position:relative and overflow in Internet Explorer

I've been working on this layout that had a relatively positioned element inside a container with overflow. Everything looked good until I switched to IE7 and noticed that my positioned element remained fixed.

Here's some code to demonstrate the problem:

<div id="container">
    <div id="a"></div>
    <div id="b"></div>

And the related CSS:

#container {
   border:1px solid blue;
#a {
#b {

The key thing to notice in this CSS is the overflow set to the container, and the positioning set to element B. Here's a screenshot to demonstrate:

overflow issue in IE7

This overflow bug is documented well and exists in IE6 as well.

To solve this, I added position:relative to the container. This seems to work for both IE6 and 7.

Published March 04, 2007
Categorized as HTML and CSS
Short URL: https://snook.ca/s/775


55 Comments · RSS feed
David Martin said on March 05, 2007

This may be the most frustrating bug I've ran into with IE7.

realazy said on March 05, 2007

Thanks for sharing, that is a helpful tip.

Matt Puchlerz said on March 05, 2007

I just ran into this bug last Friday. Thanks for the tip.

Sean S said on March 05, 2007

Yes. I've made it a point to give a relative position to any container elements when stuff like this arises in IE. In fact, it's debugging step 1 for me.

Derek Allard said on March 05, 2007

I had such high hopes for IE 7 also, and while on the whole I think there are some nice things in there (the zooming is nice... tabs finally...) I'm really disappointed with the overall lack of bug-squashing. They got a few of the notable ones, but many of the bugs we've all come to know and code-around are still there.

My biggest annoyance is actually a really (really) small thing. The lack of correct support for the <q> element...

Oh well, I guess that meant there wasn't any learning curve when IE 7 hit the streets

Jonathan Snook said on March 05, 2007

@Sean: interesting that you use relative positioning to fix IE bugs. Most layout issues are a result of hasLayout issues and I usually use zoom:1 to enable that (because it's fairly innocuous albeit non-standard).

@Derek: yeah, despite all the stuff that had been fixed, there's still a bunch of stuff that wasn't and while the next version will likely have considerable improvements, as well, I still think there will be plenty of issues outstanding.

Jermayn Parker said on March 05, 2007

Cool, thanks for that.

btw I think the zooming is annoying..

Kilian Valkhof said on March 06, 2007

Like Sean, all my debugging starts with adding a position: value to elements, mostly being position:relative.

In IE there seems to be a lot of difference between position:relative and position:static, and actively specificing the position seems better than a useless "zoom:1".

Charly said on March 06, 2007

Great, it works. But I can't really see why position:relative fixes this problem. But the Internet Explorer is always a mystery to me.

Nathan R. Garza said on March 06, 2007

I agree with Charly. I often feel like it's some kind of black magic, making ie work. Oh well.

Kilian Valkhof said on March 08, 2007

Charly and Nathan, the default value for position: in IE is static, as opposed to relative. That is what is causing the rendering problems

Rosemary said on March 08, 2007

I gave up on the 7 and demanded my 6 back. lol. This looks like a code I could use on my 6 also. Thank you.

OT: What do you do when IE seems to be offline?

Kuba Bogaczewicz said on March 27, 2007

argh... thanks a lot for the tip. I think I got a few grey hair today while fighting this bug. It looked like a hasLayout bug so I focused on searching the faulty container, but it never occured to me that I should try adding position: relative...
IE - works like magic: no one really knows how.

Ryan said on April 07, 2007

You don't know how much time and cursing you've saved me.

Paulo Fernandes said on April 30, 2007

Thanks for the tip. It's the first time I came across this problem and the help is much appreciated

Adam S said on May 02, 2007

Hmm, another issue that gets brought up for me - the exact same code renders differently for IE6 and Firefox (whatever latest build is as of May 2). Anyone else run into this problem?
For the example, go to my webpage and add testPositionRelative dot html at the end.

Bifferson said on May 07, 2007

You are awesome. Thanks a TON. Also, really glad to have found this site - nicest design I've seen all year, and what an awesome comment system!! I shall be frequenting :D

Gustaf said on May 09, 2007

awsome saved my night, thanks..

Joshua Works said on June 04, 2007

I'll just add my "thanks" to the list. There's an immeasurable value to posting these types of little tips & solns in such a succinct manner (yours was the first search result for "overflow in IE6"), and like the others, you've certainly saved me an hour or two of debugging.

David said on June 06, 2007

Thanks for the tip. Looking forward to an IE version without bugs (well, I can dream can't I :-)

Amila said on June 25, 2007

Thanks snook.I also had the same problem.I can solve that thanks again.

Jimbo said on June 28, 2007

This solved a problem I was having today... thanks for the tip.

Carlos said on September 03, 2007

thanks man, this really helped me.

tefdos said on September 11, 2007

thank you...thiss bug really bothered me,I got frustrated for a while..solution works like a charm...thanks again

Neil said on September 25, 2007

Thanks for this tip!

Dao By Design said on October 11, 2007

Snook you rock! I've been coming here to stare at your beautiful design all this time, but this, well this won you a place in my heart! ;-) I've been pulling my hair out about this one.

