How to Run Windows Apps on Mac (M1 M2 Included)

Tips • March 8, 2023

run win on mac

We have come a long way in terms of Operating Systems and compatibility. Most popular apps have macOS and Windows versions these days. Alternatively, you can find macOS alternatives for Windows apps or vice versa. However, sometimes, you just cannot find a viable macOS alternative for a Windows application. In these instances, you have to think about ways to run Windows apps on M1/M2 Silicon Macs.

RELATED: Best Virtual Machine Software for Mac

Key Takeaways

  • You can install Windows apps on macOS if you cannot find a corresponding macOS app for one of the favorite Windows apps.
  • You also have the option to choose between three major methods, including compatibility layers and fully-fledged virtual machines.
  • Some of you may have to use a PC just because you need to run a particular app. In this case, running the app on your Mac makes better sense.
  • In addition, you do not have to worry about performance, as macOS handles virtual machines well, especially with Apple Silicon chips.

In this guide, we have discussed the three best ways to run Windows apps on macOS. We have also mentioned the pros and cons of each method.

Method #1 Using Parallels Desktop

Parallels Desktop is a virtual machine software available for macOS. Even though you can use this VM app to virtualize various platforms like Windows or Linux, Parallels Desktop offers a few additional features to run Windows on macOS. One of them is called Coherence Mode, which allows the user to open and use Windows apps without keeping the Virtual Machine running in the foreground.

As you can guess, we use the power of Coherence Mode to run Windows apps on Mac. Because this method uses resources from the existing virtual machine, you do not have to worry about performance. In case you do not know, Parallels Desktop is one of the few Microsoft-certified ways to run Windows 11 on ARM Macs, which includes the latest M1/M2 lineups.

Parallels Desktop for Mac starts at $99.99.


How to Use Parallels Desktop to Run Windows Apps on Mac?

Fortunately, you don’t need technical expertise to set up Parallels Desktop to run Windows apps on a Mac. On the other hand, you can follow these easy steps:

  1. Install Parallels Desktop on your Mac using the directions using the official directions
  2. Install Windows 11 on Parallels Desktop. You can download Windows 11 directly from Microsoft or upload a custom ISO for your needs.
  3. Wait for Parallels Desktop to complete installing Windows 11. After that, you can launch the Windows 11 virtual machine on your Mac.
  4. Go to View > Enter Coherence. At this point, the full-screen virtual machine window will close. You can then launch Windows apps from Launchpad.
  5. You can also open the Start Menu from the macOS dock to launch applications and other windows.

Of course, you may have to wait a few seconds for the app to launch. Nevertheless, once Parallels Desktop has launched the application, you can expect standard performance from those apps. More importantly, the Windows app you have opened will work as it would on a PC when you have launched it using Coherence Mode on Parallels Desktop.

  • Parallels Desktop lets you run almost any Windows app, including games, on Mac
  • You do not have to keep the Windows virtual machine running in the foreground
  • It is more performance-optimized than many other ways to run Windows apps
  • Parallels Desktop is quite integrated with macOS and offers maximum flexibility
  • You have to set up a Windows 11 virtual machine to use Coherence Mode
  • You also have to pay for Parallels Desktop and the Windows 11 license key

To wrap up, we recommend this method to run Windows apps on Mac if you do not mind paying for a paid Windows license in addition to Parallels Desktop. Read our full Parallels Desktop review here.

Method #2 Using CrossOver

CrossOver is another app that lets you run Windows apps on Mac. However, compared to Parallels Desktop, CrossOver works differently. For one, CrossOver does not install a virtual machine on your Mac. Therefore, you do not have to keep the virtual machine running in the background. On the other hand, the CrossOver app creates a unique compatibility layer on top of your macOS system.

CrossOver is available for macOS and Linux. It means you can also use the app to run Windows apps on a Linux system. However, this paid app requires separate subscriptions for each platform. Because you don’t have to pay for the Windows license, the CrossOver method is more affordable. However, you may stumble upon some caveats.

CrossOver for Mac is available for $24.


How to Use CrossOver to Run Windows Apps on Mac?

The following simple steps will help you set up CrossOver for Mac and run Windows apps on your Mac. You can use the method to install any supported app.

  1. Download CrossOver for Mac from the website and install it on your Mac
  2. After the installation, open CrossOver and provide the license key (or start a free trial)
  3. Click the Install button and search for the Windows application that you want to install
  4. You can also install an unlisted application by providing the installation file and some details
  5. Once you have found the app, click Install, and CrossOver will do the rest.
  6. After the installation, you can select the application from the sidebar and open it.

