How to Install Windows Games and Apps into Linux

Last week I installed Ubuntu Linux onto my 12 year old nephew’s laptop. He’d pestered me to do it for a while and this time when he came to visit he brought his laptop with him so I could get it working in ways that Windows never could.

He wanted his laptop to work faster than it was with Windows and for all its hardware to work.

Previously, we had to re-install Windows after it had become sluggish through software installation, removal, re-installation… As usual, Windows failed to install some of his laptop’s hardware. Most importantly to my nephew, Windows failed to install his sound card drivers so his game and multimedia usage enjoyment dropped to zero.

He had used Linux on my computer and loved it. His favourite part of Linux is all the free games and the ease with which they are installed. So, back to the beginning point of this article, I had a lovely time installing Linux on his laptop (took an hour to install and 3 days to get his laptop’s WiFi kill switch disabled – I’ll explain how to do that in another post).

So, armed with his new Linux laptop, he logged into his favourite Facebook games and asked me how he could install Cheat Engine.

I explained how to use scanmem and Game Conqueror but neither programs suited his purpose.

So that spurred me to this article – How to Install windows Games and Apps into Linux.

Most Linux users, and I’m guessing you’re one of us, are aware of Wine, the non-emulator that enables Linux users to install Windows software without having to duel boot with Windows. But are you aware of our other options:

  1. We can install a full version of Windows within Linux by using VirtualBox or similar virtual machine software (full guide here);
  2. We can install Wine derivatives like CrossOver and Cedega; and
  3. We can use other applications such as winetricks, wisotool and PlayOnLinux to manage Wine and to ease Windows software installation;

All these options are great because each has its own benefits and drawbacks:

  1. Some versions of Wine are more compatible with certain Windows games and apps than other versions of Wine;
  2. It takes a bit of technical know-how to install multiple versions of Wine into one operating system;
  3. PlayOnLinux installs and managers multiple versions of Wine;
  4. PlayOnLinux automatically downloads and installs Wine versions and Wine dependencies;
  5. PlayOnLinux makes Windows software installation easy by providing an organized list of software packages and installation scripts that tell PlayOnLinux which Wine version a Windows software package requires and how to configure that Wine version for that software’s optimal performance;
  6. Some PlayOnLinux scripts are out-of-date: they install, or try to install, old versions of Windows software;
  7. The current version of Flash that PlayOnLinux tries to install is incompatible with Wine and Firefox 3.6.6;
  8. Winetricks provides a checklist of commonly required and desired Windows applications and runtimes;
  9. Winetricks installs software in alphabetical order with near-total disregard of dependency requirements e.g if package 1 needs to be installed before package 2 then package 1 needs the letters in its name to occur earlier in the alphabet than those in package 2’s name; or you need to know which order the packages should be installed and to run winetricks twice;
  10. Winetricks does not tell you which packages are already installed;
  11. The list goes on and on…

It is because of the difficulties people have with using Wine that scripts such as winetricks and wisotool were created and software such as PlayOnLinux were developed; and it is because my nephew lives a few hundred miles away from me and needs an easy way to install Firefox, Flash and Cheat Engine that I scripted wti.

Let’s take a look at some of these applications. As usual, I will only discuss the free ones.

VirtualBox

VirtualBox is used to emulate the hardware of a computer.

It allows multiple operating systems to be installed onto one computer from within another operating system. For example, I have Linux installed, I can boot into Linux, load VirtualBox and install Windows on a virtual hard drive on top of virtual computer hardware. Once installed, I can boot Windows from within Linux i.e I need to boot Linux to boot windows.

I have written about VirtualBox and other virtualization platforms in a previous post so if you want to read more about this you can do so here.

The main advantage of virtualization is that the operating system installed onto a virtual machine is as real as it is when installed onto a non-virtual machine i.e it is not emulated. So, if you install Windows via VirtualBox you will be able to install any software into your VirtualBox Windows OS that any other Windows installation can accept. VirtualBox has another advantage over Wine: it sandboxes the installed OS. That is to say, the virtual OS is unaware that it is installed within a virtual machine and it can only access your real hard drives if you permit it to.

