Can I Run My Windows Programs on Linux?

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Statistics show that more and more average PC users are looking for alternatives to the Windows operating system. In the past it was simply taken for granted that a PC would run Windows. Such isn’t the case anymore. Even average computer users are discovering that they can cut costs by switching to Linux and utilizing its mass stores of open source software. But that switch often comes with a price - many find that the applications that they used for everyday tasks on Windows can’t be installed and used with Linux. Even if they find a very similar program that is compatible, it can still be an inconvenience to have to learn something new, or recreate their large files in a different format.

Is there a solution? Is there a way to run Windows-based software on Linux?


We’re not talking about the expensive and tasty beverage; we’re talking about an open source application that, in basic terms, creates an area within Linux where Windows applications can - usually - be run.

WINE actually acts as a translation layer, or a program loader, that attempts to run Windows applications natively, as opposed to running them on an emulator which chews up valuable system resources. Many people are actually under the false assumption that WINE stands for Windows Emulator. This couldn’t be further from the truth, and in fact WINE is a recursive acronym that literally means Wine Is Not an Emulator.

WINE is in constant development, with dedicated programmers as well as enthusiasts constantly making revisions and contributing to the program. In fact, WINE is still considered to be “in development” and therefore makes no promises that someone will be successful with every Windows program that they try to run on Linux using WINE. Nevertheless, WINE is used by thousands to port their favorite or indispensable Windows programs to Linux, and most meet with success. Learn about WINE, programs it has been able to run, and much more on WINE’s official website. Some of the programs that WINE has been able to run are:

  • Guild Wars (all versions)
  • Photoshop CS3
  • iTunes
  • MS Office Installer

For those interested in gaming on Linux, Cedega Gaming Service uses a modified version of WINE and works to find solutions to running popular games on Linux. Hundreds of games are supported, but the service requires a membership fee. Some of the games Cedega promises it can run are:

  • Left 4 Dead
  • World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King
  • Neverwinter Nights 2

The Bottom Line

The fact of the matter is that there is that programs designed for Windows will not install or run on a non-Windows operating system without the help of a program like WINE or a slow and boggy emulator. There are, of course, expensive enterprise solutions that allow interoperability between Linux and Windows, as well as the use of “virtual machines” to fake a native environment, but for the average home user there really aren’t many options. If you aren’t willing to sacrifice use of all of your Windows applications then you probably shouldn’t make a complete switch to Linux.