3 Ways to Run Windows Applications on a Mac Without Installing Windows

The argument on which is better Mac or Windows will continue to rage like a war with no end in sight. Arguments will typically cover which has better hardware or whose operating system is better or more stable.

Often these arguments tend to ignore common realities, like people needing to run Windows applications on Mac. Finding information in this regard will typically involve search results returning the great debate rather than helpful information. The rest of this article is dedicated to the top three ways to run Windows applications on a Mac without installing Windows.

run windows application on mac


Wine originally began life as a Linux application that creates a compatibility layer between Linux and Windows applications. Soon the need arose to allow Wine to do the same for Mac users. One common use of Wine is to allow users to switch over from Windows to download notepad++ for mac and install it, and it can be used for a variety of other applications as well.

How Wine does this is rather complex but can be seen as the application rewriting Windows applications to run on Mac. Given the inherent complexity of this task, Wine is not perfect, and some applications can return some strange bugs. However, for the most part, Wine is a great tool for those who don’t want to install Windows but still run Windows applications.

To get an idea of the applications that are supported on Wine, visit the Wine AppDB that lists and rates the applications with the best support. One of the best aspects of Wine is that it does not need a Windows license as you will not be running Windows in any capacity and just requires the user to download Wine.


The application developed by CodeWeaver is like Wine in the sense that it will allow Mac users to run Windows applications without installing a version of Windows. Unlike Wine, CrossOver is a paid-for application, with Wine being an open-source project. For paying the user does get a nice user interface which will help in easily navigating the software package.

CrossOver will also provide support for officially supported popular programs. This means that if one of the listed applications does not work you can contact CodeWeaver for direct assistance in making the program work as intended.

For those who wholly support the idea of Open-Source, CodeWeaver does contribute their improvements to Wine, meaning that people buying the product also support Wine.

Like with Wine, CrossOver does come with a list of supported applications that can be referenced before buying a license. Further, the product does come with a free trial period in case the user is not initially happy. As Crossover is built on Wine, it still shares the same problems Wine has. These are mitigated somewhat if the user decides to run a virtual machine, but this does require the user to purchase and run Windows.

Remote Desktop

This solution only applies if you already have a separate machine running Windows. This allows Mac users to access and run Windows applications on a Mac via a remote connection to the Windows machine. This has become a popular choice for organizations whose employees use a variety of platforms but many of the company’s assets, like servers and other specific applications, need to be run via Windows.

Unlike Windows Built-in Remote Desktop Connection tool, remote desktop applications can help run these applications on the employee’s device. It must be noted that if you are looking to run visually intensive applications like games, or even resource-heavy applications, this is not your best option.


The above lists three ways to run Windows applications without installing Windows. Each has its limitations and will fail in some regard or the other if users are not aware of those limitations.

By far the best way to run Windows applications on a Mac is by use of a Virtual Machine. This does require the user to install Windows and purchase a license. How this works is that Windows is forced to run within a software package that generates an environment the operating system thinks is a computer, hence the name virtual machine. This is consistently the best way to run Windows applications as for all intents and purposes the application is running on a Windows machine.

Some virtual machines even allow applications to run outside of the virtuals machine so that they can appear directly on Mac’s desktop. The only real downsides to using a virtual machine are the need to install Windows and 3D performance is not the best, meaning those looking to play games on their Mac may need to look for another option.

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Brian Peng
Brian Peng is a PC technician and network engineer with over 13 years of IT experience. He has worked in the IT industry for a long time, providing IT support and network service support for various companies. Currently, he has written over 1000 articles about computers, games, and mobile.

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