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Is a game made for a Windows machine playable on a Mac?

I'm going to buy a new computer for gaming and would like to know if it's possible to play Windows games on a new Mac.

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A better solution would be to figure out why you stop getting viruses and fix that :) –  Phoshi Apr 7 '10 at 18:30
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migrated from superuser.com Dec 25 '10 at 17:12

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7 Answers

No. Mac OS cannot play Windows games unless the game has been rewritten to specifically run on OS X. They are completely different operating systems. However, you can use Boot Camp or other such solutions to run Windows on a Mac to allow you to play your games, or look up which games you own are also sold for Mac.

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Does Wine not work on Mac? –  Bart van Heukelom Jul 28 '10 at 14:47
    
@Barf yes, there are several implementations of Wine and its derivatives that allow Macs to run some games written for Windows. –  user3389 Dec 27 '10 at 13:33
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The key word here is some games. –  Chris Nava Dec 27 '10 at 21:16
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Not natively. You would end up either using bootcamp to run Windows on your mac or running VirtualBox (or similar) to run Windows on you mac. Either way Windows will be running in some form...

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You can use Crossover Games to run some native Windows games (only certain games will run well). A better alternative would be just running the full version of Windows in Bootcamp, VMWare Fusion, or Parallels.

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I'm not sure that would be "a better alternative" so much as just "an alternative". –  Ignacio Vazquez-Abrams Apr 7 '10 at 18:39
    
Running an actual version of Windows would allow for more flexibility which is why I said they were "better alternatives". –  Kevin Y Apr 8 '10 at 1:01
    
+1 for actually referencing a way to run Windows games in Mac OS X instead of saying it's absolutely impossible. –  user3389 Dec 27 '10 at 13:35
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Yes and No. Windows games will not run natively on MacOS. However, there are games ported to or written for the MacOS. Also there are ways to run some windows games on a Mac (with varying degrees of success.) Dual booting to windows, and virtualization are the most common ways to run Windows apps on a Mac. Also of note, Steam is being ported to the MacOS and should open up opportunities for other publishers to follow.

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The answer is "no", as many other people have said. However, a lot of popular and indie games are available for MacOS X. See Apple's gaming website and the Mac games section of Steam for some examples. This is the tiniest fraction of all the games available for Windows, but well-selling games tend to get ported quite quickly. Some big-name games of recent years which work on MacOS X include The Sims (1, 2 and 3), Civilization V, Starcraft 2 and Dragon Age: Origins.

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In the general case, you normally can't expect to go to your favorite game shop, pick up a PC game, take it home, and expect to be able to put the game on your Mac and have it run. However, it is possible to play PC games on a Mac. When attempting to play a Windows game on a Mac OS-based machine, you have several options, each with its drawbacks and strengths.

Please note: This is intended as general advice to a non-technical audience. This is not indented to be a "catch-all" answer to "how do I overcome game X's difficulties when running under solution Y." The existence of this answer does not mark every other MacOS gaming question on this topic as a duplicate. It is further not meant to be a full and complete overview of WINE/Virtual Machines/dual booting/etc. The intent is to generally summarize the solutions to allow people to choose a direction to invest further effort.

Get the Mac Port

If it exists, getting the Mac port or playing it natively on your Mac is almost always the best way to play any game on a Mac. With the advent of things like SteamPlay and the rise of independent game houses, more and more games are coming out for the Mac. Don't assume that the game is Windows-only until you've done the research. More and more games are now showing up in browsers, which can also sometimes make them platform independent. Whenever you can, invest time in researching the Mac version of a game, as playing it typically produces the best experience.

Pros

  • Support Mac publishers and encourage more Mac games.
  • Usually the best possible experience, designed for your OS.
  • Better support for 3D acceleration and other advanced hardware features.
  • Some features that you want may be platform-specific and only available on Mac.

Cons

  • Not all games have a Mac port.
  • Sometimes can be expensive to re-purchase a game if you already own it.
  • Some features that you want may be platform-specific and unavailable on Mac.
  • Sometimes the Mac port is bad, or is actually a version of the game ported using one of these other methods (see Emulation).

Virtual Machine

With desktop virtual machine software, you can run a copy of Windows as a "program" under Mac OS. Several software packages exist, such as VirtualBox, Parallels, and VMWare Fusion. Once you've installed the virtual machine software, you can follow a simple wizard to create a file on your hard drive to hold your Windows installation and applications, and then the system will walk you through setting up Windows from the install media.

