Install Windows software on your Mac – without the need for a virtual machine, an emulator or dual-booting. Wineskin is a Mac app that brings Wine to your Mac, OS X style, allowing you to create custom packages including everything your favorite Windows programs need to run on your Mac (well… many of your favorite Windows programs).
Whether it’s an ancient version of Quicken you still use to keep track of finances or a game you still love from your PC-bound past, there are certain programs you simply cannot find for the Mac. For this reason alone many people set up virtual machines, running the entirety of Windows for the sake of a few apps. Depending on what you want to run, however, that’s a lot of overkill – and certainly doesn’t offer the performance of running the app in a Windows alone.
Wineskin builds on existing open source technologies in an attempt to make the running Windows software without Windows simpler. Having said that, the nature of Wine – originally designed to Windows apps working on Linux – means complexities will arise. Wineskin certainly doesn’t help you avoid all of them.
Having said that, it’s wonderful when it works. There are a few steps, and depending on the program you want to get running it may not work at all, but it’s worth a shot if you want to combine the speed of dual-booting with the convenience of a virtual machine.
Step 1: Researching Your App
Before we get started, you should research the app you’re interested in running. The first, most obvious question to answer: does a native Mac version of this software exist? As tempting as it sounds to new Mac users to avoid paying for, say, Microsoft Office Mac by porting the Windows version, Wineskin will never create a perfect replacement. If a Mac version of the software you want is out there, it’s probably best to get it.
It’s also almost essential to look up the program you want to use on WineHQ. This database includes user information about thousands of Windows apps, with users sharing their experience of getting the app working. Be warned: if an app is rated “Garbage” by a majority of users you almost certainly won’t manage to get it running.
Done looking everything up, and still want to proceed? Good. Let’s get started, then.
Step 2: Using Wineskin Winery
First things first: install and launch Wineskin Winery.
This app allows you to create “Wrappers”, which will in turn bundle and run your Windows software into a Mac-style package. For now let’s just install a couple of engines – click the “+” button and grab a couple of the most recent ones (the exact number depends on when you’re reading this, naturally). You may end up needing more, depending on the software you want to run – some older software struggles to run with newer versions of Wine.
I told you this can get complicated. Don’t worry: it’ll all make sense eventually. I promise.
If you’ve installed a couple of engines go ahead and update the Wrapper version, if necessary. Once you’ve done this you can create a new blank wrapper, which you should name after the program you want to emulate:
Yeah, that’s right: we’re going to start by emulating Microsoft’s Minesweeper. (You can extract Minesweeper and games like it from a Windows XP CD, if you want to follow along).
Step 3: Installing Your Software
You’ve created your Wrapper – you’ll find it under “Applications” in your Home folder (not the primary “Applications” folder – the one you see when you click your Username at top-left in Finder). Run the wrapper you’ve created and you’ll see the first-time menu:
If you’re ready to install software, great: just click “Install” and you’ll be presented with options:
If your app is portable – that is, if all the files your software needs to run are included on a folder you have access to – you can simply add that folder to your Wrapper. This is the easiest way to get something running. I got Minesweeper working quickly thanks to this portability:
If your program requires installation, don’t panic! This is possible too. Use the “Select setup executable” option and your Windows installer will run as per tradition:
When the setup is done you’ll need to pick the executable your package runs by default. Pick the right one!
Of course, setting something up provides no guarantee that it will run. I had to tweak all kinds of things using advice from WineHQ before I got this game running – but it does work.
Step 4: Troubleshooting
Having trouble getting a particular program or game to work properly? Such is the frustration with Wineskin, and programs like it, but don’t despair: with a little research and tweaking you just might be in luck.
You can configure the Wine settings in any Wrapper you’ve created. Browser to the wrapper in Finder, then control-click (or right-click) the wrapper. You’ll be able to show the package’s contents:
Do this and you’ll be able to see the advanced options. If you’re seeing a specific error message – perhaps a missing DLL, for example – head to Winetricks. From here you can automatically download various DLLs and other things certain software requires to run. There are even automated scripts for getting particular games and apps working properly.
It’s also worth changing the video settings – some full screen apps, for example, will crash unless you relegate them to a virtual desktop.
WineHQ is a great way to figure out what you’re missing, and things you can do to get things working. Like I keep saying: it’s not simple, but when you get an app you need up and running you’ll be happy you went through all of it.
Ready to check this out? Go ahead and download Wineskin, then. You’ll be glad you did.
Note that, in order to use the latest Wine engines offered by Wineskin (and, for me at least, Winetricks) you may need to install the latest demo. Find it on the Wineskin blog. For me it was actually more stable than the stable version, but your mileage may vary.
So Wait, What’s WINE?
WINE is software Linux users are almost all familiar with, but it’s still relatively unknown among Mac users. There’s a reason for this, and it has to do with the difference between Mac and Linux users.
For example: I’m quite confident someone in the comments will point out that my first paragraph is wrong, because I claimed that with Wineskin there is no need for an emulator.
“But WINE is an emulator,” he’ll say (it will almost certainly be a he).
“You’re contradicting yourself.”
That person would be wrong, of course, because WINE is not an emulator – in fact, WINE itself stands for “Wine Is Not an Emulator.” Emulators mimic a processor; WINE connects your existing processor directly with Windows software using a software layer.
Did you finish that paragraph? If not, you might be a Mac user: it’s just the sort of heavy-handed point Linux users love to make… and Mac users find irrelevant. Linux users also love playing with things to make them work properly – another thing many Mac users prefer to avoid. How is Wine different from a virtual machine? One reason is obvious: to use a virtual machine to run Windows apps, you need a copy of Windows. Wineskin has no such restrictions.
So why does anyone use virtual machines at all? Well, for one thing, check out how long the above tutorial is. Virtual machines are complex, but they perfectly simulate running an app in their native environment – because they actually run the app in their native environment.
Additionally, WINE means constant tweaking. It means working to get things working properly, and Googling a lot to see what will and won’t work. The effort pays off, though: an app set up to run in WINE will ultimately run better than it would in a virtual machine.
Which should you use? It’s up to you. If you want to actually run Windows alongside OS X, check out Virtualbox and software like it. If you’re willing to do some tweaking in order to (hopefully) get better performance, try Wineskin.
Wineskin isn’t alone, though. If you waant to try another version of Wine for Mac users you should check out Winebottler, which also uses Wine to run Windows apps on Macs. It’s pretty good, though it does not give you access to advanced features like Winetricks.
Are you using this approach to run Windows software on Mac? Personally I’m thrilled to get my wife’s ancient version of Quicken working, but I want to know what you’ve set up. Share in the comments below, and please: consult WineHQ for help before coming here asking questions about a particular app. I probably don’t have the apps you do.