Wine

Wine is Not An Emulator, to give it its full official title.

This is the application most used by non Windows users. It can be installed in both Linux and Mac operating systems. It is even used within Windows by some Windows programs.

Wine is available in most Linux distro repositories. The official repository from where the latest version of Wine can be downloaded is listed at winehq.org.

Wine is fairly easy to use in that it integrates into your native operating system and allows any package with a .exe file type to be installed by Wine just by the user clicking the package.

The biggest problem with Wine is that some Windows software function better when installed using a specific version of Wine and it is difficult for the non-technical to install multiple versions of Wine and to install particular software with a specific Wine version. Thankfully, PlayOnLinux comes to the rescue of many distressed and frustrated Linux users.

Wine has two useful terminal commands (these are typed into a terminal like Konsole):

winecfg

and

wineboot --update

winecfg is used to load Wine’s graphical configuration tool. It looks much like the Windows’ System Properties box obtained by right-clicking My Computer (within Windows, obviously). winecfg allows us to change the way Wine functions, to create a virtual Windows desktop, to add desktop themes and to set the Windows operating system e.g Win98, WinNT, Win2k, Vista, Windows 7.

wineboot – -update causes wine to re-configure itself. This is especially useful (and needed) whenever Wine stops functioning and starts spouting error messages whenever programs are launched. You can safely ignore any “fixme” error messages as they are intended for Wine’s developers only.

Here are some instructions for installing themes for your virtual Windows (Wine) desktop:

  1. Open a terminal and type
    mkdir ~/.wine/Themes
  2. Visit http://search.deviantart.com/?sectio…3A5&q=msstyles
  3. Download a theme (We will assume it downloads to ~/Downloads)
  4. Open a file browser and browse to the download e.g ~/Downloads
  5. Uncompress the downloaded theme style package (right-click>Uncompress)
  6. Browse the uncompressed folder
  7. Find the .msstyles file, right-click it and select cut (you might need to tell your browser to show hidden files)
  8. Browse to ~/.wine/Themes (e.g Home/Username/.wine/Themes. You will need to tell your browser to show hidden files and directories)
  9. Paste the .msstyles file into /Themes
  10. Type winecfg into a terminal and select Desktop Integration
  11. Click “Install Theme” and browse to ~/.wine/Themes then select your .msstyles file

Winetricks

Is a terminal script that assists Wine users with installing Windows runtimes and applications.

It is a useful script but requires its user to know which software to install first and to select the correct Wine environment (e.g Win98. WinXP) to install the software into.

More information about it is available from winehq.org.

Wisotool

Is another terminal script. It works like winetricks but instead of installing Windows runtime packages it provides a means to install games.

More information about wisotool is available from winehq.org.

PlayOnLinux

PlayOnLinux provides a full graphical frontend to Wine. It simplifies management of Wine by making software installation and Wine management and configuration a per software matter.

I have written a fuller guide to PlayOnLinux here.

The official PlayOnLinux website is here.

WTI

Originally, wti was intended to install winetricks (hence WineTricks Installer) and provide an easy to use textual interface for installing the software provided by winetricks in their dependency requirement order. I have since adapted it to:

  1. to install the repositories for both Wine and PlayOnLinux for users of Ubuntu flavors of Linux (I will add this functionality for other distributions later);
  2. to assist with the total removal of Wine, winetricks and/or PlayOnLinux from their computers;
  3. to install wine, wisotool, winetricks and PlayOnLinux;
  4. and to help Wine users fix common Wine problems.

I’ve tested it on two computers, my desktop PC and my nephew’s Toshiba A30 Laptop and it seems to work. Download it by clicking the button below.

Remember to read the readme because it offers troubleshooting tips; and be careful with the Wine and PlayOnLinux remover because it causes left-over and defunct menu items to relocate to “Applications>Other” which is where the re-installed PlayOnLinux is also found. I will fixed that shortly.

If you get installation errors when using wti, use Configure Wine (winecfg) to change the usage order of Windows libraries from “native, then builtin” to “builtin, then native” (winecfg>Libraries).

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