This blog post is about running Microsoft Windows applications on Linux.
2021 update: This is an old blog post which I’ve left here for historical purposes. Before you consider running a Windows application on Linux, you might want to see if there is a Linux version of the application or even a suitable alternative.
It is possible to run some Microsoft Windows applications in a Linux environment, such as Ubuntu and Fedora amongst many other Linux distributions. This frequently asked question support page should answer many questions novice Linux users will have, in regard to Windows programs on Linux.
Q. How can I run Microsoft Windows applications in a linux environment?
A. There are two methods, first is to try WINE, which stands for ‘Wine Is Not an Emulator’, which actually it is and also provides a compatibility layer. The second method is to use virtualisation software such as VirtualBox.
Q. What is the difference between Wine and VirtualBox?
A. You can use Wine to run a single application, whereas VirtualBox will run an operating system, and then application from within the virtual environment.
Q. Can I run any application using Wine or VirtualBox?
A. Unfortunately you can’t run all applications in Wine or VirtualBox. On Wine many applications will not run, else with limited functionality, even often resulting in a crash of the package, when trying to use a feature from within the windows application. Sometimes a different version of Wine and configuration will enable an application to run, but only to fail in a new release of Wine. The Wine website has a detailed database of user feedback providing feedback on specific applications.
With regard to VirtualBox the results also can vary depending on what you are doing. As VirtualBox is essentially creating a new environment for an operating system, you often will experience a slower experience and features such as advanced graphics will either be slow, else not work. This is because the Windows operating system from within the virtual environment is running on top of your Linux system, thus sharing RAM, CPU and other hardware.
Q. Can I use media devices and network access in VirtualBox?
A. You can use CD drives, and also load ISO images of CD disks, plus network connectivity can be configured. However if you are looking to use specific drivers with hardware devices, such as USB devices in most cases you will be out of luck.
Q. Can I run games in Wine or VirtualBox?
A. It varies on the game and the less complex and/or older the game, the more chance of success. If the game is a DOS compatible game, then you should consider ‘DosBox’ instead of Wine or VirtualBox.
Q. What is the point of using Wine or VirtualBox?
A. There is an incredible amount of applications available for linux, but often people are familiar with Microsoft Windows compatible applications they wish to use on Linux, else perhaps there is a requirement they can’t find available for Linux.
Q. What is an alternative to Wine or Virtualisation?
A. You can always consider setting up a dual booting computer system that can optionally load into Linux or Microsoft Windows. It is now a lot easier for Linux operating systems to read, write and delete files and folders on Microsoft partitions than it used to be.
Q. Are there alternatives to VirtualBox?
A. There are a few good alternatives to VirtualBox, including the VMware and Xen packages.