James said on October 17, 2007

You saved my application! I had a heading and a form within an overflow:auto div. When the div scrolled, only the heading moved. But if my form wasn't position:relative then it would muck up other things; IE would get the wrong offsetLeft for things. Anyway, giving the div position:relative made it all better :)

Darn IE.

Corrado Fiore said on November 14, 2007

Great tip, I spent 2 days working on this nasty bug until I saw your post... you rock!

Scott Peterson said on November 19, 2007

Good tip. I have (I think) a similar problem that I can't get right.

It's kind of hard to explain. I have a div containing a table containing some images which I need to position relatively. (It is the "top part" of what looks like a single image, but it's in content, and the "bottom part" is in the wrapper. So, as the content changes, I need to position the "top part" relative to where the "bottom part" ends up rendering).

So, I throw the "top part" html into the cell containing the "bottom part", then use relative positioning to move it up the page.

The problem I'm having is that IE goes ahead and renders the cell with the height of the "top part", which is much taller, and I end up with empty space before the next section of page.

Firefox doesn't render the empty space if I style my cell with max-height of zero, but that trick doesn't work in IE. Anyone have any ideas?

MÃ¥rten said on October 13, 2008

I love you man. You just saved my day!

Daniel said on October 29, 2008

Same here.. You're a lifesaver!

Anonymous said on November 04, 2008

Yeah thx :D now it works...

Andrew said on November 12, 2008

Thanks for the tip - works a treat. I hit it when using Scriptaculous drag/drop stuff inside an abolute positioned, overflow:auto container.

Christina Seay said on December 10, 2008

Thank-You sooooooooo much!! I had been fighting this issue for hours when I came across your site and it fixed my problem right away!

Jon Evans said on December 11, 2008

I cannot thank you enough. I spent all day reducing a complex page to a simple test case, then found this page via google once I'd worked out what the bug was.

Committing a single line to subversion containing "position:relative;" doesn't seem like much to show for a day's work. :(

SP said on December 15, 2008

I am working on arabic content site and this was a big issue. This blog really saved my timeline today

Awesome work!!!

MS Please repair this and again Mozilla ROCKS!!!

Mo Shahin said on January 19, 2009

This doesn't work with absolute positioning. here is the code which works good in Firefox but not IE.any Idea how to fix that ?

<style type="text/css">


font-family: "trebuchet ms", tahoma, verdana, arial, sans-serif;
/* hide overflow:hidden from IE5/Mac */
/* \*/
/* */
padding:0 0 0 0;

#container {
border:1px solid blue;
#a {
#b {



<div id="container">
<div id="a">inside container</div>
<div id="b">inside container but has absolute position</div>

senthilkumar said on February 03, 2009

#container {
border:1px solid blue;
#a {
#b {

I want the inner div position to be relative and also hidden by outter div. this is working in all browser except IE. any solution is there?

Jeffrey Joseph said on February 04, 2009

Thank you God!

George said on February 10, 2009

I have had a similar but different problem: scroll for the whole window, not <div>, which became apparent after some time bacause there were a lot of <div> tags inclosed in each other.
In my situation, I've fixed the problem by adding scroll="no" as an attribute to the body tag.

Andy Krier said on February 03, 2011

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

Alex said on February 06, 2011

This won't be original... THANK YOU! :)

Rohini said on February 14, 2011

Thanks a lot. :)

Damian said on February 21, 2011

This problem still persists even in IE9, so this really is the tip that keeps on giving!

Nguyen Khanh Hung said on March 10, 2011


Nathan said on April 04, 2011

Mr. Snook,

I'm finding myself at your website twice now over the past two days looking for answers to IE7 bugs. Thanks for everything.

Steven West said on April 15, 2011

I wouldn't have guessed to have put this line of code into the css, but it seems to have worked, thanks so much, it's people like you who make our lives alot easier, cheers alot!

Claire said on April 25, 2011


rafraf said on April 26, 2011

There is an error in your syntax:
"width:60x;" should be "width:60px;"

Anyway, the #a wouldn't show up on my Fireox 3.5.6 until I add "float:left;" into #b.

Jaffer said on May 02, 2011


Is there any other solution other than adding position:relative to container. i cant add position relative to container because I am having a jquery dropdown menu and when my drom down menu expands over the div which has relative it looks odd..

Any suggestions please?

Joel said on May 03, 2011

Such a simple fix! Thanks you for posting this!

Julien said on May 05, 2011


I'm looking for another solution to fix that bug. Like Jaffer, I have a jquery dropdown menu and I can't add a position relative to my container. Have you got suggestions ?
Thanks :)

Alan said on May 08, 2011

One simple command resolved a major headache. Thank you so much for sharing.

dpriest said on May 20, 2011

In order to solve it,I have to add position:relative to all the tage include body,then my page will not be in middle when change the windows's size.Any better idea?

Pat Shaughnessy said on May 25, 2011

Helped me too! Thanks a lot... I wonder how many more years from now people will still have to fix IE6/IE7 bugs??

Sorry, comments are closed for this post. If you have any further questions or comments, feel free to send them to me directly.