How to Play Windows Games on Mac with PlayOnMac

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Mac gamers have always been the butt of many jokes. While it’s true that gaming on Mac might not be as advanced as it is on PC, there are thousands of titles out there for macOS gamers. Sometimes these games are not enough. If you’re tired of being kept out of some great PC games because of your operating system, we can help. This guide will teach you how to play PC games on your Mac with the power of PlayOnMac.

What is PlayOnMac and how does it work?


PlayOnMac with Castle of Illusion shortcut

PlayOnMac is an application for macOS that allows you to play Windows games through the use of software called Wine. Unlike other methods of running Windows software, Wine does not emulate Windows itself. Instead, Wine is a software compatibility layer that acts as a sort of translator between Windows software and non-Windows operating systems like macOS.

Because PlayOnMac uses a compatibility layer, not an emulator, it takes a lot less power to accomplish what it does. So if you’re hoping to run a high-fidelity video game, it’ll be much easier for you to get it running on your hardware.

Related: How to Disable Steam Auto-Launch on Windows and Mac

That said, there is a slight downside to this method. Not every game or software will actually work with a compatibility layer because some software is too difficult to translate. Emulation takes a lot more power but tends to have a broader compatibility base because it doesn’t need to translate anything between systems like compatibility layers do.

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Prepare your device for PlayOnMac


iMac security and privacy menu showing Allow All

The first thing you’ll need to do is download and install the software, but depending on your macOS installation, this could be a bit complicated. Remember that when you change the security settings on your Mac, you might install something dangerous that harms your machine. Follow these steps at your own risk.

First, you need to head to System Preferences and then click on Security & Privacy. Depending on the version of macOS you are using, you will now see different things. Under the General tab, you should see an area titled Allow applications downloaded from. In versions of macOS earlier than Sierra (10.12), you will automatically see an option for “Everywhere”. If you enable this option, you are good to go.


If you are using Sierra or later, you will need to use Terminal to disable Software Access Control. Open a new terminal window and type the following:

sudo spctl --master-disable

You should now find that it activates applications from all locations on your system. There are also some other prerequisites that we need to take care of before we can use PlayOnMac. The easiest way to manage them is to install an app called home brew.

Open a new Terminal window and type the following:

/bin/bash -c "$(curl -fsSL https://raw.githubusercontent.com/Homebrew/install/HEAD/install.sh)"

This will install Homebrew on your system. This app specializes in installing third-party packages on your macOS device. Once the installation is solved, we can use it to install Wine and XQuartz, which are two things that PlayOnMac needs to work.


Type the following two in Terminal to install Wine and XQuartz:

brew tap homebrew/cask-versions
brew install --cask --no-quarantine wine-stable
brew install --cask xquartz

Both of these processes can take a bit of time, but once they’re done, you can close Terminal and start the fun part.

How to install PlayOnMac


MacOS With PlayOnMac DMG mounted ready to install

Now we need to download and install PlayOnMac itself. Go to the PlayOnMac download page and download the app for your version of macOS. If you’re using 10.14 or earlier, you’ll need PlayOnMac 4.3.3, anything newer requires 4.4.3. If you’re not sure which version of macOS you’re using, click the Apple logo in the top left of your screen, then select About This Mac. This will present you with your version number and name.

With the installer downloaded, simply mount the .dmg file and then copy the PlayOnMac application to your apps case. Once done, start the program and it should present you with a new PlayOnMac window. There are several things we need to do now to install Windows games on macOS.

First, click Tools > Manage Wine Versions, and wait a moment for the version list to load. Select the latest non-RC, non-intermediate version of Wine, then click the right arrow to install that version. You’ll need to do this for x86 and amd64 versions of Wine to be safe. If you’re using a Mac that was made before 2012, you’ll need to install Wine version 5.0 in x86 and amd64, as newer versions require Metal support that your hardware won’t have.

Make Steam work with PlayOnMac


PlayOnMac Components Installation Screen

One of the most important things you will need to do if you want a proper gaming experience on your Mac is to install Steam. Although there is a built-in way to install Steam, it will be installed on a 32-bit drive by default and you won’t be able to run many games. Instead, we can take a few extra steps to keep 64-bit games running smoothly.


In the PlayOnMac main window, select configure, then click New at the bottom right of your screen. Click on Following in the PlayOnMac wizard, then select install windows 64 bit before clicking Following again. Select your preferred version of Wine, then press Following again. Name your drive appropriately and click Following once again. Now PlayOnMac should start Wine and use it to create a new virtual drive where you can install games and apps.

Once everything is done, select your new virtual drive on the left of your configuration window, then select the Install components section. To select Microsoft Core Fonts, to hit To install, then follow the wizard to install some fonts that Steam needs.

Related: The 7 best wireless mice for Mac

You now have two options for installing Steam. First, you can install Steam directly from the Install Components menu just like you did with the main fonts. However, this sometimes results in an MD5 error. If this happens to you, download the stock exe installed on Steam, navigate to Miscellaneous and click Run a Windows executable file (.exe) in this virtual drive. Now just select the Steam installer you downloaded and run it as you normally would.


The last step if you are using the manual installation method is to go to General on your drive and select Create a new shortcut from this virtual drive. Then select steam.exe, to hit Following, name the shortcut and press Following one last time. Once done, press to cancel to finish.

Install Steam games with PlayOnMac


Steam via PlayOnMac with AVGN Adventures

There are one or two last important things you will need to do to install the games. First, if you get a steamwebhelper.exe error that keeps popping up, go back to Install Components and install HackSteam. You can safely ignore all other errors like VulcanDriver by clicking Cancel or closing the window when it appears. This should not prevent you from using the service.

You may notice that Steam has a black screen when you load into it. The easiest way to solve this problem is to go to View > Small Mode and the window will shrink to your list of games. This removes some functionality from Steam, but allows Windows Steam games to be installed on your Mac.

At this point, you can just install games like you would on a Windows PC. Be aware that not all of your games will run by default, but a large portion of them should run if you have a Mac with enough performance to handle it. If you want to launch your Steam games directly from the PlayOnMac menu, you can use the Create a new shortcut from this virtual drive option in the configuration menu to add it to the PlayOnMac main window.

A new world of Windows gaming on Mac with PlayOnMac

If you followed these instructions to the letter, you should now find a whole new world of Windows games opening up before you. Combined with the fairly large world of modern Mac gaming, you’ll have plenty of new games to try.


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