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Is it possible to install and run Windows applications on iOS or macOS?

Windows 7, 8, or 10 I also need to install and run

  • Crystal Reports
  • MS SQL Server CE
  • "Click Once" apps

I have a Windows app that I have written and it's quite complex. I have never written for a Mac so have no idea where to start and don't really want to go down a long road to write one and then have two apps to maintain.

When I say iOS/MacOS, I mean iPad Pro of some version and/or on a Mac laptop or computer.

To be more clear. Is there any software you can install on the iPad Pro/Mac to make this happen. I don't mean a remote desktop or anything like that. It has to be capable of running standalone with no network or internet connection available. Essentially, like a Windows "shell" on iOS/macOS

Any suggestions would be really helpful.

Thanks

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  • You can install Windows on an MacOS system into a virtual machine using a software like Parallels Desktop. The virtual machine then works without any network connection (as long as you don't use functions/programs in Windows that require Internet of course).
    – Robert
    Jul 30 '20 at 15:28
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No, this isn't possible.
You can't just copy any Windows software to a Mac and run it.

MacOS doesn't provide the Windows API's that Windows programs need. IOS doesn't either and additionally IOS/IPadOS run on ARM cpu's and those are not instruction level compatible with Intel hardware.

On MacOS you can use a virtualisation product (Parallels, VMWare, VirtualBox to name a few) to create a virtual machine in which you can install Windows as if it were a real PC.

On IOS/IPadOS you could in theory do the same, but the virtualization product would also need to emulate the CPU itself, which takes a lot of CPU power and is very complex. It would make the simulation quite slow. I am not aware of any existing product that can do that.

For self-developed software the last option is to build your software in a cross-platform way. E.g. the C# language and the .NET Core platform are now available for Mac, Linux and Windows and Microsoft even offers VisualStudio for MacOS to build software on that.

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  • I didn't want to "just copy" that is never going to work and wasn't even a consideration. As I said I was looking for some kind of host. I was hoping to avoid rewriting the software as although its c# and .net and could be rewritten, its a lot of work and there are components that are Win32/Win64 that would not be supported. So I would have to do a complete rewrite which I was trying to avoid. That and I don't have a mac OS dev environment.
    – djack109
    Jul 30 '20 at 13:20
  • 'some kind of host' was already covered for macOS, Parallels etc. There is no equivalent for iOS. macOS apps will not even run on iOS & vice versa. They may in future, as Apple transitions the entire Mac line to ARM - though whether or not that means Parallels will ever run on iOS is too far away to know. You could attempt to hack it to work on Wine, some apps will, some won't. Personally, I think it's far too much effort compared to just running in Windows on Parallels.
    – Tetsujin
    Jul 30 '20 at 13:40
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You may use Wine, which is probably available as a package on your distribution, or at the most can be downloaded from the link.

Described as :

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, & BSD. Instead of simulating internal Windows logic like a virtual machine or emulator, Wine translates Windows API calls into POSIX calls on-the-fly, eliminating the performance and memory penalties of other methods and allowing you to cleanly integrate Windows applications into your desktop.

Not all Windows programs run on it successfully. You will have to try and see.

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Is it possible to install and run Windows applications on iOS or macOS?

It is absolutely possible to write a .NET Core application that runs on Windows and macOS. iOS devices do not support .NET Core at this time. It is worth pointing out that at this time MS SQL Server CE can only be installed on Windows. "Click Once" applications only support compatible versions of Windows. Crystal Reports support for the .NET Core Framework will depend on the exact version you are using.

I have a Windows app that I have written and it's quite complex. I have never written for a Mac so have no idea where to start and don't really want to go down a long road to write one and then have two apps to maintain.

While it is possible to develop an application that supports both macOS and Windows, the developer must specifically design their application in a way, where that is indeed possible. What changes you would have to make to your current project is beyond the scope of this particular community.

When I say iOS/MacOS, I mean iPad Pro of some version and/or on a Mac laptop or computer.

While you can develop iOS applications on Windows, using any number of third-party methods, you must have a macOS device in order to publish that application.

Is there any software you can install on the iPad Pro/Mac to make this happen. It has to be capable of running standalone with no network or internet connection available. Essentially, like a Windows "shell" on iOS/macOS

No; The software you seek to develop software to support that will support Windows, macOS, and iOS devices does not exist.

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  • That's an awesome response thank you. Looks like iOS is a non-starter. The app was never designed with Apple devices in mind as you are absolutely correct I would have had to start that way. The most essential feature of the app is SQL CE. SQLite doesn't quite have what I need. That said if the app does take a rewrite I will have to invest in a mac but that's time away yet. Right now I need something I can implement quickly.
    – djack109
    Jul 31 '20 at 8:51
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If you choose database solutions, etc. that only run under a single operating system then you are stuck. You can always choose a multi platform database such as MySQL, write the application to use a non-proprietary GUI gnome? and a portable language anything that doesn’t come from Microsoft for example every language that doesn’t have “Visual” in front of it (python, C, C++, Swift (yes, it runs on all three major platforms as well as iPads, iPhones, etc.), Java, ... I would also suggest having a look at some of the major multi-platform apps and if you ask the right person in their support group they might help. There are many open source apps like Blender, LibreOffice, Gimp, that you can even download their source to see exactly what their choices were. Firestorm.org makes a viewer for the Secondlife.com virtual world that runs on macOS, Windows, and Linux. Plus, Linden Labs, the managers of Second Life have their own multi platform viewer and provide a list of portable device hacks that run on Android and perhaps Windows Portable and jailbroken iPhones and iPads (I’m not positive about that) that is a subset of the capabilities of the desktop versions. Doesn’t hurt to ask.

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  • thanks for that insight. It will have to be a total rewrite. The future I think will be Xamarin and JSON. I need to do some research before I embark. The original app requirement was only ever for PC these new platforms are a recent addition. I was hoping for a quick win but that's unlikely
    – djack109
    Aug 3 '20 at 11:11

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