Brett Stimmerman

IE VPC Images Now with WGA

09 September 2009

Just when I was on a virtualization roll using VirtualBox for testing IE on my Mac, Microsoft stopped me dead in my tracks. The latest version of Internet Explorer Application Compatibility VPC Images now have the anti-piracy features of Windows Genuine Advantage enabled.

The hardware signature detected when a VPC image first boots in a non-VPC host is different from the signature present when the image was first created, presumably in VPC. This difference triggers WGA’s re-activation requirement to make sure you’re not a dirty pirate. Of course you’re not a dirty pirate, but if you wish to re-activate Windows you’re going to need the original Windows Product Key which isn’t provided with the VPC images. Microsoft has effectively blocked end users from hosting the VPC images with anything but Virtual PC.

To their credit, Microsoft has done a great thing by providing these VPC images free of charge, and it makes sense they would use their own virtual disk format for distribution. But it doesn’t make sense for them to deny non-Windows (thus, non-VPC users) the ability to use the images.

One of the largest complaints I hear from web developers who work in a non-Windows environment is the difficulty of testing in IE. Until recently, VirtualBox was working quite nicely for me in this regard. Microsoft would be doing another great thing by loosening the reigns a bit. Alternatively, they could release Virtual PC for other operating systems.