Microsoft collaborates with Parallels to enable a virtualized Arm version of Windows on Apple’s most recent laptops.
A partnership between Microsoft and Parallels enables Windows 11 to run in a virtual environment on Apple’s M1 and M2 Macs. According to a new Microsoft support document published today, Parallels Desktop version 18 is “approved” to run Arm versions of Windows 11 on Apple’s most recent M1 and M2 Macs.
Microsoft has restrictions on which CPUs may run Windows 11 natively, while Apple M1 and M2 customers can run the operating system in a virtual environment. Apple has offered no indication that it will support Boot Camp on M1 or M2 Macs, which will not deliver the highest performance attainable with a native solution.
Microsoft’s proposal to officially authorize Parallels to support this method of running Windows 11 on Apple’s most recent Macs is a significant improvement over what we had previously. Microsoft has only licensed Windows versions of Arm directly to OEMs up until recently, making it difficult for M1 and M2 customers to run it in VM officially.
Parallels began supporting Windows on M1 chips with the release of Parallels Desktop 16.5, but this most recent version enables one-click download and installation of Windows 11. Parallels manages the complexities of Windows 11’s TPM and Secure Boot requirements with a virtual TPM combined with Apple silicon.
Technically, it was possible to obtain a Windows 10 license key and activate the Arm version prior to its formal licensing. This is a greater issue for Windows enterprise users with a mix of Windows and macOS-powered laptops.
The licensing situation is still not entirely apparent. According to Parallels, organizations can buy a Windows 11 license “via their standard Windows procurement process,” while individuals can purchase a Windows 11 Pro license from Microsoft for $199. However, it is unclear how Microsoft has altered its license regulations in this instance, so we have contacted the software giant for clarification.
Microsoft also offers Windows 365 Cloud PCs to users who wish to access Windows 11 on a Mac M1 or M2 computer. These are cloud-hosted virtual machines that are compatible with all applications. The Arm version of Windows 11 that runs on Parallels Desktop 18 has restrictions on the types of supported hardware, games, and applications.
Only drivers created particularly for Windows 11 Arm-based computers will function. Moreover, certain games will not function if they use OpenGL 3.3 or higher or rely on anti-cheat drivers. A variety of apps, particularly those that attempt to interface with the Windows shell, cloud storage apps, and assistive technologies, will not run correctly. Similarly, certain third-party antivirus programs cannot be installed.
Windows on Arm now supports x64 app emulation, thus the majority of applications should function normally. However, you will likely prefer to use the native version of Microsoft Edge as your web browser, as mimicked applications such as Google Chrome do not always perform effectively.