The application should open and work like a native macOS application. It is worth noting that CrossOver for Mac is not a virtual machine emulator. Instead, it understands the commands from the Windows app and translates them so that macOS understands them. However, it also means you cannot access some features you may find with virtual machines.

  • You do not need a Windows license to run Windows apps on your Mac
  • CrossOver for Mac offers an optimized library of apps and games you can install
  • You get to know about the compatibility status of each app before installing them
  • CrossOver for Mac handles the translation process well for top performance
  • CrossOver for Mac does not work with popular apps, causing conflicts
  • You cannot access many features that you may otherwise find with VMs
  • CrossOver for Mac could use some performance improvements

In conclusion, CrossOver for Mac is a good option if you do not want the hassle of installing a VM on your Mac. You do not have to worry about license keys, either.

A Word about WineHQ

We should also mention that CrossOver is a more improved version of WineHQ, which was a popular solution for running Windows apps on macOS and Linux. However, the macOS client of WineHQ has not been updated for some time, meaning it is not a good idea to use it.

Even if the WineHQ client works on your Mac, it cannot offer maximum performance. Therefore, although WineHQ is a free-of-cost solution, we do not feel comfortable recommending it. But if you are ready to take the risk, feel free to check out WineHQ.

However, please be warned that our experience with WineHQ was not at all close to ideal.

Method #3 Using a Virtual Machine

A Virtual Machine is another way to run Windows apps on Mac. Even though we already mentioned a virtual machine software, Parallels Desktop, you should also consider other options. Fortunately, a variety of virtual machine software solutions are available for macOS. You can choose one of them for your specific purpose.

You can refer to our guide on the best virtual software for Mac if you need a better idea. We have covered free and paid virtual machine software for macOS, including VMWare Fusion Player and Oracle VirtualBox. We have also discussed the pros and cons of these VM tools for Mac.

By the way, you should also consider getting a free emulator to run Windows apps on Mac. UTM is one of the great options and it helps you set up the desired virtual machine within a few minutes.


How to Use Virtual Machines to Run Windows Apps on Mac?

The process is simple. Depending on the virtual machine software, you can complete the installation of the Windows OS in a few minutes. After the installation, you can find a fully-functional Windows system within your Mac. This system is technically complete so that you can install and run any Windows app.

As you can guess, this method lets you run Windows apps with maximum performance if you have a working virtual machine. However, it also means you have to keep the virtual machine ready with updates and, more importantly, license keys.

  • You will have an entire Windows system that you can use almostlike a PC
  • A virtual machine supports more apps than compatibility layers do
  • You will have more control over how the Windows apps behave on the system
  • You can use a variety of installers to set up the apps you want
  • You may have to pay a fee for the virtual machine software, especially the ones like Parallels
  • It is also mandatory to pay for the Windows 11 license key, which can be expensive
  • Virtual machine software and virtual machine files may take up a lot of space
  • Running a virtual machine in the foreground is not multi-tasking-friendly

As you can see, using a virtual machine to run Windows apps has its fair share of benefits and caveats. You’d also want some technical expertise to make these machines work fine.


Can I run Windows apps on my Mac?

You can run Windows apps on your Mac with the right third-party tools. You can choose between two major options: virtual machines and compatibility layers. Both these methods make it possible to run MS Windows apps on your Mac without rebooting. Some dedicated options like Parallels Desktop offer advanced options as well.

What is the best application to run Windows apps on Mac?

You can use multiple apps to run Windows apps on Mac, based on your requirements. But, in our opinion, you have two major choices. If you want maximum performance and compatibility, you should use Parallels Desktop for Mac. On the other hand, if you are looking for maximum savings and standard compatibility, you can use CrossOver or UTM.

Is it a good idea to run Windows on Mac?

It is a great idea to run Windows on Mac if you have the proper hardware and software. For instance, if you own an M1/M2 MacBook, iMac, or Mac mini, you can expect maximum performance from virtual machines. It is also possible to run these virtual machines using powerful tools like Parallels Desktop and VMWare Fusion Player. In conclusion, running Windows on Mac is better than getting a new PC.


We honestly believe this guide helped you find an effective way to run Windows apps on Mac. All the ways we have mentioned are working properly at this time, meaning you can rely on them for the best speed and compatibility. But, as we always say, ensure the solution is cut out for your requirements.