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How to Open Windows EXE Files With a Mac

Updated March 23, 2017

EXE files are Microsoft executables; using them runs a Windows or DOS program. Mac OS does not support such programs, but sometimes Mac-supported files (like images or sound) are stored within EXE files, and the format is often used on Windows computers as a "self-extracting archive," the contents of which are readable on a Macintosh.

Open your Mac's terminal by going to "Applications," "Utilities" then "Terminal."

Navigate to the location of the EXE file using the "LS" command to list directories and the "CD [directory]" command to enter them. (If your file is on the desktop, simply typing "cd desktop" from the Terminal prompt should be sufficient.)

Type "unzip [filename.exe] -d [directory]" and press "Enter." For example, to unzip the archive "foo.exe" to the new directory "unzippedfoo," type "unzip foo.exe -d unzippedfoo."

The contents of the archive will now be in the directory you created. If the Unzip utility returned an error, the EXE file was probably not a self-extracting archive, but an actual program executable that is not compatible with Mac OS.

Tip

Windows programs can be run on an Apple computer by installing a copy of the Windows operating system using Apple's Boot Camp utility. See Resources for a link to Apple's official guide to Boot Camp.

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About the Author

Theon Weber has been a professional writer and critic since 2006, writing for the Village Voice, the Portland Mercury, and the late Blender Magazine. He was a staff writer at the Web-based Stylus Magazine from 2005 to its closure in 2007.