macOS + Windows

How to Open EXE Files on Mac: 3 Best Ways to Open Windows Files on Mac in 2021

If you want to run a .exe file on your Mac, you need an alternative solution than a simple click or command issuance. These Windows files only work for Microsoft’s operating system, which means macOS won’t recognize it under a default configuration.

That doesn’t mean you cannot run a .exe file at all on your iMac, MacBook, or Mac Mini. You’ll need to access some additional resources to accomplish this goal.

If you need to run EXE files on Mac, these solutions will get the job done.

Why Would I Need to Open EXE Files on Mac?

Although software and app producers are doing an excellent job of creating Windows and Mac versions of their products, that option isn’t always available.

If you have legacy software that you like to use for personal or professional needs, you might have a Windows-only product. When you’ve already upgraded to a Mac computer, the native functionality disappears.

This issue often occurs when you have CDs with specific information on them that you used to use for Windows, but cannot now with a Mac computer.

Although macOS doesn’t provide native support for those execute files, you can still operate .exe on Mac with some third-party options.

Since many of the downloads in this area can come with bloatware or worse, it is essential to use a trusted brand’s software at all times. Please remember to do your own research outside of this guide to ensure the product you select meets your exact needs.

Method #1: Wine

Wine is an open-source compatibility layer. It allows Microsoft Windows software, games, and apps to function on Mac systems. The name is an acronym that stands for “Wine Is Not an Emulator.” It recreates the directory structures Microsoft uses in its operating system so that Apple computers can operate .exe files.

  1. Navigate to the WineBottler website. You can find it at http://winebottler.kronenberg.org/. Wine and WineBottler together create a user-friendly interface that makes this method much more comfortable to learn.winebottler site
  2. Click on the Stable version. You’ll see various buttons for WineBottler downloads. You’ll want to select the one currently listed as being stable for your macOS version.
  3. Choose the Download command. It will appear as a pop-up. You might need to disable this feature in your browser to access this step.
  4. Click on the Skip Ad button. You can watch the advertising to support Wine and Winebottler, although that will take more time to finish this process. If you operate an ad blocker, it must be disabled.
  5. Finish the WineBlocker download. If your Mac doesn’t start downloading the software automatically, you can force it by clicking the .dmg link for the version you selected.
  6. Complete the installation. You’ll click the setup file for WineBottler on this step, dragging both icons into your Applications folder. complete install winebottler
  7. Use a two-finger click on the EXE file. If you use your Magic Mouse with a two-finger click, it’ll give you a set of menu options. Select “Open With,” choose “Wine,” and authorize the action. You’ll want to use the “Run Directly In” choice instead of converting to a simple OS X application. Click Go to run the program.use winebottler

Pros of Using Wine

Cons of Using Wine

Although most .exe files on Mac respond to Wine, it is not a 100% solution. If you find that a file isn’t loading as expected, you’ll need to use one of the other methods found in this guide.

Method #2: Parallels® Desktop

Parallels Desktop provides a virtual machine for Mac users to run .exe files on their computers. It runs Windows apps quickly without slowing your system while providing the foundation to move files between the host desktop and your virtual one.

  1. Purchase the Parallels Desktop software. You’ll want the latest version of Parallels currently available at this link: https://www.parallels.com/products/desktop/. Complete your purchase by following the on-site instructions. Students, educators, and faculty qualify for discounts.
  2. Install the software. It’s a straightforward installation process to put Parallels on your Mac. Once you drag the icon to the Applications folder, you can open the software.install parallels
  3. Install Windows. Once you have Parallels open, you can install your Windows software. The version you select must be compatible with your Mac’s current specs. If the processing speed, memory, or startup disk space isn’t correct, the Microsoft operating system won’t function correctly. You can install it from a disk or the ISO file. install windows
  4. Open Parallels. You’ll find it through the search bar on your Mac or by navigating through Launchpad to find the icon.
  5. Begin the installation. Your Mac offers to install Windows from a disk, image file, or a PC. Choose the option based on your Windows version and click Continue. You’ll need to supply the license key for the fastest installation method.
  6. Follow the final prompts. You’ll get asked a few questions about your plans with .exe files on Mac. After you provide those answers, it takes about 20 minutes for Parallels to complete its work.

