegant solution is to just run VMWare. Yes it’s pricey, but for development, it can’t be beat. I have everything from IE 2.0 running on NT4 to the latest browsers on XP and Linux; all running on virtual machines.

pid says:
November 07, 02h

Just out of interest, (and in in no way do I mean to devalue Joes achievement), if it was this easy - doesn’t it make a mockery of MS’s various depositions to the effect that it isn’t really possible to separate the browser from the OS?

Or am I confusing myself?

Matthew Farrand says:
November 07, 03h

This works brilliantly with only two small problems that I can see- help|about gives the wrong browser version and trying to access the favorites menu crashes the browser. Accessing the favorites from the sidebar works fine though.

So why haven’t Microsoft told anyone about this? I can’t believe that it’s through ignorance and Microsoft must have had thousands of requests from developers wanting to run multiple versions of IE on the same machine.

Surely it can’t be because they thought that having more than one version of IE running on the same PC would undermine their court case?

talon says:
November 07, 04h

I remember the good old days of being able to run IE4 and IE5 side-by-side (in “compatibility mode” or something). This is fantastic, useful beyond expression, and so mind-numbingly mundane to users of just about any other browser you care to mention… nice one, Microsoft.

November 07, 05h

Ian “much more elegant solution is to just run VMWare”

hmmm, let’s see: not as elegant but completely free vs. elegnat but expensive ? each to their own i gues…if you have money to burn (a corporate budget or something) then yes, by all means. even more elegant: a room full of PCs all running the different versions of IE, and a troupe of assistants to hit the F5 whenever you upload a new version… ;)

pid: well, that’s what i meant with my first comment

LintHuman says:
November 07, 07h

I’ve got all three running on W2K. No problems, including the Favorites menu, which works OK on all three browsers and no crashing (yet…).

Many, many thanks to all concerned - this has made my working life easier and I’m all for that. Until the next IE comes along, anyway…

November 07, 07h

This really is quite a revolutionary development!

I suspect we will all find little things that need adjustment now, e.g. the font size on this very page, which suffers from IE5’s poorer inheritence control, I suspect.

Does the 3MB zip file size of each IE5 version suggest that IE is actually quite a lightweight browser? Or that each are using other files shared with IE6 elsewhere on the system (in which case, how can we be sure that those files are the same, i.e. result in a ‘genuine’ IE5 output?).

Chris M. Cooper says:
November 07, 07h

It’s a good possibility that MS didn’t know about this, because they are concerned about their software fully functioning as they intend it to (well, in theory). These standalones might work for web testing, but are nontheless just hacked versions that barely fulfill their functionality requirements. I doubt MS would spend the time to figure all this stuff out themselves because they would never release such a hacked version, or the details on how to do it, to the public.

I am surprised that someone hasn’t created a single piece of software that emulates the different rendering engines that IE has used since version 3, and can even report as the appropriate user agent. While they were at it, why not just add emulation modes for all the appropriate browsers? If I was a programmer, I would get on that right away. But I’m not.

Any volunteers?

LintHuman says:
November 07, 08h

Just noticed that my IE5 and 5.5 have confused the Google and Radio toolbars. Using View>Toolbars>Radio displays the Google toolbar and View>Toolbars>Google displays Radio.

I’m hoping that this is caused by the implementation of features shared between the browsers and it’s not an indication of deeper problems that cast doubt on the ‘behavioural integrity’ of each browser.

November 07, 08h


Nah, IE 5.x has always been like that. There’s even a warning to that effect on the Googlebar download page. ;)

Michael R. Havard says:
November 07, 09h

I’m with Mr. Cooper. I think there should be a program much like MyIE2 that wraps all the browsers into a multitabbed testing facility where you can change the rendering engine on the fly.

sam says:
November 07, 09h

having no luck with the zip versions for win98. the exe’s just seem to load the currently installed ie6 version. unzipped them both to a new folder on my system, tested user agent against and tried some css but everything is just ie6 still for both the 5.5 and 5.01 exe’s. for example if i run the 5.01 exe, and then click a shortcut for an html file, it will not open in a new window but just load in the window open for 5.01. so clearly for some reason the 5.01exe/5.5exe are just loading ie6 still….
had avant installed (for convenience) so took that off, reinstalled ie6sp1, and still no difference. trawled the registry for any pointers, but after 4 hrs frustration not sure what else i can try! anyone tried the win98 versions, or any advice for this PLEASE PLEASE!! feel i am missing out on something monumental here….

