How to run Windows on Mac (Catalina) to play Diablo II?
December 25, 2019 5:42 AM   Subscribe

The Catalina upgrade (64-bit) does not accommodate (32-bit) Diablo II, which is of course the greatest dungeon-crawl video game of all time for those of a certain age. Do you have a recommendation as to a configuration for a Mac on Catalina that could run both Windows and then Diablo II? Thank you in advance for your consideration, and Merry Christmas!
posted by PaulVario to Computers & Internet (4 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
No personal experience with this specific configuration, but there are two general solutions. Both involve owning a copy of Windows, so make sure you have that on hand.
The more convenient approach is to install a copy of Windows in a virtual machine using software like Parallels Desktop or VirtualBox. These let you run the game in a window without having to reboot, which makes them convenient, but sometimes it can be buggy for very graphically intense games. Diablo II is nearly 20 years old so I'd go this route first and see how it performs.
If you find the game misbehaves, you can instead install a copy of windows using Boot Camp which comes with your Mac. The install process is a little more involved and you'll need to reboot your machine to get into the Windows OS, but you'll then be running directly on the hardware without virtualization so it will be the cleanest experience.
Plenty of tutorials online for both. Neither approach requires a lot of technical prowess, just a bit of clicking and patience.
For either route, make sure to install all security updates for Windows and turn on auto-update for it. It's super unlikely to have your main OS be hacked through a VM (especially cross platform!) but don't assume it's always going to be.
posted by rouftop at 6:38 AM on December 25, 2019 [1 favorite]

In addition to rouftop's suggestions of a virtual machine or Boot Camp, it's possible that you can save the cost of a Windows license if you're willing to leave D2 alone for a while. ($140 for a copy of Windows 10 seems a bit much to play a single game, even D2, though that's up to you of course.) Blizzard customer support has said they intend to patch Diablo II to run on Catalina. A 64-bit port of such an old game is a substantial undertaking and there's no ETA.

Diablo II is also very well-supported by the Wine Windows-compatibility system, though Wine itself doesn't yet run under Catalina. CrossOver, a commercial variant of Wine, is partially working under Catalina, though it's still very limited and not yet a good option.

I'm afraid every choice you have is going to be something of a PITA.
posted by skymt at 6:56 AM on December 25, 2019 [4 favorites]

Any Windows game that old should run just fine in VirtualBox with Windows 98SE as the guest OS. Windows 98 is lighter on resources than any of its NT kernel based successors and boots lightning-fast on any modern machine, especially if you turn off its Active Desktop "feature". If you disable the network adapter for its VM and the only virtual storage devices you ever connect to it are the game installation CD image and the VM's own emulated boot drive, it will pose no additional security risk even if you run an original installation with no updates.
posted by flabdablet at 6:58 AM on December 25, 2019 [4 favorites]

FWIW, if you're willing to wait out Blizzard for the Catalina-compatible version, you can "evaluate" Windows 10 for free basically indefinitely. You'll get an "Activate Windows" overlay on the screen and some stuff (notably desktop customization - you're gonna have to be OK with the default background image and such) won't be changeable until it's actually activated, but it'll work. (You should obviously activate it properly if you're going to keep using it. I think it doesn't ever expire anymore as a nod to folks who may need Win10 ephemerally - Web folk on Macs who need to test apps out, for instance - and because a patched less-than-legal WIn10 box is better than a hacked-and-vulnerable-to-everything version.) If you go the Parallels route, it will even go and do the entire process for you in a pretty automated fashion - it will go out on its own, download the WIn10 install image, install it, set it up, and get you (if memory serves) pretty close to done system with not much work.

That said, Parallels isn't free either (and it has a trial that does very much expire), so if you go that route, it's worth looking out for a bundle that includes Windows. Parallels on its own standalone from them is $100 and a WIndows 10 Home OEM license is another $100, or you can do this bundle from OWC that includes both for $160. This would be my recommendation; Parallels is pretty easy to use - basically hit the button, put the key in that you'll get, and it does most everything for you - and they do a better job integrating the Mac hardware side of things into the VM experience (so, things like 3D acceleration and stuff like that work a good bit better, networking is less fiddly, etc.).

Another option is, to skirt a bit of the question, to use Parallels to run an older copy of macOS. You can, in fact, run Mojave or slightly earlier in Parallels, and Diablo may work under that. I've virtualized macOS before but never for the purpose of playing games so I don't know how well that'd work, and you'd have to get a copy of Mojave or High Sierra or something. (You should be able to get to that through the App Store somehow; some googling will be required.) This may also work in VirtualBox but not 100% on that one either. and of course if you're gonna buy Parallels anyway you might as well get the bundle with Win10 Home and go the easy route
posted by mrg at 10:22 PM on December 25, 2019 [1 favorite]

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