How to Extract .exe Files On Mac

Do you have a self-extracting .exe file that you need to open up to retrieve some files from? Exes are made for Windows operating systems but it is possible to open one up on a Mac by using a third-party application. 

I’m Eric, as a software engineer, I deal with all kinds of file types in a variety of different environments. I can usually find ways to open or read almost any type of file even when it is meant for a different operating system.

In this article, I will show you, step by step, a quick way to open and see what is inside these types of files. We will also take a look at other ways that you can do this if needed. Then we will talk about the difference between a self-extracting .exe and an executable file. 

If you would like to know more, just keep reading and I will explain further!

Use a File Archiving App

Since all .exe files are designed to be used in a Windows environment, Mac does not have a native tool that can open these. In other words, you can’t just double-click on them and have Mac figure out what to do (unless you already have a tool installed).

Example of what happens when you try to open a .exe file.

Because of this, you will need a third-party app that has the ability to open and extract archive or packaged files. There are many apps out there that can do this and you can easily find them by looking in the App Store or searching on the internet.

Keka is a free tool that you can download from their website. You can also get it from the App Store for a small fee. It is easy to install and has the ability to open many different types of archives and packages.

Once Keka is installed, it is very simple to open a self-extracting .exe or any other type of archive. We will be using Keka in our step-by-step instructions below, but if you have another tool you, can use it as well and the steps should be very similar.

Open Using Keka

You will first need to download Keka and install it on your Mac. Just follow their instructions. It is fairly simple. Once it is set up it will be added to your context menu and you can use the following steps to open up a file.

Step 1: Use Finder to navigate to the .exe file.

Step 2: Right-click on the .exe and choose Extract using Keka.

Step 3: Keka will create a new folder with all of the contents contained in the .exe file.

Step 4: Keka will also open the new folder created from the .exe and you can see all of the files there. The new folder will have the same name as the .exe without the .exe extension.

Step 5: You can now open, copy or do whatever you would like to do with any of the contents that were inside the .exe file.

If Keka or any other extraction utility is unable to open the file, it could be that this .exe is not a self-extracting file. It may just be a Windows executable. It can be hard to tell because Keka can open some executables and extract files to a directory as shown above.

These files will often be shown as text or document types but when you try to open them there will just be a bunch of unreadable characters that make no sense and there is not anything you can do with them.

Use a Windows Environment

Of course, the best way to open a Windows file is in a Windows environment. If an archiving tool is not working for you, there’s a chance that it may not be a self-extracting .exe. It could be an executable that is meant to only run on Windows.

There’s also a chance it could be some odd type of self-extracting file that is not supported by any type of tool available on macOS. If you want to open it or try to run it, you may need to do so in its native environment, which is Windows. 

If you don’t have a Windows machine available or there is some reason that you really need to open or run this on your Mac, there are a couple of other solutions that will work.

The first solution would be to use some virtual machine software such as Parallels or VMWare. These tools will allow you to run a Windows environment in a window right on your Mac’s desktop.

A second way that you could do this is to use Mac’s Boot Camp to install a version of Windows right on your machine. When you start up your system, it will allow you to choose which operating system you want to use.

Using one of the tools mentioned above, you can easily run your .exe file and get it to extract or run whatever application it is for. Running in its designed environment, it shouldn’t have any problems and you can accomplish whatever it is you need to do with your file.

Exe File Type

After showing you the process of extracting the files contained in a .exe file, let’s make sure that we are clear on what type of .exe file you can do this with. There are two types of .exe files that I am talking about here. One is a self-extracting file, the other is an executable file.

Both types of .exe files are designed to work in a Windows environment but they are very different. An executable is a file that is used to start and run an application such as Microsoft Word or Google Chrome.

A self-extracting file is an archive or package that contains multiple files inside of it. They can be text, image, other executables, or any other type. When you run the self-extracting file, it will automatically extract all the contents inside of it and put them into a folder.

The purpose of an executable file is to run an application or process, while a self-extracting .exe is an archive or package file that can be run and extracted in any Windows environment without the need for a third-party extraction tool or application.

Final Words

Although self-extracting .exes are designed to work with Windows systems, you may have a specific need to open one on your Mac. I hope that this has given you the information that you need to accomplish that.

As usual, please let me know if you have any questions or comments.

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  • T

    I’m trying to install an .exe program to connect my Graphics Tablet to my Macbook Air 2017, which is running on Monterey 12.6, but so far, all archiving apps have failed. My fear is getting a program like Boot Camp will take up so much space that it’ll interfere with my MacBook’s smooth running.

    • Eric

      Hello T, I understand your concerns about taking up space with something like Boot Camp and affecting the performance of your system. That is the last thing you want to do. It sounds like the program that you have to connect your graphics tablet is a Windows program. Is there any chance that the maker of the Tablet has a version of the program that is macOS compatible? That would be the best solution if you do not want to mess with BootCamp. If the exe file is a self-extracting archive file, then I would definitely try extracting it with a tool such as Keka. If the Executable is an actual program, then you may need to contact the device’s manufacturer and see what kind of support they have for macOS.

  • kopelman1

    Works fine on a 2020 13″ MacBook Pro M1. Wanted to update the firmware on an old Samsung TV. File was only available as an .exe file. Downloaded , extracted with Keka, put on a usb drive and plugged in to TV. Went from .1005.1 to .1600.
    Quick and easy even with Monterey!!!!

    Thank You

    • Eric

      Hi kopelman1, that is great news! I know things like this can sometimes be challenging but it is great to hear that this worked so well for you.

  • ben

    Well, that’s something that make sense. Every body goes to the extreme. But you game the solution. For that I thank you.

    • Eric

      Thanks Ben! My intent is usually to provide the quickest and easiest solutions. I hope that the information provided was helpful.