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July 5, 2024

How to Run Windows Applications on Linux Using Wine and Proton


The Linux operating system is renowned for its stability, security, and open-source nature, making it a popular choice among software developers, IT professionals, and technology enthusiasts. However, one persistent challenge for Linux users is the limited compatibility with Windows-exclusive software applications and games. This limitation can be a significant barrier, particularly when transitioning from Windows to Linux. Fortunately, solutions like Wine and Proton have emerged, offering tools to bridge this gap by allowing Windows applications to run on Linux environments. This article explores how these tools work, their applications, and guidance on setting them up effectively.

Wine (originally an acronym for “Wine Is Not an Emulator”) is a compatibility layer capable of running Windows applications on several POSIX-compliant operating systems, such as Linux, macOS, and BSD. Unlike an emulator that mimics internal Windows logic, Wine translates Windows API calls into POSIX calls on-the-fly, eliminating performance and memory penalties of emulation and allowing you to integrate Windows applications into your desktop flawlessly.

Developed initially in 1993, Wine has evolved significantly, benefiting from contributions by a vibrant community of developers and enthusiasts. It supports a vast array of applications, making it a crucial tool for users who need to run Windows software on non-Windows platforms.

Installation methods vary by Linux distribution:

After installation, it’s advisable to run the winecfg command to configure Wine for optimal performance.

Proton is a fork of Wine, customized and maintained by Valve Corporation. It’s integrated with the Steam client as part of Steam Play, allowing games that were only available on Windows to run on Linux-based operating systems. Proton has been instrumental in bringing mainstream gaming to Linux.

To use Proton, you must install Steam first:

Common issues may include graphical glitches, performance problems, or operational bugs. Consulting the Wine AppDB, a database of user reports on application compatibility, can offer solutions and configurations that other users have found effective.

Adjusting game settings and exploring community patches or tweaks can significantly improve performance and compatibility in Proton.

Both Wine and Proton benefit from active community engagement. Users can contribute by participating in forums, submitting compatibility reports, and contributing code. Resources like the Wine Wiki, Proton GitHub page, and Steam community forums are invaluable for troubleshooting and tips.

Use Wine for general applications and software that isn’t on Steam. For gaming, particularly games owned through Steam, Proton is generally more straightforward and optimized.

While challenges remain in running Windows applications on Linux, tools like Wine and Proton have significantly eased this process, offering robust solutions that help integrate the Windows software ecosystem into Linux. As both projects continue to evolve, the horizon looks promising for Linux users seeking compatibility solutions.

George Whittaker is the editor of Linux Journal, and also a regular contributor. George has been writing about technology for two decades, and has been a Linux user for over 15 years. In his free time, he enjoys programming, reading, and gaming.

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