PC emulation software enables you to run Windows platforms and programs on Macs. This means that you can open a Windows OS within a Mac OS with a PC emulator installed on an Apple Macintosh! Thus, you can get the best of both the Microsoft and Apple worlds with a virtual machine.
As such, PC emulation software can greatly expand the amount of software you can open on Macs by running programs that are otherwise exclusive to Windows.
There are two types of PC emulation of software. The first is virtualization software that emulates operating systems with virtual machines. The second type of PC emulation software enables you to run Windows apps on Macs without any virtual machine.
As there’s no virtual machine, you don’t need any Windows product key to run the programs with non-virtualization software. These are a few of the best PC emulation software for Macs with which you can run Windows software.
VMware Fusion (recommended)
VMware Fusion is probably one of the best-known applications that allow you to run Windows apps on your Mac. You can run WMware Fusion 10 on most Macs launched from 2011.
Fusion is retailing at $79, but there’s also a pro version available at $159. VMware Fusion 11.5 Pro includes extra virtual network customization and simulation and incorporates a new Fusion API.
VMware Fusion 10 supports more than 200 guest operating systems. Fusion’s Unity View Mode enables you to launch Windows software from the Dock, Launchpad, and Spotlight.
The software also enables you to switch between a window and full-screen mode for the guest platform, copy and paste and drag-and-drop files and folders between Windows and Mac.
Fusion is a good choice for Windows games as it incorporates a 3D accelerated graphics engine for DirectX 10 and OpenGL 3.3.
Another great thing about Fusion is that you can utilize Windows-only devices with your Macintosh when Windows is up on the Mac. Few other emulators can match Fusion’s seamless Mac integration, extensive virtual machine support, and graphics engine.
Parallels Desktop (suggested)
Parallels Desktop 13 is one of the most flexible and best-known emulator for Mac OS. As for availability, this software is available exclusively for the Mac OS X and Sierra.
The standard Parallels Desktop version is currently retailing at about $79 (discounted during holidays). However, there are also Parallel Pro and Business Editions that include advanced networking and software developer tools. You can utilize this software on Mac OS X El Captain, Yosemite, macOS Sierra and High Sierra 10.3.
Parallels Desktop allows you to run various guest operating systems, which include Windows (from 3.11 on), Chrome OS, Mac OS X Leopard, DOS, Ubuntu, and Debian.
What sets Parallels apart from some alternative virtualization packages is how it integrates Windows software with the host Mac platform. Parallels users can launch Windows software from the Mac’s Dock much the same as Mac programs. Furthermore, you can copy and paste and drag-and-drop folders and files from the Mac desktop into the host platform.
You can even open Windows programs without the guest platform desktop. Parallels also includes handy file archive, make GIF, drive cleanup, video conversion, screencast, audio recording and video download tools, which aren’t something you’ll get in every emulator package.
- Editor’s Note: If you’re interested in other emulator software, check out our wide collection of guides.
This is open-source virtualization software is available on multiple platforms, so it can also run on Windows and Linux. Aside from utilizing Windows software on Macs, you can also run macOS programs on Windows (XP and higher) and Linux with VB. You can download VirtualBox from this website page.
The highlight of VirtualBox is is it support for various guest operating systems. This allows you to run both 32 and 64-bit Windows platforms from ’98 up, Solaris, Ubuntu, Debian and even DOS as VB guest operating systems. The software almost perfectly synchronizes the hardware and platforms, and Virtualbox also supports 3D acceleration.
So the software makes the most of your system’s 3D graphics with a little further configuration. You do need to adjust quite a few VB settings to set up the virtual machines, but the software packs in many advanced features.
You don’t always need emulator software to run Windows programs on Apple Macs. Instead, you can install Windows separately with Boot Camp.
Boot Camp isn’t really emulation software, but it’s a utility included on Macs that enables you to add another OS to Apple laptops or desktops as part of a dual-boot configuration.
You can install Windows 10, 8.1 or 7 on a Mac with Boot Camp, and then configure the newly installed OS as your default platform as covered in this post.
If you only need to run Windows desktop software on your Mac, you don’t need a virtual machine application. CrossOver Mac is one of the best emulators that enables you to run Windows programs without a virtual machine.
The CrossOver emulator is currently retailing from $39.95. The latest CrossOver 17 version is compatible with the macOS High Sierra, El Captain, Yosemite and Sierra platforms. There’s also another CrossOver package for Linux systems.
CrossOver users can run thousands of Windows programs that are compatible with the software. This index page currently includes 15,144 programs that you can run with CrossOver. As there’s no virtual machine, CrossOver is more system resource efficient than the likes of VirtualBox. With CrossOver’s installer, you can quickly search for and install Windows programs on your Mac and then launch them.
The software also integrates neatly with macOS as you can open Windows programs from the Dock much the same as native apps. You can’t run anything other than Windows programs with CrossOver, but it’s a more straightforward than most virtualization software.
Last entry on our list is WineBottler and just like our previous entry, WineBottler isn’t a virtual machine application. Instead, this tool utilizes Wine compatibility layer.
WineBottler is open-source software that’s compatible with macOS Sierra, Yosemite, Mavericks, Snow Leopard and Lion. You can press the WineBottler 1.8.4 button on this webpage to download the software.
The software enables you to transform Windows software into Mac programs to run on Apple desktops or laptops. To do that, you’ll need to save the installer or exe for the required Windows software to a Mac and install that via WineBottler’s Advanced tab.
The main difference from CrossOver is that you can selectively port Windows software to Macs with WineBottler, but you might still find that it doesn’t port all Windows programs. You can also select a wide variety of automated installations for Windows software from its Download tab.
WineBottler doesn’t come with many additional tools, but it’s a still straightforward package to utilize for opening Windows software in Macs.
These are some of the best tools that will allow you to run Windows applications on your Apple computer. Bear in mind that you’re not limited to the Windows platform, and thanks to the virtualization emulators you can run Linux and other platforms on Macs. As such, emulators can greatly expand your software library for any platform.
Can you run Windows PC programs on a Mac?
Not natively, except for when the programs are cross-platform and allow you to run them on several platforms. However, you can use specialized software solutions such as VMware Fusion to bypass these restrictions.
Is there a macOS emulator on Windows PCs?
Yes, you can use virtualization software to experiment with various operating systems (such as macOS) without affecting the stability of Windows.
How can I make my Windows PC feel like a Mac?
If you want to have the Mac experience without affecting your Windows operating system, here’s how you can turn your Windows OS into a macOS (visually).
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in February 2018 and has been since revamped and updated in March 2020 for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.