Dave S. says:
November 07, 09h

Sam: ” feel i am missing out on something monumental here…”

You’re using Win98, aren’t you used to that by now? ;)

(sorry, sorry, just couldn’t let that one pass…)

Michael R. Havard says:
November 07, 09h

Yeah we’re having zero luck with the NT4 zips either. They’ll report IE5 as the user agent string but it’s not using the IE5/5.5 html/css rendering/scripting.

November 07, 10h

I just installed MSIE 5.01 and MSIE 5.5 alongside MSIE 6 on Windows 98, and the pages do render differently in all three - worst in MSIE 5.01 of course.

I’ll have to test more thoroughly to see if it’s really 100% bug-complete 5.01 rendering, and really 100% bug-complete 5.5 rendering.

November 08, 04h

The version string within the dialog box IE grabs from the registry (HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Version) but has nothing to do with the internal version. Its only for displaying inside this box.

So the internal version has to exists inside another dll. I checked all local dlls but can’t find it. Filemon and Regmon doesn’t show an important information. Perhaps it’s a function call or imbedded data within a system dll…

tomjleeds says:
November 08, 06h

“Does the 3MB zip file size of each IE5 version suggest that IE is actually quite a lightweight browser? Or that each are using other files shared with IE6 elsewhere on the system (in which case, how can we be sure that those files are the same, i.e. result in a ‘genuine’ IE5 output?).”

Files are shared with the Windows GUI. Notice how if you type a URI into Windows Explorer it suddenly turns itself into IE?

When IE6 SP1 first appeared, I upgraded from IE6 (purely to keep up) and had huge JavaScript problems. I attempted an uninstall, choosing the option to “Return to previous Windows configuration”. All went fine until I re-booted. The un-installer had forgotten to put back a load of the old files - leaving me with no access to programs etc. I was running WinME on that box at the time, so my attempts to hit Ctrl+Alt+Del and run Explorer.exe from the Task Manager were fruitless.

Anyway, the point of that is to show that a lot of the files that IE uses are part of Windows. It is possible to remove IE from Windows, however the pathetic amount of diskspace saved isn’t worth the risk.

November 09, 07h

Well, I’m surprised nobody has tried this with IE4.01 yet. Okay, so I tried it. And I’m typing this in IE4.01. To be honest, I’m not sure how accurate this is but Dave, your site doesn’t look so good. :) My only problem right now is that the address bar isn’t working. I had to open up the search bar and do a search on Google in order to bring up any pages. My trick for getting it working was the same as IE5 and IE5.5 as indicated on the site. If I have time I’ll see about putting together a downloadable streamlined version.

MikeyC says:
November 09, 08h

“Well, I’m surprised nobody has tried this with IE4.01 yet.”

It looks like it just dropped:

MikeyC says:
November 10, 05h

Anyon else getting a “syntax error” alert box on every page visited in IE4? Just curious.

November 10, 06h

IE3 and IE4 (address bar working) available here:
(mirrored here
and I guess soon at skyzyx’s)

we’re all so freakin’ happy about this!

November 10, 06h

I noticed on one page that it was a regexp that caused the problem. I haven’t done an exhaustive test to prove that theory, though.

MikeyC says:
November 10, 07h

“Luke Redpath has put together a great set of colour-coded icons for the various IE installs.”

The icons are great and all but I personally don’t like to clutter my taskbar with so many IE icons that are sure to confuse my parents when they try and surf the web–haven’t been able to convert them to Firebird yet ;)

I’ve created an HTA that uses a bit of VBScript to launch various browsers on my system. I’ve placed a shortcut to the HTA on my taskbar to access it directly. It works for me.

This is what it looks like: If you care to try it out yourself feel free to grab a copy: It’s mapped to my system so you would have to remap the paths to the executables to use it.

November 11, 01h

I just updated the mirrors list at to reflect the mirrors that Manuel has informed me of. I’ve also added some clarification on compatibility and version issues that have been cropping up…

Hope this helps!