Pros of Using Parallels Desktop

Cons of Using Parallels Desktop

Parallels Desktop is the solution to use if you want paid support options for your installation. Although it doesn’t support older macOS systems, it still delivers a high-quality result for most people.

Method #3: Boot Camp

Boot Camp is an official Apple utility that lets Mac users switching from macOS to Windows on their computer. It comes with an assistant that walks you through the installation steps if you have an Intel-based iMac, MacBook, or Mac Mini. Before starting the following process, it helps to download the latest operating system for your computer.

  1. Get your authorized Windows installation. The current macOS Boot Camp structure supports Windows 10, 8.1, or 8. You can download the current ISO version directly from Microsoft’s website.
  2. Open your Utilities folder. You can use Spotlight to find this folder or go through Launchpad to access it.launch boot camp assistant software
  3. Double-click the Boot Camp Assistant. The icon representing this method to open .exe files on Mac looks like an internal hard drive.
  4. Follow the on-screen prompts. You’ll need to acknowledge what Boot Camp offers and the possible issues you might face. It might be helpful to print the installation and setup guide before continuing to the next step. If you’re using a USB drive, you’ll get prompted for it here.
  5. Create a partition for Windows. Boot Camp needs you to drag the divider to set the partition size for each operating system. Once you edit the settings, your computer will need to restart. After it completes this process, you should see the Windows installation screen.create a windows partition
  6. Select the Boot Camp partition. Some macOS users might not need to take this step. If you install Windows from a USB drive, you’ll need to choose the appropriate partition to continue. When you install from an ISO file directly, your computer does the work for you.
  7. Follow the on-screen prompts to install Windows. The instructions differ based on your Windows version, but you’ll eventually need to restart your Mac again.
  8. Hold the Option key during the restart. This step takes you to the Startup Manager window. Release the button when it appears, and you’ll see all of the available drives for starting your computer.
  9. Click the Boot Camp option. At this step, your Mac will load into Windows.
  10. Locate the .exe file on your Mac. Double-click the EXE file icon to have your software, game, or app load.

Pros of Using Boot Camp

Cons of Using Boot Camp

Boot Camp is useful because it offers a straightforward solution that you can use right now. If you don’t mind dealing with the partitioning issues, you’ll find it a practical option to open EXE on Mac.

Bonus Method: Remote Desktop or TeamViewer

It isn’t always necessary to run a .exe file on Mac computers. When you use Remote Desktop, TeamViewer, or another alternative, you can access your PC information through your Mac.

You’ll need to activate your PC for this solution before it works. You can search for Remote Desktop or head to Settings, System, and Remote Desktop through your menus.

It will ask you to confirm that you want to connect the PC remotely. You’ll want to click on the appropriate button that says you wish to take that step.

You’ll receive on-screen prompts that tell you the next steps to take for your system. You’ll need to know your IPv4 address and computer name.

After activating your PC, you’ll need to install Microsoft Remote Desktop from the App Store. Once it downloads and opens, you can connect the PC to your Mac.

Microsoft Remote Desktop

A Final Thought on Running .exe Files on Mac

Although it is becoming less prevalent to run EXE on Mac, specific situations sometimes require your Apple computer to run this file.

These tools can help you achieve the outcomes you want with minimum hassle. Although the installation processes take a little time, it will provide a rewarding result when your Windows apps or software start running!

Jeff Cochin has spent a better part of his writing career helping users recover lost data from their personal and work devices. When not describing the best way to avoid a costly data loss, Jeff likes to spend time outside and go on short cycling adventures.
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