How To Open EXE Files on a Mac: A Guide With 3 Methods

Updated June 24, 2022

Although many software programs and applications are available in both Windows and Mac versions today, there are some products that are only compatible with one of these systems. Learning how to make these programs work with your computer system can help you access the programs you need and collaborate with other professionals on projects that require you to use specific software. If you use a Mac device, then you may be interested in learning how to open EXE files on your computer.

In this article, we explain what an EXE file is and provide step-by-step instructions to download, install, open and run EXE files on a Mac device using three popular programs.

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What is an EXE file on a Mac?

An EXE file is a file formatted to run and install software applications on Windows computers and devices. This type of file is compatible with operating systems like MS-DOS, ReactOS, Windows and OpenVMS. Since Mac computers use a different operating system than Windows computers, EXE files aren't compatible with Mac devices. This means if you have a Mac device and want to open an EXE file to install a piece of software, there are some additional steps you need to take.

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How to open EXE files on a Mac

Here are three ways you can open EXE files on a Mac:

Opening EXE files using WineBottler

WineBottler allows Mac users to run Windows software, apps and games on their devices. This open-source compatibility layer redesigns Windows directory structures to make them compatible with macOS so you can open EXE files on your Mac computer. Here are some steps you can follow to open EXE files on your Mac device using the program WineBottler:

  1. Start by downloading the WINE program from the WineBottler website. Choose the version labeled "WineBottler 1.8-rc4 development" if your Mac device uses OS High Sierra, Sierra, El Capitan, Yosemite, Mavericks, Mountain Lion, Lion or Snow Leopard, and if your Mac device uses an OS lower than X Captain, choose the "WineBottler 1.6.1 Stable" option instead.

  2. When a pop-up window appears, click on the "Download" button.

  3. WineBottler plays advertisements while it downloads the program to sponsor their software development and keep their product free for users. After five seconds, you may choose to click the "Skip Ad" button in the upper right corner of your screen, and if you have an ad blocker installed on your computer, make sure you temporarily disable it before downloading the WineBottler program.

  4. If your computer doesn't automatically start downloading WineBottler, you can click on the "WineBottlerCombo_1.8-rc4.dmb" link at the bottom of your computer screen to initiate it.

  5. Next, double-click the WineBottler setup file on your desktop to open it. Then use your cursor to drag and drop both the "Wine" icon and the "WineBottler" icon into your "Applications" folder.

  6. Right-click on the EXE file you want to open on your Mac device.

  7. Click on the "Open with" button from the drop-down menu that appears and select "Wine."

  8. In the pop-up window that appears, check the box next to "Run directly in."

  9. Click on the "Go" button in the lower right corner of the pop-up window to open your EXE file.

Related: 21 Types of Files (With Definitions and Common Uses)

Opening EXE files using Boot Camp

Boot Camp is a program included on most Mac devices that allows you to use both macOS and Windows on your computer by switching back and forth between the two operating systems. Here are some steps you can follow to open EXE files on your Mac device using the program Boot Camp:

  1. Start by making sure you have the Windows 8, 8.1 or 10 installation file on your Mac device. If you don't have this file yet, you can download the latest ISO file from Microsoft's website.

  2. Click on the magnifying glass button in the upper right corner of your computer screen and type the word "Utilities" into the search bar. Then click on your "Utilities" folder to open it.

  3. Once your "Utilities" folder opens, double-click on the Boot Camp Assistant icon, which looks like a gray hard drive.

  4. Follow the on-screen instructions Boot Camp provides to select your Windows installation file, choose where you would like to install it and reboot your Mac device. If you plan to install Windows from a USB or a hard drive, connect it to your computer to complete this step.

  5. Once your computer restarts, the Windows installer screen automatically appears.

  6. Select the "BOOTCAMP" partition button if it's available. While this is a necessary step if you're using a USB or a hard drive to install Windows, Boot Camp may automatically partition your drive if you're using an ISO file to install Windows.

  7. Follow the on-screen installation instructions carefully. These instructions may vary depending on which version of Windows you install.

  8. Click the "Accept" button in the lower right corner of your screen to agree to Microsoft's software license terms.

  9. Reboot your computer again, holding down the "Option" key as it restarts. This action opens the "Startup Manager" window.

  10. When the "Startup Manager" window appears, release the "Option" button. This screen shows you which drives you can use to start your computer.

  11. Select that "Boot Camp" icon by clicking on it and pressing the "Return" key to open the Windows operating system on your Mac device.

  12. Double-click on the EXE file to open it.

  13. Once you've accessed your EXE file, you can reboot your computer again and hold down the "Option" key to open the "Startup Manager" window.

  14. Click on the "Macintosh HD" icon to revert back to your normal operating system.

Related: What Is an XML File and How Do I Open One?

Opening EXE files using Parallels Desktop

You can download Parallels Desktop to create a virtual machine (VM) for your Mac that runs Windows programs. This method allows you to work on both Windows and macOS files at the same time without having to partition your drive. Once you install Parallels on your Mac device, you can seamlessly transfer files from the VM to your host desktop, which makes it quick and easy to move between projects or documents. Here are some steps you can follow to open EXE files on your Mac device using Parallels Desktop:

  1. Purchase and download the Parallels Desktop software program by following the step-by-step instructions on Parallels' website. If you're a student or an educator, you may qualify for a discount.

  2. Once you've downloaded the program, install it by dragging the Parallels icon to your "Applications" folder.

  3. Make sure you also have the Windows 8, 8.1 or 10 installation file on your Mac device. If you don't have this file yet, you can download the latest ISO file from Microsoft's website.

  4. Double-click on the Parallels icon to open it. You can also search for this program by typing "Parallels" into your search bar or opening the "Launchpad" application on your Mac.

  5. In the pop-up window that appears, choose whether you want to install Windows from a PC, an image file or a disk. Select the option that is compatible with your version of Windows.

  6. Click on the "Continue" button.

  7. Enter the license key for your Windows product in the text box provided.

  8. Continue to follow the on-screen prompts to finish installing Parallels on your computer.

  9. Double-click on your EXE file to open it.

Please note that none of the products or companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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