Pros

  • Setup is generally fairly easy - if you can install OSX programs and Windows programs, you can probably install a Windows virtual machine with little trouble.
  • Integration with your existing OSX applications tends to be fairly seamless.
  • Run a wide array of Windows apps without having to do any sort of complicated setup per-app.

Cons

  • VM software is a resource hog, and will eat large chunks of your RAM, CPU, and disk space.
  • The guest operating system (in this case, Windows) won't have full access to your hardware, so performance is going to be poorer than some of the other solutions on this list.
  • 3D support and performance are generally fairly poor compared to the Mac Port or Dual Boot approaches, although this area is evolving.
  • Cost - you need to own a license to Windows, and in most cases you will also have to purchase a license to the virtual machine software.

Dual Boot

With Apple's BootCamp software, you can install Windows into a separate part of your Mac's hard drive, and then you can choose to start either Windows or Mac OS on your Mac when you start it up. Apple provides technical manuals for properly installing BootCamp on your Mac, which are easy to follow and thorough.

Pros

  • Windows is actually running on your hardware, so installing/playing Windows games is generally a breeze. Install them on your Mac just like you would on any other Windows PC.
  • Windows has full control of your hardware, so 3D support and game performance are as good as comparable non-Mac hardware.

Cons

  • Rebooting to switch between Mac OS and Windows is painful and time consuming.
  • Requires that you have a valid, licensed copy of Windows, which can be expensive.

Emulation

Virtual machines emulate an entire PC, but oftentimes this solution is overkill. Emulators (and similar programs) only fake part of the device or OS in question, which can yield better performance with less overhead. Many different types/classes of emulators exist that emulate a wide variety of platforms and systems, for example:

  • Darwine and CrossoverGames are based on the WINE project which attempts to reproduce Windows API calls on Linux/Mac.
  • DOSBox emulates a DOS environment for older games.
  • XNA games (such as Terraria) can be played on OSX via MonoGame.
  • Console versions of games can be played on Macs with the appropriate console emulator, of which there are too many to list.

Pros

  • Many emulators are free, and do not require a Windows license/install disc.
  • Emulators generally require fewer resources than a virtual machine.

Cons

  • Emulation can produce unstable results.
  • Not all games are compatible with emulation.
  • Emulators generally have poor support compared to other solutions - expect to experiment and invest time to get your game running properly.

Cloud Gaming

A fairly recent development is "cloud gaming" where the game's video is "streamed" to your computer in a fashion similar to how Netflix works, as opposed to your computer's OS and hardware rendering the video data locally. OnLive, one prominent player in this space, offers a wide library of games to choose from and supports playing games on most modern Macs.

Pros

  • Larger library of games than traditionally offered as Mac ports
  • Compatible with a wider array of hardware than other solutions (ie, Intel integrated graphics Macs aren't limited by what runs on an Intel chipset)

Cons

  • Requires a constant, high-speed broadband connection in order to play.
  • Pricing structure may not be appealing.
  • Game selection may not be as broad as the selection under "Dual Boot" or "Virtual Machine" solutions.
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Some features may be platform-specific. is listed as a con, but in some cases is a pro! The Mac version of World of Warcraft, for example, has iTunes support and VIDEO RECORDING features built right into the client! –  LessPop_MoreFizz Jan 13 '12 at 20:21
    
@LessPop_MoreFizz fair enough :) Edited. –  agent86 Jan 13 '12 at 20:43
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Good answer. One thing (sadly) worth mentioning is that even when you "get the mac port" it may turn out to be the Windows version wrapped into a commercial emulator (often TransGaming's Cedega) by the publisher or a 3rd party contractor. This often results in rather poor performance compared to running the same game on the same machine in Windows (see dual boot). EVE online is a tragic example of this, but the practice is very common, as it's cheaper and easier to do this than develop a truly native Mac port. –  Ingmar Jan 13 '12 at 20:58
    
I've gone the dual boot route for games that are Windows only. I've pleasantly discovered that my iMac is a ballsy Windows gaming machine! You should also consider checking out Humble Bundles which provide cross-platform games. –  Brian Kelly Jan 14 '12 at 13:51
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If you play games using Boot Camp on a laptop or iMac, I suggest acquiring a fan speed controller and cranking them up. I burned out a couple of graphics controllers (under AppleCare, thankfully) figuring that out. –  Seth Noble Jan 17 '12 at 2:41
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doesn't wine run on Mac OS X now ? you can make it simpler with something like Playonlinux, which is kind of like an add on to wine with a simple GUI interface. Not sure if it works on OS X, but there might be a port

hope this helps, not getting your games to run on a particular system can be a pain.

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protected by LessPop_MoreFizz Jan 14 '12 at 2:45

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