Yes, Windows apps will work on the Raspberry Pi: but why would you bother?
Using ExaGear Desktop to run Windows apps on the Pi shows just how little you need to do.
Google ‘How do I run Windows apps on the Raspberry Pi?’ and you will get page after page of results.
But despite the appetite to run Windows on the $35 computer, the bigger question for me is “Why would you want to?” “.
I experimented with ExaGear Desksoftware that indirectly lets you install undemanding Windows applications on the Pi, like 20-year-old text editors and games.
For me, using ExaGear drives at home is how pointless it is to run Windows software on the Pi, since many of the best apps are already available for Linux.
Indeed, ExaGear doesn’t just let you run Windows apps, it also lets the Pi run various Linux apps that wouldn’t run otherwise. These apps, combined with the range of Linux software the Pi can already run, cover most of the average user’s needs.
Software LibreOffice for work, Spotify for music, VLC for video, Dropbox for cloud storage, all running, either natively or with the help of ExaGear, on the Pi.
I didn’t see the need to touch Windows applications. And as for ExaGear’s biggest failing running on the Pi, which is how much it struggles to run demanding software like modern games or even the Spotify client, then running Windows on the Pi won’t help.
I’m not saying I don’t see the point of running Windows completely, that’s a separate argument. But when the Pi can run many different applications on Linux-based operating systems, I don’t see why you would want to run Windows software on it.
ExaGear software works by providing an emulation layer that allows applications written for x86 chips commonly found in PCs to run on Pi’s Arm-based hardware. It provides by default a Debian 8 guest operating system running on an emulated i386/x86 system.
It’s this approach that allows apps like Spotify and Dropbox, which have clients for Linux-based x86 systems, to run on the Pi.
It’s by no means perfect. While simpler programs like Notepad++ work with only a little lag, running and installing software usually takes a lot longer than you’ll be used to if you’re using a modern PC – expect to wait a few seconds after clicking a button in Spotify for the program to react – and I’ve also encountered various cases where the x86 software didn’t work.
For example, Microsoft’s Skype communication platform no longer works by default on ExaGear on the Pi, as the new Skype for Linux client requires a 64-bit machine, while the ExaGear desktop emulates 32-bit hardware.
The attempt to install the Linux x86 client for the Steam gaming platform also failed, giving errors about missing software libraries.
SEE: Hardware Spotlight: The Raspberry Pi
Another caveat to keep in mind is that the Pi isn’t the most powerful computer in the first place, based on aging mobile phone technology. Running ExaGear Desktop further reduces the Pi’s performance, due to its need to intercept and convert x86 instructions to an Arm-compatible form. This is why all but the simplest applications running on ExaGear Desktop generally run slowly.
Setting up ExaGear Desktop isn’t entirely straightforward either, you’ll need to be comfortable with the command line, but guides are available, including our step-by-step article and video. ExaGear is a paid product, costing £17.95 ($22.45) for a license to use with the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B.
Despite everything I’ve said about ExaGear’s limited appeal on the Windows front, there are areas where its ability to run Windows apps on the Pi, when used in conjunction with the compatibility layer Windows Wine, would have its advantages. For example, Skype may work because there is a 32-bit Skype client available for Windows. A simpler option might be to use the web clientyet.
Another possible benefit of running Windows apps on the Pi could be allowing fans of retro games to run classic Windows titles. For example, I was able to run the 1997 Windows game Fallout on the ExaGear desktop via Wine relatively smoothly, and there are reports of other seminal 1990s games, such as Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri, running on ExaGear.
All told, ExaGear Desktop expands the scope of apps you can run on the Pi to include some of the most popular apps. What it doesn’t do is address the Pi’s understandable performance limitations, and using the Pi with ExaGear will feel very slow compared to a modern PC.
But provided you keep your performance expectations in check, the ExaGear expands the software the Pi can run, but don’t expect it to turn your Pi into a Windows PC, especially when it doesn’t. there really is no need.