How to Use WinePrefix in Ubuntu to Optimize Gaming

Do you play a lot of Windows-based games using Wine? You may have found that some games don’t play as well as others (or possibly at all). This article explains why this issue exists, and how you can solve the problem with WinePrefix.

Wine lets you play Windows-based game applications in Ubuntu. However, the default setup does not offer a perfect gaming environment. This is true for two reasons. First, different games might require that you use different gaming configurations with Wine registry tweaks; they might even be optimized for different Wine versions. Second, a default setup only has one registry configuration, which means that only one registry configuration will be used for all installed games.

For the optimal gaming experience, you need different Wine registry configurations for each of the games you play in Wine.

For example, if you play Starcraft Broodwar, it has its own Wine registry configuration. If you play Counterstrike Source, it also has its own registry configuration, which is different from the one Starcraft Broodwar uses. In this way, you will never need to worry that a single tweak in a registry configuration for that single game will affect other games.

The solution to this problem is to use WinePrefix

This tutorial is for Wine beginner users in Ubuntu who want to optimize their gaming experience and need to learn about WinePrefix.

Understanding WinePrefix Operation

By default, after you have installed Wine in Ubuntu, all games will be installed in the /home/user/.wine/drive_c/Program Files.

The wine directory is also hidden in the user directory. To see the contents of the wine directory, you need to go to Places –> Home Folder. To reveal the wine directory, go to View and then check “Show Hidden Files.”

The hidden folders and files can now be seen. Click “.wine” directory. You should see files and folders like those shown in the screen shot below:

The drive_c is a virtual Windows C drive, and the system.reg/user.reg/userdef.reg are the registry files, similar to a Windows registry.

These registry files are the ones that will be tweaked to optimize your gaming experience in Wine (sound and direct3d adjustments, etc).

WinePrefix works by creating another Wine directory, aside from the original .wine directory. This new directory is where you can install other games that need dedicated registry configurations.

WinePrefix creates the same default files and folders as in the original .wine installation. This means a newly-created Wine directory also has its own dedicated virtual Windows C drive and registry files.

Suppose an Ubuntu user named “codex-m” needs to install three Windows-based games (Starcraft, Counterstrike, Warcraft) using WinePrefix. The following might be the resulting Wine file system structure created by both default wine and WinePrefix installation:

The default Wine directory path (in blue) is still there where default programs are  installed (non-gaming applications for example). The 3 game-specific Wine directory path (yellow, green and pink) are created by Wineprefix.

Creating a game-specific Wine directory using WinePrefix

Now you have a clear understanding of how WinePrefix works. In this section you will learn how to create a game-specific Wine directory using WinePrefix.

Note that in this tutorial, I use exact values to illustrate actual examples or commands. Remember to replace these example values with your own file, folder and game application names.

You can create one game-specific wine directory at a time. The following are the steps:

Step 1. Go to Applications –> Accessories –> Terminal.

Step 2. Make sure you are in your user directory/directory. To be sure, type the pwd command at the Linux prompt; it should return /home/yourubuntuusername. For example:

codex-m@codex-m-desktop:~$ pwd

Step 3. You need to create the game directory (using the mkdir command) first in your user folder/directory. Name the directory using the name of the game to be installed. Suppose a game called “Grand Theft Auto San Andreas” will be installed using WinePrefix in /home/codex-m directory:

codex-m@codex-m-desktop:~$ mkdir grandtheftauto

Step 4. Now that the grandtheftauto folder has been created, let’s create the Wine system files and directories for this specific game using Wineprefixcreate:

codex-m@codex-m-desktop:~$ WINEPREFIX="/home/codex-m/grandtheftauto" wineprefixcreate

Note: Depending on your Ubuntu/Wine versions, the wineprefixcreate command is deprecated. But you can still run it; it might provide some warnings, which you can just ignore.

Screen shot at the Terminal:

What happens is that a game-specific wine directory has been created in /home/codex-m/. When you go to this path, a new folder, “grandtheftauto,” has been created with the same files as the default Wine installation shown previously. Here is a screen shot:

{mospagebreak title=Installing and running a game in a WinePrefix game specific folder}

You are now ready to install the game in its newly-created wineprefix folder.

Step 1. Copy the game installer folder (those folders with the .exe file) to /home/user directory.

Step 2. In the terminal, below you’ll find the command you need to use to install the game Grand Theft Auto San Andreas into its specific wine prefix folder, created earlier:

codex-m@codex-m-desktop:~$ WINEPREFIX="/home/codex-m/grandtheftauto" wine "GTA/gtasampleinstaller.exe"

In the above example command, the installer folder is named GTA and contains the installer file gta_sa.exe

Note: For those games installed using a CD, you need to mount the CD and then proceed to Wine installation. More details here:

Some games do not need to be installed and ready to play (you can manage simply by double clicking the application .exe). In this case, it will be very easy. Just place the game folder inside “Program files” in /home/codex-m/grandtheftauto/drive_c/Program Files

To launch or play the game using the default Wine registry settings, go to the game folder path:

/home/codex-m/grandtheftauto/drive_c/Program Files/GTA/

Right click on the application (.exe file) and then click “Open with Wine Windows Program Loader.”

Configuring the registry for WinePrefix games

Of course, now that it is installed or running, the last step is the optimization of the game for best game experience. This is done using Wine registry tweaks.

The following are the suggested steps:

Step 1: Launch and play the installed game first, and then jot down the problems. These may include things like a laggy/low FPS, no sound, poor video, and more. It is also important to take note of your Wine and Ubuntu version.

Step 2: Go to the Wine application database:

Step 3: Click “Browse Apps.”

Step 4: In the “Name contains,”, enter the name of the game, and then press “update Filter.”

The main objective of going into the Wine application database is to get some tips on how to solve the common game problems mentioned in step one.

One you are on the game application page, feel free to read a lot of information pertaining to improving the game’s performance.

At this URL:
, look under “Warning – Graphics and Performance.” The following registry tweaks are suggested:

a. Setting “Vertex Shader Support” to “None.”

b. Unchecking the “Allow Pixel Shader.” This also means disabling the pixel shader.

To implement these registry tweaks in a game specific Wineprefix installation:
(using the example of “Grand Theft Auto San Andreas”)

1. Go to /home/codex-m/grandtheftauto/drive_c/windows.

2. Find regedit.exe. Once you find it, right click on it and click “Open with Wine Windows Program loader.” This will launch the Registry editor.


4. Expand “Software.”

5. Expand “Wine.”

6. Click “Direct3D.”

7. Double click “VertexShaderMode,” set the value data to “none” and then click OK.

8. Double click “PixelShaderMode,” set the value data to “disabled” and then click OK.

The Direct3D registry entries should now look like those in the screen shot below:

9. Go to “Registry” and then click “Exit.” You can even implement more tips as provided by users in the Wine application database.

Here is another useful trick that can improve your game’s performance, particularly if you are using the Nvidia video card. Go to System –> Administration –> Nvidia X Server Settings. Click “OpenGL Settings” and adjust it to “High Performance.” Of course, some of the most important settings that you can change to improve your game’s performance are the game’s own video settings.  Things like setting video quality to “low” and turning off any fancy video effects can really speed up gaming and reduce lag.

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