This tutorial is for intermediate users who want to install and use Wine on their computer running macOS. You should already know the basics of how to use the command line. If you don't, read this tutorial first.
Wine is awesome. No, I'm not talking about the kind you drink, I mean the kind that lets you run Windows apps without the Windows operating system. It's kind of Zen, when you think about it. Oh, and did I mention it's completely free, legal, and open source?
Nowadays, Windows and Mac play nicely together. You can install Windows and Mac side by side and switch between them using Boot Camp, but that requires a reboot every time, and you can only use one operating system at a time. You can also use a tool like Parallels Desktop or VMware Fusion to virtualize Windows and run it together with Mac, but virtualization is slow and it takes up a lot of memory. (Your physical computer creates an imaginary "virtual" computer within itself, and runs Windows on that. That takes a lot of resources!) On top of that, all of these solutions require you to own a legal copy of Windows, which isn't cheap!
Wine is different. When any program runs, it requests resources like memory and disk space from the operating system. All that Wine does is make sure that those requests get answered so that the program can run correctly. As far as the program knows, everything is going smoothly because it has everything it needs. It never even realizes that it's not running on Windows! It's simpler than emulating a whole new computer, so it's faster. Since it's just translating requests, you don't need a copy of the actual Windows operating system. Plus, Wine is open source, which means people are continually improving it and adding new features. And you can't beat the price!
A lot of people discover Wine because they have one specific Windows program that they need to use, and it's the last thing preventing them from switching to a different operating system. So, the big question is, will it work? The short answer is: probably, but it's worth checking.
The Wine project maintains a database called the AppDB that has user reviews of how well specific Windows programs work under Wine. Search for your program and find out! (If it's not listed, that doesn't necessarily mean that it won't work — only that you're apparently trying to use a very obscure program!)
To install Wine on your Mac, you will need the following:
To check what version of macOS you're running, click on the Apple logo on the far left side of the toolbar, select "About This Mac", and look at your version number under the big "macOS" or "OS X". If it's 10.10 or higher, you're all set.
Note that Wine does not work well with macOS 10.15 Catalina. Apple removed 32-bit support in Catalina, which is a critical part of the macOS system that almost all of Wine relies on. You can run 64-bit applications through Wine on Catalina, but very few applications for Windows are 64-bit. If you need to use Wine, you should not upgrade to Catalina.
You need an Admin account on your Mac because only Admins can install software.
You will need to be logged in to this Admin account during the installation.
If there is only one account on your computer, it is an Admin account.
The account must have a password: if the account has no password,
sudo utility will fail. To set or change your password,
go to the Accounts section in System Preferences.
Homebrew is a package manager that makes installing open source programs much easier. In particular, trying to install a large program like Wine without the help of a package manager would be tremendously difficult. Fortunately, Homebrew itself is simple to install: just open up the Terminal and run this command:
ruby -e "$(curl -fsSL https://raw.githubusercontent.com/Homebrew/install/master/install)"
The Terminal will tell you what it's about to do, and ask you if you want to proceed: press Enter to do so. The Terminal may then ask for a password: this is the password to the Admin account on your computer. As a security measure, the Terminal does not display anything as you type, not even asterisks (*). Type your password anyway, and press Enter. If you get some kind of error, it might be because the Admin account doesn't have a password set. Setting a password is required.
Installing Homebrew should only take a few seconds or minutes (depending on the speed of your internet connection). When it's done, the Terminal will say that the installation was successful, and ask you to run brew doctor. Do as it suggests:
This will make Homebrew inspect your system and make sure that everything
is set up correctly. If the Terminal informs you of any issues, you'll need
to fix them yourself, and then run brew doctor again to verify that you
fixed them correctly. When everything is set up correctly, you'll see the
Your system is ready to brew, and you can move on to the next part
of the tutorial.
Note: If Homebrew tells you that you need to agree to the Xcode license, you can do that by running:
sudo xcodebuild -license
The Terminal window will fill up with the Xcode license: read it, type agree and hit enter to agree to the license.
Now we get to actually install Wine! We'll let Homebrew do all the work, all you have to do is tell it what you want with this command:
brew cask install wine-stable
Let's break down this command into parts.
brew refers to Homebrew, which
you just installed.
cask refers to
an extension to Homebrew that is used to install GUI application on your
computer. (GUI stands for "Graphical User Interface". A GUI application is
an app that you can see running, as opposed to invisibly running
in the background.)
install refers to the fact that you're asking
Homebrew Cask to install something on your computer, and
is the name of the thing that you want it to install. Wine has a "stable" version
and a "devel" version: you probably want stable, since it should have fewer bugs.
