Using the New ThinApp 4.6 to harvest IE6 and package Legacy Applications

This week most of the cool kidz are at VMworld in San Francisco learning and playing with the latest technologies from VMware and Partners. I was not so fortunate to be there, but I had a chance to help a customer to virtualise their legacy applications using the latest release of ThinApp (4.6).

Yes, the new ThinApp 4.6 is also a hot topic at VMworld. If you didn’t have a chance to use ThinApp I recommend you to download the evaluation product and start packaging your applications.

This customer in specific has already been using VMware ThinApp for at least 4 months as part of the desktop strategy to move all workstation to Windows 7. They started using ThinApp after a major failure trying to utilise other application virtualisation products, not to mention names. Being a government department they have a crap load of legacy applications. Some of the applications are 15 years old, some based on Java 1.3 and others that will only work on Internet Explorer 6.

Using previous releases of ThinApp they have been able to virtualise those legacy applications whilst allowing different releases of Java to co-exist on the same Windows XP. If you recall, up to Java 1.3 only a single instance of Java was allowed per Windows. ThinApp also allowed them possible to package IE6 and run on Windows 7.

Couple weeks ago VMware released ThinApp 4.6. I consider this release to be a game changer in the application virtualisation industry. Why? ThinApp can now capture IE 6 and many of its plug-ins on a Windows XP machine. Used in conjunction with the ThinApp ThinDirect plug-in, installed on a user’s native browser, Web sites, or specific pages can be redirected to automatically open in a virtual IE 6 browser. In addition, an application that requires Internet Explorer 6 can be packaged with Internet Explorer 6, so that the application runs automatically on the virtual Internet Explorer 6.

Before ThinApp 4.6 to package a legacy IE6 + Java1.3 the process would be somewhat like:

  • Install Windows 2000 SP4
  • Install IE6
  • Run windows update > install update for BITS > reboot
  • Run windows update > Install Microsoft Installer update > reboot
  • Run windows update > install the following patches > reboot
  • Security Update for Internet Explorer 6 Service Pack 1 for Windows 2000 (KB905495)
  • Security Update for Internet Explorer 6 for Windows 2000 (KB958869)
  • Cumulative Security Update for Internet Explorer 6 Service Pack 1 (KB980182)
  • Install/Initiate ThinApp pre-Scan
  • Install java1.3 + registry changes > reboot
  • Install Application > reboot
  • Run post-scan

With ThinApp 4.6 the process is somewhat similar but the options are the key differentiation:

  • Install Windows XP SP3
  • Install/Initiate ThinApp pre-Scan
  • Install java1.3 + registry changes > reboot
  • Install Application > reboot
  • Run post-scan

Cutting the chase, during the post-scan you will have the option to harvest IE6 from Windows XP and run it in a fully visualised sandbox, or create an entry point for the default Internet Explorer installed in your Windows and run it inside the sandbox. This second option gives you the possibility to create a fully portable application package that will run in any release of Internet Explorer, or even being able to use a single default IE with multiple legacy java versions – in my case 1.3.


From the release notes, other features I consider industry killer are:

  • ThinApp ThinReg application enables a virtual service to be installed as a physical service, so that it starts when the physical machine is started. Any user can start and stop the service.
  • Internet Explorer 6 is supported for Windows 7 (32-bit and 64-bit) machines.

This customer is deploying ThinApp packages into their base SOE but their desktop strategy is already defined and ThinApp is a key component to allow them to migrate to Windows 7. In the future they will stream the packages from a centralised network share. Once they are ready for VDI adoption the last thing they will have to worry is about application compatibility.

It’s not uncommon to see 20% of the applications causing 80% of the issues for IT administrators. Take a look at your application catalogue and identify legacy applications with heavy dependencies, and give it a go with ThinApp.

For more information and downloads visit


    • Squidly Man on 09/01/2010 at 12:20 am

    Nice write-up! I’m curious how well the Java 1.3/IE6 package works on Win 7. Does it kick Win 7 into a legacy mode at all?

  1. @Squidly Man
    Thanks for the comments. No, it runs naively on Windows 7 but inside the bubble/sandbox. The package we have created with Java 1.3 is fully working on Windows 7.

    • Squidly Man on 09/03/2010 at 7:54 am


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