By Ellie / Last Updated March 15, 2024

Can I run Windows apps on my Mac?


Hey! I'm curious about how to run Windows apps on Mac. Can anyone share their experiences or tips on how to do this effectively? Thanks in advance!”

- Question from Reddit

Run Windows Apps on Mac

Running Windows applications on a Mac has been a common dilemma for users who have transitioned from PC to Mac but still rely on certain Windows-specific software. While Mac offers an array of native applications, there are instances where Windows-exclusive software is necessary. Fortunately, there are various methods available for how to run Windows apps on Mac seamlessly.

How to run Windows apps on Mac [5 ways]

Running Windows applications on a Mac is remarkably straightforward, and it doesn't always necessitate running Windows itself. Employ these methods to enjoy PC gaming, utilize productivity software, or access Windows utilities that may not have a dedicated Mac counterpart. Here’s how to run a Windows app on Mac in five tested ways.

Quick view of these five methods to run Windows apps on Mac:

Method Description Pros Cons
Virtual Machine Run Windows atop macOS by virtualizing hardware components.

- Excellent compatibility.

- Supports various operating systems.

- Premium software like Parallels Desktop provides 3D acceleration for games.

- Requires a Windows license.

- May consume significant system resources.

Wine with Wineskin Use Wine compatibility layer to execute Windows apps on macOS.

- Eliminates need for native Windows installation.

- Integrates seamlessly into macOS desktop.

- Not all applications work seamlessly.

- Maintenance of Mac packages for Wine has ceased.

CrossOver Mac Paid software based on Wine, streamlining integration of Windows apps into macOS.

- Provides installation profiles for popular applications.

- Allows testing with a free trial.

- Single license permits use on macOS, Linux, and ChromeOS.

- Paid software.

- Performance on Apple Silicon Macs may have slight decrease.

Boot Camp Dual-boot Windows and macOS on Intel Macs.

- Native performance in Windows environment.

- No need for virtualization.

- Requires separate partitioning of drive.

- Only available on Intel Macs.

- Rebooting required to switch between macOS and Windows.

Remote Desktop Tools Access Windows PC remotely from a Mac over a network.

- Utilizes resources of a Windows PC remotely.

- Works over both internet and local networks.

- Latency issues may occur, especially over the internet.

- Not suitable for software or gaming requiring high performance.

Way 1. Utilize a Virtual Machine to Run Windows

One of the simplest methods for running Windows applications is through the use of a virtual machine. This entails running Windows atop macOS by virtualizing the necessary hardware components. Software installed within a virtual machine behaves as if it were installed directly onto a Windows PC, ensuring excellent compatibility, particularly with Windows 11.

For users with modern Mac models equipped with Apple Silicon chips (such as M1 or M2), the option is limited to Windows 11 on ARM. Surprisingly, this ARM version of Windows delivers commendable performance and boasts compatibility with 64-bit apps designed for the standard x86 version of Windows, enabling seamless operation of nearly any application.

Run Windows 11 on Mac

Alternatively, those with Intel-based Macs can opt for the more commonly used x86 version of Windows within a virtual machine. Moreover, virtualization offers the flexibility to run various operating systems atop macOS, including Linux distributions or additional macOS installations.

For the optimal virtualization experience, investing in premium software is advisable. Parallels Desktop, for instance, streamlines the process by swiftly downloading, installing, and configuring Windows 11. Moreover, it provides support for 3D acceleration in games on Apple Silicon, a feature lacking in other solutions.

Parallels Desktop

Way 2. Employ Wine with Wineskin to execute Windows apps

Wine serves as a compatibility layer enabling Windows software to function atop macOS. By translating Windows API calls in real-time, it typically delivers solid performance for applications utilizing Wine. However, not all applications are guaranteed to work seamlessly, and some may exhibit erratic behavior, occasionally crashing or displaying unexpected actions compared to virtualization or native Windows operation.

Nevertheless, Wine presents a compelling solution, eliminating the need for native Windows installation and thereby avoiding the allocation of disk space or additional virtualization software. Wine applications integrate seamlessly into your desktop and dock, mimicking the appearance and functionality of native Mac applications.

Wineskin Winery

While the Wine project remains actively developed, the maintenance of Mac packages has ceased. Fortunately, users can rely on Wineskin, a community-supported tool, to create wrappers for Windows applications. It's advisable to install and manage Wineskin using Homebrew, a popular package manager for macOS.

