Best Free Windows Emulators for Mac

Looking for a way to run Windows apps on your Mac? Check out the best free Windows emulators for Mac.
best windows emulators for mac

Windows is the most popular operating system, and luckily, it's easy to emulate on Mac. Running a Windows emulator on macOS gives you access to the full range of Windows software, including programs that might not be available on macOS.

With free Windows emulators for Mac, you can easily and quickly run any version of Microsoft Windows right on your Apple computer. You'll be able to enjoy all kinds of amazing features that are exclusive to PCs. Whether it's gaming, software development or even just getting access to programs that won't operate on Macs.

Continue reading to find out more about Windows emulators for Mac, and how to bridge the gap between Windows and Mac.

Table of Content

  1. What is an Emulator?
  2. Top 5 Free Windows Emulators for Mac
  3. Boot Camp Assistant
  4. VirtualBox
  5. VMWare Fusion
  6. PlayOnMac
  7. CrossOver

What is an Emulator?

An emulator is a type of software that allows you to run programs or games designed for one operating system on another. In simpler terms, it's like creating a virtual environment on your computer that mimics the environment of a different operating system.

If you have a Mac computer and want to run a Windows program, you can use an emulator to create a virtual Windows environment on your Mac. Then, you can run the program within that environment. Emulators are useful because they allow you to use programs or play games that are not available on your computer's native OS.

Emulators are commonly used in the gaming world, where gamers can use them to play classic console games on their computers. However, they are also useful for productivity purposes, allowing users to run programs that are only available on a specific operating system.

There are many different types of emulators available, each designed to run programs for a specific operating system. When choosing an emulator, it's important to make sure it is compatible with the program you want to run, and that it meets the system requirements of your computer.

Top 5 Free Windows Emulators for Mac

With so many options on the market, we've put together a list of the top 5 free Windows emulators for Mac. Each emulator has its unique features and benefits, so you can choose the one that best meets your needs.

  1. Boot Camp Assistant
  2. VirtualBox
  3. VMWare Fusion
  4. PlayOnMac
  5. CrossOver

1. Boot Camp Assistant

boot camp for mac

Boot Camp is a program built into your Mac that allows you to install Windows on a separate partition of your hard drive. With Boot Camp, you can dual-boot and use Windows and macOS at the same time, giving you the best of both worlds.

To access Boot Camp, you can find it in the "Utilities" section of the Applications folder on your Mac. Once you have installed Windows using Boot Camp, you can easily switch between the two operating systems whenever you want by selecting the one you want to use when you turn on your computer.

With Boot Camp, you can run Windows apps and games natively on your Mac, but keep in mind that you won’t have access to your macOS files or apps while using Windows, and vice versa. If you need to use a non-compatible app, you will need to switch to the appropriate operating system to do so.


  • Allows you to run Windows natively on your Mac computer
  • Gives access to Windows-only software and games
  • Utilizes full hardware performance of the computer
  • Easy to set up and use


  • Requires partitioning of hard drive, taking up disk space
  • Switching between macOS and Windows can be inconvenient
  • Only one operating system can be used at a time


virtualbox for mac

VirtualBox lets you create a virtual machine on your Mac to run Windows and Windows apps without rebooting. What's great about this tool is that it's completely free for personal or educational use, so you don't need to spend any money to get started.

While VirtualBox might not be as user-friendly as some of the other tools out there, it offers improved support for Windows games, apps, audio, and 3D graphics, which is a big plus. For businesses, there is a paid version that offers IT support and more features, making it a great option for professional use.

One of the benefits of VirtualBox is that it provides good hardware support, which means that peripherals such as cameras and printers will work well. However, it's worth noting that the setup process may not be as easy as other tools on this list. Overall, VirtualBox is a great option for those who want a free and reliable tool for running Windows on their Mac.


