Microsoft is officially supporting the running of Windows 11 on Macs fitted with Apple’s own processors, ending an awkward stand-off.
Apple’s Intel-based Macs had long supported the installation of Windows, either via Apple’s own Bootcamp or third-party virtualisation software.
However, Apple dropped Bootcamp support when it launched Macs running its own M1 processors back in 2020. Third-party products such as Parallels Desktop have allowed the installation of the Arm version of Windows on Apple silicon Macs, but until now it’s not been officially endorsed by Microsoft.
In a Microsoft Knowledgebase article on running Windows on M1 and M2 Macs, Microsoft first tries to usher Mac users towards running Windows in the cloud, before confirming that “Parallels Desktop version 18 is an authorised solution for running Arm versions of Windows 11 Pro and Windows 11 Enterprise in a virtual environment on its platform on Apple M1 and M2 computers”.
Curiously, Microsoft doesn’t mention other virtualisation software alternatives, such as VMware Fusion, leaving those users in licensing limbo.
Missing Windows features
The Arm version of Windows 11 doesn’t include a number of features that are available in the x86 version of the operating system.
For example, there’s no Windows Subsystem for Android or Linux, meaning you won’t be able to run Android apps or other Linux operating systems within Windows on Arm. That would be creating an additional layer of virtualisation within an already virtual OS, which would likely create all manner of performance issues.
DirectX 12 isn’t supported either, which rules out a vast number of Windows games. However, gaming performance in virtualised operating systems is normally terrible, so this isn’t any great loss.
Users will be able to run both 32-bit and 64-bit x86 apps on Macs, because of Windows 11’s x86-to-Arm translation support. Performance will undoubtedly take a hit because of the extra layer of translation, but Apple silicon Macs tend to have plenty of spare processing power, meaning most applications should run at acceptable levels, assuming the virtual machine is granted sufficient system resources.
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