Microsoft has formally approved a way to run Windows 11 on ARM-based Macs, if not in the way you might hope. In a new support article, the company has “authorized” using Parallels Desktop 18 to run the ARM versions of Windows 11 Pro and Enterprise on M1- and M2-based Macs. If you need Windows for work, you can theoretically use the virtual machine without angering your IT manager.
As you might guess, there are limitations. You can’t run 32-bit ARM apps, in part because Microsoft is deprecating 32-bit software for all ARM Windows builds. Devices won’t work unless they have Windows 11 ARM drivers. You can’t use anything that depends on another layer of virtualization, such as Android apps, the Linux sybsystem and Windows Sandbox.
Don’t expect to run some games, either, as anything that requires at least DirectX 12 or OpenGL 3.3 won’t work.
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It’s been possible to run Windows 11 in Parallels on ARM Macs since 2021, and it even ran reasonably well. You needed to use an Insider preview of the OS at the time, though, and Microsoft said at the time that it didn’t plan to support new Macs. The sanctioned approach clears up licensing headaches, and Parallels Desktop 18 now lets you download and install Windows 11 with little effort.
As The Verge explains, it’s not certain how Microsoft has changed the licensing — until now, it only licensed ARM versions of Windows directly to PC vendors. We’ve asked the company for comment. Parallels says you can buy either an individual Windows 11 Pro license or go through your employer’s usual purchasing process.
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This won’t satisfy users who want native Windows support like they had with Intel-based Macs running Apple’s Boot Camp. You won’t get the performance or compatibility you would on a PC built for Windows on ARM. It may be the closest you get short of a collaboration between Apple and Microsoft, though, and it might do the trick if there’s a must-run Windows productivity app.