If you want your $35 Raspberry Pi to run Windows desktop software you don't have many options.
Out of the box, Windows desktop software won't run on the Pi. Among the many reasons why not, a key factor is that the computer's ARM-based processor is fundamentally different from the x86-based CPU found in your typical desktop PC.
But there are ways to get Windows software up-and-running, provided you don't mind shelling out for some additional tools.
One option is to use ExaGear Desktop, which provides an emulated x86 system you can use to run Windows apps, as well as a broad range of x86 Linux software that wouldn't otherwise work on the Pi, ranging from Skype to Spotify.
Setting up ExaGear Desktop to run Windows apps is slightly involved, and will also require you to install Wine, which allows Windows software to be run on Linux-based systems.
When used on the Pi, ExaGear Desktop is also limited to running relatively simple Windows desktop software, such as text editors and 20-year-old games, due to the demands of running the ExaGear emulation layer and Wine on the modest Pi hardware. You can find my thoughts on the general performance and usability of the ExaGear Desktop here.
This article and the video above provide a step-by-step guide on how to use ExaGear Desktop to install and run Windows apps on your Pi.
Before you get started, be aware that ExaGear is a paid for product, costing £17.95 ($22.45) if you want to use it with the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B, the latest version of the Pi. You'll also need 1.5GB of space free on your Pi's storage. This guide is for the most recent version of the Pi, the Pi 3.
Step 1 - Install ExaGear Desktop
- First you'll need to head to the ExaGear website and purchase a licence for ExaGear desktop. After completing the purchase, download the licence key to Pi's Download directory.
- Open command line terminal by pressing Ctrl+Alt+T and change the current directory to Downloads by typing cd ~/Downloads.
- Create a directory for setting up ExaGear by typing mkdir ExaGear
- Now move the downloaded licence key file into your ExaGear directory by typing mv ../[NAME OF LICENCE KEY FILE] ./ExaGear
- Switch to the ExaGear folder by typing cd ExaGear
- Now download the software needed to set up ExaGear. Type wget http://downloads.eltechs.com/exagear-desktop-v-2-2/exagear-desktop-rpi3.tar.gz
- Unpack the downloaded software by typing tar -xvzpf exagear-desktop-rpi3.tar.gz
- Now to install and activate ExaGear Desktop. Type sudo ./install-exagear.sh and enter your password if prompted. Now wait for it to install.
- Once the process is complete, type exagear to access the ExaGear system.
Step 2 - Install Wine
- You are now at the command prompt for the ExaGear system. Next you need to install Wine. First type sudo apt-get update and then sudo apt-get install wine.
- Now check you have the correct version of Wine installed by typing wine —version. If you have the correct version then the version number shown should end in eltechs.
- You are now ready to start installing Windows software.
Step 3 - Install and run Windows software
- To try out ExaGear, try downloading a Windows text editor called Notepad++. Type wget https://notepad-plus-plus.org/repository/7.x/7.5.....
- Next type wine npp.7.5.1.Installer.exe and click through the setup program to install Notepad++.
- Once setup is complete, NotePad++ will now be accessible via the main menu in Raspbian. Just click on the Raspberry icon in the top left-hand corner, click on the Wine icon, click through the folders and hit the Notepad++ icon to run the program.
- Now you are ready to start installing and running other Windows software, here are guides for Spotify and Dropbox, both of which seem to work, albeit slowly. However, once again, be aware you will likely have to limit what you install to relatively undemanding software. I cover which other Windows software I've managed to get working on the Pi here.
Read more about the Raspberry Pi
- Raspberry Pi: The smart person's guide
- Want a more powerful Raspberry Pi? Choose from these 20 alternatives
- GCHQ builds monster Raspberry Pi cloud with OctaPi formation (ZDNet)
- How to give your Raspberry Pi 'state-of-the art computer vision' using Intel's Neural Compute Stick
- Raspberry Pi 3: The inside story from the new $35 computer's creator
- Raspberry Pi in 2017: New boards, new OSes and more
- Choosing a Raspberry Pi OS? Here's the definitive list
- Raspberry Pi rival delivers a 4K Android computer for just $25
- Raspberry Pi and Docker: Tiny $35 computer gets major new release of HypriotOS (ZDNet)
- Turn any hard drive into networked storage with Raspberry Pi (CNET)
Nick Heath is chief reporter for TechRepublic. He writes about the technology that IT decision makers need to know about, and the latest happenings in the European tech scene.