5 Ways to Run .exe Files on Chrome OS

At the time of writing this article, there isn’t a direct .exe runner for Chrome OS. This means you cannot simply click on a Windows .exe file and run it natively on a Chromebook as you would on a Windows machine.

Chrome OS, developed by Google, powers Chromebook laptops and a variety of other devices. It’s lauded for its lightweight architecture, swift boot times, and robust security features. But a notable constraint of Chrome OS is its incapability to execute traditional desktop software, particularly Windows .exe files.

Such a limitation can pose challenges for individuals needing certain applications but lacking access to a Windows or macOS device. While there are workarounds, like using CrossOver Chrome OS or enabling Linux (Beta) on Chromebook, these are not direct solutions and might not support all .exe applications.

In this blog, we will explore different methods to run .exe files on Chrome OS, so that users can take full advantage of their Chromebooks.

Method #1 Using Linux Terminal

The best way only if your chromebook has the linux Beta Mode.

This is one of the most effective and reliable solutions so far is leveraging Wine within the Crostini environment, which is essentially the Linux Beta on ChromeOS. This approach involves setting up Linux on the Chromebook, updating the Linux packages, adding the necessary architectures, and then installing Wine.

1. Set up Linux (Beta):

  • Go to Chromebook settings.
  • Find and select “Linux (Beta)”.
  • Install it, ensuring you allocate at least 3GB of space, preferably 5GB or more.

2. Update and Upgrade Linux Packages:

  • Launch the Linux Terminal on Chromebook.
  • Enter the following command:sqlCopy codesudo apt-get dist-upgrade && sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get upgrade
  • If prompted, type y to continue.

3. Add i386 Architecture:

  • Run the following command to add the i386 architecture:csharpCopy codesudo dpkg --add-architecture i386
  • Update again with:sqlCopy codesudo apt-get update
  • Verify the architecture addition with:arduinoCopy codesudo dpkg --print-foreign-architectures You should see i386 in the output.

4. Install Wine:

  • Execute the following command:arduinoCopy codesudo apt-get install wine
  • When prompted, type y to proceed.
  • To confirm Wine has been installed, enter:cssCopy codewine --version You should see a version number like “wine-4.0” or similar.

5. Run EXE Files:

  • First, in the ChromeOS File Explorer, right-click on “💻 My files” and select “Share with Linux”.
  • Navigate to the EXE file’s location using the Linux terminal. If the file is in the Downloads folder, you can reach it with:bashCopy codecd /mnt/chromeos/MyFiles/Downloads/
  • Run the EXE file with Wine using:Copy codewine YourFileName.exe Replace “YourFileName.exe” with the actual name of your executable.


Method #2 Using the crossover tool

The best VM to run windows OS chromeOS.

If you want to create a separate environment for the windows app, the crossover tool is a big help. The tool allows you to run Windows software on Chromebook by creating a virtual environment that emulates Windows.

Here’s how to use this tool.

  1. Install Crossover on your Chromebook (download from this link)
  2. Open Crossover and click the Install Windows Software button.
  3. Search for the exe file you want to run.
  4. Click on the Install button to install the software in Crossover.
  5. Once installed, you should be able to launch the exe file from within Crossover.

Note: Some exe files may not work properly on Chromebooks due to compatibility issues or hardware limitations. In such cases, you may not be able to run the exe file on your Chromebook.

Method #3 Using Remote Desktop

If you want to run exe files on chromebook without linux, you can use remote desktop. Downside of using remote desktop is it require another device as host.

For those who don’t want to get into things like Linux terminal to run exe files and don’t want to install a virtual machine like in the second method. Using a Remote Desktop is probably the best way out there for them.

But for this you need to have two devices:

  1. A Chromebook
  2. Any device with the Windows operating system.

Why you need two devices is because this method involves connecting Chromebook to a Windows device that has the .exe files installed and accessing the device through Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP).

Here are the steps to run .exe files on Chrome OS using Remote Desktop:

  1. On the Windows device, enable the Remote Desktop service and take note of the device’s IP address.
  2. Install the Chrome Remote Desktop app.
  3. Open the app and click on “Get started” under the “My Computers” section.
  4. Follow the instructions to set up a remote connection to the Windows device.
  5. Once the connection is established, the Windows desktop will appear on your Chromebook screen.

Method #4 Using Android Apps

Apps like android emulators are easiest way to run windows programs.

Finally, some .exe files can be run on Chrome OS using Android apps. This is because Chromebooks have the capability to run Android apps from the Google Play Store. This method is only applicable to .exe files that have equivalent Android apps available.

Here are the steps to run .exe files on Chrome OS using Android apps:

  1. Go to the Google Play Store and search for the equivalent Android app for the .exe file you want to run.
  2. Download and install the Android app on the Chromebook.
  3. Open the Android app and follow the instructions to run the .exe file.

Method #5 Using apponfly

Run windows OS online on your chrome’s web browser.

Apponfly is an online tool used to run Windows operating online in a web browser. It’s the simplest way to simulate the windows operating system and run popular windows programs such as Microsoft word, office, etc. The only downside with this method is that you can not run specific exe files. Also, it’s a paid website so you will need to pay some bucks.

DOS emulators, like DOSBox (which is a common DOS emulator), can run older DOS software. This includes:

  1. Old DOS Games: Many classic games, such as Doom, Duke Nukem, and Prince of Persia, were originally developed for DOS.
  2. DOS Applications: Old software tools, word processors, and other utilities that ran on DOS can be emulated.
  3. Command-line Programs: Simple utilities and command-line tools made for DOS.

However, there are limitations:

  1. Windows Programs: Newer .exe files, especially those designed for Windows 95 onwards, will not work in a DOS emulator. DOS and Windows are fundamentally different, so programs designed for modern Windows won’t run in a DOS environment.
  2. Performance: Emulating software can be slow since it’s running in a simulated environment rather than natively.
  3. Compatibility: Not all DOS software will run perfectly in an emulator, though many will. Some might require specific settings or tweaks to function correctly.

If you want to run modern Windows .exe files on ChromeOS, you’d need a different solution, such as using a virtual machine or remote desktop solution as we have discussed above.

Video guide

Here’s the video guide to walk you through an step by step method. This video demonstrate two ways one is using the crossover tool and second way is using apponfly.

Written by

Rabiya is a passionate content writer and she loves to write. She is dedicated to her work and always ready to learn new things as a lifelong learner. You can find her on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.