How to Open Windows Apps on Mac

How to Get Windows on a Macbook

If you want to open Windows software that is not available for macOS on a Mac, there are three ways to do it:

  • Use Boot Camp to install Windows alongside macOS as a secondary operating system
  • Use virtualization software (Parallels Desktop, VMware Fusion, VirtualBox) to install Windows on a Mac virtually, so Windows can be opened inside an app
  • Use Wine to try and “rewrite” the app for macOS

This articles gives a quick overview of each method so you can consider their pros and cons and decide which one is the best in your situation.

Option 1: Download Windows on a Mac With BootCamp

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Boot Camp comes with your Macbook for free, and it allows you to install Windows alongside macOS, so you can choose which of them to boot on startup. Mac’s Boot Camp Assistant will help you install Windows, partition the startup drive and install necessary drivers.

If you install Windows via Boot Camp, Windows will have all of your Macbook’s resources and can run programs with the maximum possible performance. That’s why dual-booting is ideal for running resource-intensive programs like video-editing software or high-end games.

On the other hand, only one operating system will be able to run at the same time, so you will have to reboot between them depending on which apps you need to run at the moment. Another possible drawback is fact that Windows and macOS use different file systems, and you will not be able to open Mac files on Windows or vice versa unless you install specific third-party drives for it. That is not a problem when using virtual machines.

Option 2: Run Windows on a Macbook Without BootCamp, Using a Virtual Machine

Virtual machines allow you to install and open Windows in a window on your Mac desktop. Windows will “think” it’s running on a real computer, when it is running inside an app. With virtual machines you run both macOS and Windows at the same time, which is handy if you want to open a single Windows program alongside your Mac applications. However, when you run a virtual machine, your computer’s resources are split between the two operating systems, so everything may run slower than usual.

Install Windows on a Mac With Parallels Desktop

run windows on a macbook with parallels to open windows apps

Parallels Desktop is very intuitive and easy-to-use for regular computer users. The app will configure everything for you, even download Windows or utilize the one you already downloaded via Boot Camp. You can open Windows in a separate window (including a full screen mode), or you can turn on Coherence mode. In Coherence mode the virtual machine will run in the background, while Windows programs can run alongside your Mac apps. You can even put Windows programs on your macOS desktop or pin them to Dock. Parallels Desktop allows you to copy and paste or drag and drop between Windows and macOS without any problems.

Parallels Desktop prices start at $79.99, however there is a free trial period available.

Get Windows on a Mac With VMware Fusion

install windows with vmware fusion to run windows software on a mac

VMware Fusion is another popular virtualization software for Macbooks. It is close to Parallels in terms of functionality and pricing, but VMware’s Fusion supports a larger number of operating systems than Parallels. On the other hand, Parallels is easier for beginners, and runs a little smoother. Otherwise, these two programs are approximately on the same level.

VMware Fusion offers a free trial period to its users, same as Parallels, so you may try both for free and decide which one you like better, before committing.

Install Windows a Mac Via VirtualBox

how to run windows on a mac with virtualbox

If you don’t plan to spend extra money on virtualization software, there’s always VirtualBox by Oracle. VirtualBox is a pretty decent free alternative to paid software if not slower, less polished and missing some handy functions. If you need to run some resource intensive Windows programs, VirtualBox might not be the best choice for you. VirtualBox also requires more technical knowledge than, for example, Parallels, as users need to tune some settings themselves when installing it. However, if you are a power user already or don’t mind doing a little more work, and you are not going to run latest Windows games or video-editing software, VirtualBox is a good (and free!) alternative.

Option 3: Open Windows Apps With Wine

Wine is a compatibility layer that allows Windows programs to run on other operating systems (Linux, Mac). Speaking metaphorically, Wine translates programs written in “Windows language” to “macOS language” on the fly. Unfortunately, like any automatic translator it is not perfect in its translations. Some Windows programs will work as intended, while others will have bugs or will not run at all. You can check Wine Application Database to see what programs will run on macOS.

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