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A friend of mine wants to get a good Windows emulator so they have access to Windows features (such as the Microsoft store, etc.) They mainly want to be able to use games exclusive to Windows on their device. They are currently using a 2021 Mac Air with an M1 chip, so they can't use Apple's Bootcamp software.

The emulator does not necessarily need to be able to fake OSs besides Windows.

Some (must-have) requirements:

  • Emulator is safe, and won't cause problems (must-have)
  • Emulator can run intensive games at normal standards without noticeable impact (must-have)
  • Emulator is not illegal or copyright infringing, or anything similar (must-have)

Some things that are preferred:

  • Emulator is free (a one-time payment may be OK)
  • Shouldn't require a lot of permissions to work, but may be OK sometimes (case-by-case basis)
  • Emulator should be reputable or is made by a reputable company (again, case-by-case basis)

Please include multiple emulators in your answer so I can review multiple at once, in case one of them is shot down. Preferably 3+, but less is OK. Any emulators given as answers should fulfill all the requirements, but if you know one/some that could be good that miss some of them (that aren't must-haves), please give them as an answer (really trying to get as many options as possible).

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    "Emulator can run intensive games at normal standards without noticeable impact (must-have)" This is a pipe dream, if you can invent an emulator that doesn't have any performance impacts, you'll be a rich man. Even the best of emulators have only an "acceptable" performance penalty Commented Mar 12 at 9:55
  • @DuarteFarrajotaRamos What I meant was that you can still play intensive games at a quality somewhat resembling normal. By that, I mean that it should be playable, not (too) laggy (though no lag is obviously preferred), and it's somewhat expected that no major lags or fps dips would occur for too long a period of time (for an online competive game (15 seconds of lag or major fps dip is the max (also can't be too frequent))). A minor fps (frames per second, not first person shooter) dip would be acceptable, as long as it's not too damaging.
    – Daemons
    Commented Mar 13 at 1:16
  • I'm not sure you can find any emulator that supports GPU virtualization on a MAC, most aren't even able to run applications that require graphics acceleration. Given that M1 is ARM architecture I don't think you will be able to virtualize the x86_64 architecture to begin with Commented Mar 13 at 9:41
  • @DuarteFarrajotaRamos The emulator wouldn't necessarily need to speed to speed anything up, it just needs to be able to run games at standards that are still enjoyable and not be too detrimental in online competitive games.
    – Daemons
    Commented Mar 14 at 23:59
  • Honestly, tell your mate to get a machine with Windows. Or redirect them to WIne which is still the best gaming option there, albeit very limited.
    – Destroy666
    Commented Mar 16 at 18:03

2 Answers 2

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Whisky is a free, open-source app for simulating Windows games. It's not the one-click, like-native performance solution you're looking for, but it's likely the best option for running Windows games on a Mac, currently.

It's built on top of Wine, which reimplements parts of Windows so that they run on other platforms.
It also relies on Apple's own Game Porting Toolkit, which is intended to help game developers port their own games, but can help with running any game.

Whisky presents its features through a decent UI, and gets to decent performance and compatibility. As usual, the more modern games might have issues running smoothly or at all—especially those with anti-cheat measures.

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Whisky is the best free option, as mentioned in the other answer.

Wine, which it is based on, is more complex to use but also works on Intel Macs.

CrossOver is a paid alternative to Whisky which costs $74.

Parallels Desktop costs €130 as a one-time purchase (it goes on sale sometimes) and can be used to run the entirety of Windows or Linux in a virtual machine. A Windows license is also required. This is the only option if you want to use the Microsoft Store.

Both have two week free trials.

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  • You said that Parallels Desktop costs 130 euros. Was this a typo, and you mean to type the dollar sign? Also, what do do you mean by a Windows license? Would this cost money?
    – Daemons
    Commented May 21 at 22:49
  • @Daemons I live in Europe so the website shows the price in euro's for me, if you're in the US it will show the price in dollars.Microsoft asks a large amount of money for Windows licenses, usually the manufacturer pays and offsets the cost by installing bloatware on their PC's. If you don't pay for a license, you get an "Activate Windows" watermark over the bottom left of the screen. An official license costs a ridiculous €145, but grey market resellers sell license keys for prices as low as $20.
    – jobukkit
    Commented May 22 at 9:16

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