It’s surprisingly easy to run Windows apps on a Mac, and you don’t always need to run Windows to do so. Use these solutions to play PC games, run productivity software, or access Windows tools that lack a native Mac version.
Note: We recommend using virtual machine software like Parallels to run Windows software on a Mac. If you have an Intel Mac, you can get the best performance by installing Windows in Boot Camp. You can also use Wine via Wineskin or CrossOver Mac, or access Windows software via a remote desktop solution.
5 Ways to Run Windows Software on a Mac
- Run Windows in a Virtual Machine
One of the easiest ways of running Windows apps is to use a virtual machine. This involves running Windows on top of macOS by virtualizing the hardware required to do so. Software installed in a virtual machine behaves as if it’s installed natively on a Windows PC which means that compatibility is excellent, particularly in Windows 11. If you have a modern Mac model with an Apple Silicon chip (M1, M2, and similar,) you will be limited to the Windows 11 on ARM release, which performs surprisingly well. If you have an Intel Mac, then you’ll be able to run the more widely used x86 version of Windows in a virtual machine instead. You can also use virtualization to run other operating systems on top of macOS, including Linux distributions or other macOS installations.
Virtualization is useful since you can just launch an app and have access to Windows in moments. Apps like Parallels have modes that allow you to effectively hide the Windows UI and use apps as if they were running natively on your Mac. Many virtualization apps don’t require that you sacrifice disk space for your virtual machine, unlike a dedicated Windows installation.
- Use Wine to Run Windows Apps With Wineskin
Wine is a compatibility layer that allows Windows software to run on top of macOS. It works by translating Windows API calls in real-time so performance in apps that use Wine is generally very good. That said, not all apps will work, and some will exhibit odd behavior. Apps are more likely to crash or behave in unexpected ways compared to virtualization or running Windows natively. That said, Wine might just be the solution you’ve been looking for. You don’t need to install Windows natively, which means you don’t need to dedicate disk space to Windows or run additional virtualization software. Wine apps appear on your desktop and in your dock just like native Mac apps do.
- Use CrossOver Mac to Run Windows Apps
Also built on Wine, CrossOver Mac is paid software that can help simplify the process of getting a Windows application working on your Mac. Available with a free trial, CrossOver Mac costs $74 and walks you through the process of installing Windows software with installation profiles available for many popular apps. Where apps lack profiles, CrossOver can help you make your own. CrossOver is particularly popular among gamers who want to run Windows games on Apple hardware. CrossOver works on both Intel and Apple Silicon models, though Mac owners with Apple’s ARM-based chips will (currently) need to rely on Rosetta 2, which can introduce a small performance penalty.
- Use Boot Camp to Install Windows on an Intel Mac
If you have an Intel Mac, you can install Windows natively on your Mac using Boot Camp, Apple’s dual-boot Windows partitioning tool. If you have a modern Apple Silicon Mac with an M1, M2, or later chip, then you won’t be able to use Boot Camp, which means you can’t install Windows natively. (Windows 11 on ARM can’t be installed directly on a Mac; you can only install it on a virtual machine.) Intel Mac owners will find the Boot Camp Assistant under Applications > Utilities. Run it and follow the instructions to partition your drive for a Windows installation. Boot Camp officially supports Windows 10 only, since Windows 11 requires Trusted Platform Module 2.0 (TPM 2.0) support.
- Access Windows Remotely With Remote Desktop Tools
Do you have a Windows PC already but are simply looking for a way to interact with it on your Mac? Maybe your Windows machine is in a bedroom, but you primarily use your Mac in the study. Remote desktop software lets you make use of the hardware you already have remotely over a network.
This can work both over the internet or over a local network, but keep in mind that using a machine over the internet can incur a severe latency penalty. You might be able to help fix a friend’s computer over the internet or check for files in your documents folder, but you wouldn’t want to play games or use most software in this way.