How to Open EXE Files on a Mac

by Amber D. Walker

One problem with moving from a PC to a Macintosh computer is that most software is designed to run only in Windows. Ever since 2007, Mac users have been able to use the OS X "Boot Camp" feature to set aside a dedicated Windows section on their hard drives, but getting to it requires turning off the computer and rebooting. By installing "Crossover for Mac," you should be able to run Windows programs on your Mac without rebooting.

Step 1

Download and install Crossover for Mac. This is a commercial version of Wine, a free software program developed to allow Linux users to run Windows programs on their computers. You can save a little money and use Wine on a Mac, but installing Wine on OS X can be complicated and time consuming. Crossover makes the process much easier.

Step 2

Double-click Crossover and choose "Install software" from the "Configure" menu. Look through the list of supported software and, if your desired EXE file is there, click it and hit continue. Otherwise, click "Install Unsupported Software." If you have an EXE file that does not require installation, you can just double-click it from within Finder and Crossover will try to run it directly.

Step 3

Create a new bottle. A bottle is a sealed environment within which your Windows program will run. You will need to choose a version of Windows to be emulated. The default is Windows XP, and this often is the best choice, but some programs may run best under a different version. Determining the best version usually has to be done by trial and error. If a given program doesn't work with Windows XP, try it with Windows 2000.

Step 4

Choose your installer file. This could be either a CD you received from the store or a file you downloaded from the Internet. If you have a CD, insert that now, and it should appear in the Crossover window; if that's the case, you can skip step 5. Otherwise, if you downloaded the program from the Internet, click "Choose installer file or folder."

Step 5

Choose the EXE program you downloaded from the Internet. If you are installing from a CD, you can skip this step.

Step 6

Follow the instructions in the program's installer, just as you would with a standard Window installation. Let the program install to its default location, even though it will look more like a Windows hard-drive location than an OS X location.

Choose the program from Crossover's "Programs" menu. Your program should now begin to run.


  • Make sure that running an EXE file on your Mac is really necessary. Many Windows programs have versions for OS X. Some programs may run best when in a Windows XP bottle, and others may run better in a Windows 2000 bottle. Some experimentation may increase reliability. Some programs, especially games, will not work, even in Crossover. Save often. Windows programs are much less reliable when trying to run on a Mac. Because Macs produced before 2007 used the PowerPC processor and not the Intel x86 processor that Windows programs have always used, it is usually impossible to run Windows programs on these older computers.


About the Author

Amber D. Walker has been writing professionally since 1989. She has had essays published in "Fort Worth Weekly," "Starsong," "Paper Bag," "Living Buddhism" and more. Walker holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of Texas and worked as an English teacher abroad for six years.

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