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Running Windows Games and Applications on Linux

written by: Michael Dougherty•edited by: Rebecca Scudder•updated: 5/14/2010

Looking to run your Windows Software under Linux? No problem! I bring you Windows Emulation and Virtualization on Linux.

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    There are many reasons a person (or business) may want to run a Windows Emulator under Linux. Perhaps your business wants to migrate all of its business desktops to Linux to save on software costs but you do business with a company or two that require you to run a proprietary piece of Windows software. Perhaps you are a home PC user looking to finally make the switch from Windows to Linux but still want to be able to use your beloved Adobe Photoshop. Whatever your reason the following emulation and virtualization applications can help you run your Windows programs on your Linux PC.

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    Free Windows Emulation.

    In my article Free Windows Emulation / Virtualization on Linux I wrote about two of the more popular software solutions used to run Windows programs on Linux, Virtual Box and WINE. That article is a good starting point for this Windows emulation article. Click to open Free Windows Emulation / Virtualization on Linux in a new window, and once finished return here for further discussion on running Windows programs under Linux.

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    Commercial Windows Emulation.

    CrossOver Linux Windows on Linux If none of the free software solutions used to run Windows programs on Linux interest you there are a couple, more specialized, commercial products that might fit what you are looking for.

    CodeWeavers CrossOver Linux (Standard: $39.95 USD, Pro: $69.95 USD)

    Built around the WINE Project, CrossOver Linux allows you to install and run many of today's most popular Windows games and applications on your Linux PC. Some of the supported applications include Microsoft Office, Microsoft Internet Explorer 6, Adobe Photoshop, Lotus Notes and Quicken. To see if your application is supported (or will run un-supported) you can search their compatibility database.

    CodeWeavers CrossOver Games ($39.95)

    Also built around the WINE Project, the main focus of CrossOver Games is getting your Windows games running on Linux. This is simply a specialized version of the above CrossOver Linux with a modified GUI and does a good job of making some of the more popular PC games playable on Linux. Some of the games which are currently supported, "out-of-the-box", with CrossOver Games are World of Warcraft, EVE Online, Guild Wars and a wide variety of Steam Games.

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    Commercial Windows Virtualization.

    VMWare Workstation 7 Windows Emulation on Linux VMWare Workstation ($189 USD)

    VMWare Workstation is a virtualization product that runs on your host operating system (in this case, Linux) and is capable of running most program that run normally under Windows. The main drawback of virtualization as opposed to emulation is that you have to set aside a large chunk of your PC resources ahead of time to run your Windows games and applications. One of the biggest benefits of this system is that your Windows programs, in most cases, have no idea they are running in a virtualization environment on your Linux machine. This gives you much more flexibility with what Windows applications you can run on your Linux PC. If you have the PC resources this is often the best option for running your Windows applications under Linux.

    If you were able to read my article Free Windows Emulation / Virtualization on Linux that I linked above you are already aware of the open-source alternative to VMWare Workstation, VirtualBox. I would encourage you to give VirtualBox a test run before going out and purchasing a license for VMWare Workstation ($189 USD) to see if it fits your needs. I'm not against paid software ... just pro open-source! If VirtualBox does not fit your needs or you plan on running a virtualized environment in a business setting, by all means, a partnership with the makers of VMWare Workstation may be the best option for you.

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    So, as you can see there are many options out there for Windows Emulation / Virtualization on Linux ranging from free to rather expensive. One thing to keep in mind is that currently most programs do not run as well under emulation or virtualization as they do on their native host system. That being said, Windows Emulation / Virtualization has come a long way in the last few years and is improving at a very fast rate. The ease at which we can run Windows programs under Linux today is amazing and will only get better over time.