To install Homebrew on your Mac, execute a few Terminal commands. Once installed, proceed to install Wineskin by running the following command in Terminal:

brew install --cask --no-quarantine gcenx/wine/unofficial-wineskin

This command installs the Wineskin Winery app on your Mac, enabling you to create wrappers and begin installing Windows software. Wineskin is compatible with both Intel and Apple Silicon Macs, utilizing Apple's Rosetta 2 transpiler for seamless operation.

Way 3. Use CrossOver Mac to run Windows apps

Also constructed upon Wine, CrossOver Mac stands as a paid software solution designed to streamline the process of integrating Windows applications into your Mac environment. Offering a free trial, CrossOver Mac is priced at $74 and guides users through the installation process, providing installation profiles for many popular applications. In instances where profiles are unavailable, CrossOver assists in creating custom configurations.

CrossOver enjoys significant popularity among gamers seeking to run Windows games on Apple hardware. Compatible with both Intel and Apple Silicon models, although owners of Macs featuring Apple's ARM-based chips currently rely on Rosetta 2, which may entail a slight performance decrease.

Crossover Mac

The free trial of CrossOver allows users to test applications before committing to a purchase, offering a cost-effective alternative to acquiring a Windows license or investing in premium virtualization software like Parallels Desktop. Additionally, a single CrossOver license permits the execution of Windows applications on macOS, Linux, and ChromeOS platforms.

Way 4. Install Windows on an Intel Mac using Boot Camp

For Intel Mac users, installing Windows directly onto your Mac via Boot Camp, Apple's dual-boot Windows partitioning tool, is an option. However, if you own a modern Apple Silicon Mac with an M1, M2, or later chip, Boot Camp is not available, preventing native Windows installation. (Windows 11 on ARM cannot be directly installed on Macs; it's only feasible within a virtual machine.)

To access Boot Camp Assistant, navigate to Applications > Utilities on your Intel Mac. To prepare for installing Windows, adhere to the instructions for partitioning your drive. Notably, Boot Camp officially supports only Windows 10, as Windows 11 mandates Trusted Platform Module 2.0 (TPM 2.0) support.

Boot Camp

Although Windows 11 installation on these machines via a custom .ISO is possible, it's a solution typically pursued under desperate circumstances. Despite still receiving Windows updates (for now), Microsoft has initiated watermark displays on non-compliant machines.

Running Windows natively on compatible Macs presents both advantages and drawbacks. Rebooting each time you switch to Windows can be cumbersome, and allocating significant drive space for Windows software installation is necessary. Conversely, performance is optimal, utilizing your hardware's full capabilities within a native Windows environment. This makes it an ideal choice, particularly for gaming enthusiasts seeking peak performance.

Way 5. Access Windows remotely from Mac with remote desktop tools

Already have a Windows PC but need to access it from your Mac? Another method available for how to run Windows apps on Mac for free is using remote desktop software. Whether your Windows machine is in another room or across the globe, remote desktop tools enable you to utilize its resources over a network.

While remote access can function over both the internet and local networks, be mindful of potential latency issues when accessing machines online. While it's suitable for tasks like troubleshooting or file retrieval, using software or gaming remotely may not be ideal.

Local network connections offer greater stability, especially with wired setups. Although wireless connections via Wi-Fi are feasible, they're susceptible to interference and speed constraints. Opting for faster connections, whether wired or wireless, is advisable.

The necessary applications are largely consistent regardless of connection type. Microsoft's Remote Desktop offers dedicated macOS and iOS apps for connecting to Windows machines. Alternatively, Chrome Remote Desktop, compatible with Google Chrome browsers, provides free remote access through a browser extension tied to your Google Account.

Run Chrome Remote Desktop on Mac

The bottom line

In conclusion, this post introduces how to run Windows apps on Mac in five easy ways. Whether you prefer virtual machines, compatibility layers, or remote desktop tools, each method offers a simple solution to bridge the gap between Windows and macOS. These options cater to different needs, ensuring you can access the software you need without hassle. By trying out these methods, you can boost your productivity and enjoy the best of both worlds on your Mac.

If you want to run Windows apps on mobile platforms like iOS and Android, it is recommended to use AnyViewer. It is free yet professional remote desktop software for Windows, bridging the gaps between Windows computers and mobile devices. Whether you’re at a coffee shop or on the go, it provides fast and stable remote connections. Download it and try it now.

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