  • Free to use for personal or educational purposes
  • Good hardware support
  • Support for Windows games, apps, audio, and 3D graphics
  • Create a virtual machine to run Windows and Windows apps without rebooting


  • Not as user-friendly as some of the other tools available
  • Does not offer IT support or advanced features for businesses
  • Performance may not be as good as other virtualization tools

3. VMWare Fusion

vmware fusion for mac

VMWare Fusion is a program that allows you to run Windows operating systems on your Mac as a virtual machine. Unlike Boot Camp, this tool comes at a cost, but you can take advantage of the 30-day free trial. By running Windows in a separate window on your Mac, you can use your favorite Mac apps in the background while navigating Windows.

This program is compatible with the latest version of macOS, Big Sur, and even supports the Touch Bar on newer MacBook models, making it easy to use with Windows apps. Additionally, you have the option to expand the Windows window to full screen or run Windows apps in Unity mode, which displays the Windows File Browser as an app in macOS.

One drawback of using VMWare Fusion is that you may experience slower performance compared to Boot Camp since you're running two operating systems at the same time. However, the convenience of being able to switch between macOS and Windows apps without restarting your computer may outweigh the performance difference for some users.


  • Allows you to run Windows OS inside a window on your Mac
  • Lets you use your Mac apps in the background while running Windows
  • Works great with Big Sur and supports Touch Bar on newer MacBooks
  • Offers a 30-day fully-functional free trial


  • Costs money to purchase the full version
  • Running Windows inside a virtual machine may result in slower performance
  • Some Windows apps may not work properly in the virtual environment

4. PlayOnMac (Wine)

playonmac emulator

PlayOnMac is a tool that lets you run Windows applications on macOS by utilizing Wine. Wine is a free and open-source compatibility layer that allows Windows applications to run on other operating systems. PlayOnMac serves as a graphical user interface (GUI) and manager for Wine, which means it makes it easier to manage and install applications that require Wine.

One of the key benefits of PlayOnMac is that it offers prebuilt install scripts, which simplifies the process of installing Windows applications on macOS. This can be especially helpful for users who are not familiar with the intricacies of Wine. Additionally, PlayOnMac lets you have different versions of Wine in separate "prefixes" or virtual environments, which can be useful for running multiple applications that require different versions of Wine.

While it's possible to use Wine directly without PlayOnMac, some users find PlayOnMac to be a more convenient and user-friendly option.


  • Easy-to-use GUI interface
  • Offers different versions of Wine in different prefixes
  • Has pre-built installation scripts to make installing apps easier
  • Works well for some users who find it more convenient than vanilla Wine


  • Requires Wine to function
  • Not as feature-rich as other virtualization tools
  • May not work for all Windows apps and games

5. CrossOver

crossover for mac

CrossOver is a version of Wine that allows you to run Windows applications on a Mac without needing to install a Windows operating system or obtain a Windows license. It's essentially a more polished version of Wine, making it easier to use and with better compatibility for running Windows programs.

One of the main advantages of CrossOver is its compatibility with various Windows applications and games. You can run these applications right alongside your Mac apps, without the need for rebooting your computer. The program also offers a 14-day free trial that is fully functional, allowing you to try out the software before committing to a purchase.

While CrossOver is not a free program, it offers a convenient and user-friendly option for Mac users who need to run Windows applications. It's worth considering if you require a hassle-free way to use Windows software on your Mac without having to install a virtual machine or purchase a Windows license.


  • Runs Windows applications without the need for a virtual machine or Windows license
  • Polished user interface and experience
  • Easy installation and setup process
  • Supports a wide range of Windows applications and games


  • Full version costs money
  • Performance may not be as good as running the application natively on Windows
  • Limited customization options compared to Wine


With so many options available, choosing the best free Windows emulator for Mac can be a difficult decision. Each of the tools mentioned above offers different features and advantages that may appeal to different users.

Consider your needs carefully before choosing an emulator and make sure you read up on its features and compatibility with specific applications or games before making a final decision. Additionally, seek out advice from experienced users who have already used these emulators to get a better sense of which one is right for you.

With the right information and research, you should be able to find the perfect Windows emulator for your Mac!

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