When you run this command, Homebrew will start automatically downloading and installing software onto your computer. It might start by installing software that has a totally different name: that's fine! Like most complex applications, Wine doesn't work alone -- it relies on several other pieces of software to run correctly. These are called "dependencies", and Homebrew is smart enough to install them for you automatically when necessary.
While it's working, Homebrew will display messages and progress bars on the Terminal to let you know what it's doing. When it's done installing Wine, it will stop displaying messages and wait for you to type in a new command. When that happens, move on to the next step!
To install a Windows program, first download the installer file:
it should end with .exe. Remember the location you put it, and open up
the Terminal again.
cd to the location, and use
ls to make sure you can
see the installer file. (Note: if you do not know what
you should learn how to use the command line
before using Wine.)
Once you are in the correct directory, run the installer through Wine by running the following command in the Terminal:
$INSTALLER is the name of the installer file. For example,
if the installer file is named
setup.exe, you would run:
A window will pop up with a regular graphical Windows installer. Click through it, and you're done!
Open up the Terminal and run this to get to your Program Files folder:
cd ~/.wine/drive_c/Program\ Files/
Run ls to see what programs you have installed. Pick a program,
and enter its directory using cd. (If the folder has a space in it,
you must type a \ before the space. For example,
If you're having problems, try using tab autocomplete.)
There should be a file that ends in
.exe: this is the program file.
Type this into Terminal:
$PROGRAM is the name of the
.exe file. For example, if the program
file is named
STARCRAFT.EXE, you would run:
The program will pop up in a new window, ready to use! Enjoy using Windows on your Mac, freely and legally!
Many people want to be able to run Windows programs the same way they run other programs on the Mac: by clicking an icon in the Dock. Wine isn't specifically designed to support this, but with a little trickery, we can make it do what we want.
Note: Wine prints out error messages in the Terminal when something goes wrong. By launching Windows programs via a Dock icon, you are sidestepping the Terminal, which means that if something does go wrong and Wine has to quit, it will not be able to tell you what the problem was. The first step to solving a problem is knowing what it is, so without running Wine from the Terminal, you won't be able to fix it, and neither will anyone else. Running from the Dock is fine as long as your program seems to be working correctly, but if it crashes, the first thing you should try is running it from the Terminal instead: it won't prevent the program from crashing, but it will give you some clues on how to fix the problem.
In order to launch a Windows program via the Dock, we're going to
write an AppleScript
that launches the program for us, and then put
that AppleScript in the Dock. Essentially, we're writing a program ourselves!
Don't worry, it's easy enough. There is a program on your computer
that is designed for helping you write AppleScripts:
it's called "Script Editor", and you can find it in the
/Applications/Utilities directory of your computer,
same as the Terminal itself.
Open up the Script Editor. You should see a window with a large area you can type in near the top: this is where you write your AppleScript. In that area, type the following text:
tell application "Terminal" do script "/usr/local/bin/wine ~/.wine/drive_c/Program\\ Files/$PATH_TO_PROGRAM.exe" end tell
You'll need to replace
$PATH_TO_PROGRAM with the path from the
Program Files directory to your program executable. You can see that
you're simply telling the AppleScript to run a line of code in the Terminal:
the same line of code that you could run to start your Windows program.
Next, press the Compile button at the top of the window. The text should become colored to indicate that Script Editor understands what you wrote. You can also try pressing the Run button to run your script: it should open the Windows program successfully.
Lastly, save your script. You can give it whatever name you'd like, but be sure to select File Format: Application in the save options, and leave Startup Screen unchecked.
Open up the Finder, go to where you saved your script, and drag that file to your Dock. It should stay there, just like a real application — because it is a real application! However, all it does is run that launcher command for you, so you can move the application around, rename it, or even delete it, and it won't affect the Windows program that you're running.
Wine is an open source program. That means that programmers around the world are continually improving it, adding new features and squashing bugs. If you don't update Wine, though, it will never get those improvements, so it's generally a good idea to check for updates every so often. We can use Homebrew to keep Wine up to date: it's easy! Just run this command:
With this command, Homebrew will first update itself, if any updates are available. It will then find all the outdated software it knows about (including Wine) and upgrade them all to the latest version. Checking for updates isn't strictly necessary, as Wine runs quite well currently. However, it's a good idea to run this command every few months or so.
If you try Wine and you don't like it, uninstalling it is easy. Just run this command:
brew cask uninstall wine-stable
And Homebrew will helpfully remove Wine from your computer. However, in order to install Wine, Homebrew also had to install many other small programs that Wine relies upon to work correctly. (That's why the install process takes so long!) If you want to remove these as well, run this script:
ruby -e "$(curl -fsSL https://raw.githubusercontent.com/Homebrew/install/master/uninstall)"
That script will remove everthing that you installed in this tutorial, including Homebrew, Wine, and all the other programs Homebrew installed to get Wine to work correctly.