A lot of software comes out for both Mac and Windows these days, but there are always a few games or apps that don't make it to OS X. Thankfully, you can easily port many Windows programs to OS X with a free app called Wineskin.
Wineskin is a free, open-source utility that ports Windows programs to OS X so you can run them natively. It's built on Wine, an engine made for developers to help the quickly port software. There are a few apps that do this, including previously mentioned WineBottler and CrossOver, but we've had the best luck work with Wineskin.
Due to the way Wineskin works, you won't be able to play the newest, most graphically intense games or power-hungry software. But you can port older software and lightweight games that don't hog a lot of resources (like many indie games). For more intense programs, you'll likely want to dual boot Windows with Apple's Boot Camp software instead.
Software will likely run better with Boot Camp, but Wineskin is great because you can port your favourite program and run it right in OS X — without ever purchasing Windows or rebooting your computer. With that out of the way, let's port some software. We've tested Wineskin with a number of apps, but we'll use Torchlight II as our sample since the Mac port seems to be dead in the water.
Step 1: Download Wineskin and Update the Wrapper
Before you start, you'll need to download Wineskin. Once you've got it, go ahead and drag the file to your Applications folder and launch it. If you haven't already, download the Windows installer for your program of choice as well (in this case, the Torchlight II installer).
Instead of always updating the program itself, you'll update two different things in Wineskin: the wrapper and the engine. You'll get to the engine in the next step, but you can update the wrapper version right now by just clicking on the "Update" button. A wrapper is a set of registry files and a fake C: drive. You'll need to make a new wrapper for each application you want to port.
Step 2: Install a Wineskin Engine
Next up, it's time to install a Wineskin Engine. This is where things get a little weird. An engine includes a bunch of settings that can help you run software. The newest version is WS9 1.7.29. You can download and use older Wineskin engines, and certain engines are more compatible with certain titles than others. Just click the "+" button and choose the engine you want to use for your software port.
When I first tried to run Torchlight II, I went with the newest version of the Wineskin engine and couldn't get it to work. So, I did some digging to figure out why. Thankfully, Wine HQ features a huge list of software compatibility. After searching for Torchlight II, I found that it only works with WS9 1.7.16.
So, before you pick your engine, dig around on Wine HQ to see what other people are saying about compatibility. The newest version isn't always the best, so pick whichever engine seems to have the most compatibility with the software you want to port.
Step 3: Create a Wrapper
Now that you've picked your engine, it's time to create a wrapper:
- Click the "Create New Blank Wrapper" button and name your app. Wineskin will take a few moments to build the wrapper
- Now, you might get a few different notices to install software. I had to download and install Mono and Gecko. Go ahead and click the "Install" button on anything Wineskin asks you to
- When it's finished, you'll get a note asking you to open the file in Finder. Click "Yes" to open up a window in Finder
Your wrapper is now created. Before you can install software, though, you'll need to mess around with some options.
Step 4: Configure Your Wrapper
Next, it's time to make some tweaks to your wrapper. Double-click the file in Finder (You might get an error message the first time, just double-click it again if you do) and you'll open up the Wrapper settings.
You'll see three options here: Install Software, Set Screen Options and Advanced. Unless you know your software is fully compatible with no additional settings, hold off on installing for now. Instead, click "Advanced".
The Advanced setting has a lot of options, and most of them are pretty confusing. On your main Configuration tab, you can set up a special Windows EXE file to open, change the app icon and rename the app if you want. The Tools tab has a lot of different options to change up configurations, install special Winetricks to make software more compatible and rebuild your wrappers. WineTricks is a script that installs basic components into your wrapper. These are usually Microsoft DLL files and fonts that can fix problems with your ports. There are a billion WineTricks to choose from, but you'll find guides for installing them here. The Options tab has more options for your software that include changing how a three button mouse works, how the ALT key works and more.
At a glance, all this stuff is pretty overwhelming and hard to really understand. Don't worry though; you have a couple of options for figuring out which settings you need to alter.
The first place you should check is Wine HQ. If you're trying to install popular software, you'll usually find a guide for doing so on Wine HQ. Take a look at the Team Fortress 2 page as an example. Each bit of software you install needs a custom set of Wrapper settings, so prepare to dig into these pages each time you want to make your own port.
Unfortunately, Torchlight II doesn't have a very good page on Wine HQ. So, I turned to Google and found IAM SysAdmin's post on getting it to work. Here's the gist of what I had to configure just to give you an idea of what you can expect with this step:
- Click on the "Advanced" button.
- Click on the "Tools" tab at the top then "Winetricks".
- From the search field at the top type in "msxml3″ select it and run.
- Follow the steps to download the file, manually, and put it in the folder and re-run.
- Search for vcrun2010, select, and click on the Run button.
- Follow the prompts.
- Click on the "Close" button to close the Winetricks window.
- Under the Tools tab, click on "Config Utility".
- Click on the Graphics tab.
- Select "Automatically capture the mouse in full-screen windows".
- Click Apply.
- Click on the Libraries tab.
- Under "New override for library" select dwrite then click the Add button.
- Select the dwrite override then click the Edit button.
- Select Disable and click OK.
- Click Apply and OK.
Obviously, not all software requires this much configuration, but some of it will. Unless you're a Windows master who's great at reading error logs, I suggest hunting down working configuration settings before you try to install software.
Step 5: Install and Run Your Software
Now that all that configuration nonsense is out of the way, it's time to actually install your software.
- Click the "Install Software" on the Wineskin Advanced page.
- Click "Choose Setup Executable".
- Select your setup or install EXE you downloaded earlier (In the case of Torchlight II it's the Torchlight2_FullInstall_v1.21.exe file).
- Run through the setup just like you would if you were on a Windows computer.
When the installation process is complete, you should be able to run your software.
You'll find your ports in your Wineskin folder (User > Applications > Wineskin). Just double-click your newly created app to run it. If everything worked it will load up and you can start using it as if it was a Mac app.
If you installed a game, you might want to pop into the Settings before you start and drop down any graphics settings. Since it's a hacked together port of software, things tend to be a bit slow, so you're better off starting with low graphics settings and moving up.
Step 6: How to Get Back to the Wrapper Configuration Page
If your software isn't working properly or you need to reconfigure some stuff, you can get back into the Wrapper settings without totally reinstalling everything:
- Head to your Wineskin folder (User > Applications > Wineskin)
- Right-click the app you want to edit and select "Show Package Contents"
- Double-click the Wineskin.app file to reopen the Wineskin settings
That's it! You can reconfigure any settings or mess around with different options if you need to.
You'll likely have mixed luck with porting your software, but it's worth a try and 20 minutes of your time if you want to run Windows software on your Mac desktop, without having to install a virtual machine or partition your drive with Boot Camp.