Microsoft is now officially supporting Windows 11 on Apple’s M1 and M2 Macs, thanks to a collaboration with Parallels that enables the operating system to run in a virtual environment. According to a new Microsoft support article published today, Parallels Desktop version 18 is “an authorised solution” for running Arm versions of Windows 11 on Apple’s latest M1 and M2 Macs.
While Microsoft limits the CPUs that can run Windows 11 natively, the company is happy for Apple M1 and M2 users to run the OS in a virtual machine. That won’t provide the best performance that a native solution would, but Apple hasn’t indicated that it will support Boot Camp on M1 or M2 Macs.
Nonetheless, Microsoft’s intention to officially authorise Parallels to support this method of running Windows 11 on Apple’s latest Macs goes beyond what we’ve seen thus far. Microsoft has previously only licenced Windows versions of Arm directly to OEMs, making it difficult for M1 and M2 users to run it in VM.
Parallels Desktop 16.5 introduced support for Windows on M1 chips, but this latest version allows you to download and install Windows 11 with a single click. Parallels is also dealing with the complexities of Windows 11’s TPM and Secure Boot requirements with a virtual TPM paired with Apple silicon.
While it was technically possible to purchase a Windows 10 licence key and activate the Arm version prior to this, it was not officially licenced. This is a bigger issue for Windows enterprise users who may have a mix of Windows and macOS laptops.
However, the licencing situation remains unclear. Parallels claims that businesses can get a Windows 11 licence “via their normal Windows procurement process,” while individuals can get a $199 Windows 11 Pro licence directly from Microsoft. But it’s unclear how Microsoft changed its licencing rules in this case, so we’ve asked the software behemoth for more information.
Microsoft also provides another option for those who want to run Windows 11 on an M1 or M2 Mac: Windows 365 Cloud PCs. These are cloud-hosted virtual machines that support full application compatibility. The Arm version of Windows 11 that runs in Parallels Desktop 18 has some limitations in terms of supported hardware, games, and apps.
Hardware drivers will only work if they are specifically designed for Windows 11 Arm-based PCs. Certain games will also not work if they use OpenGL 3.3 or higher or rely on anti-cheat drivers. A number of apps will also fail to run properly, including those that attempt to integrate with the Windows shell, such as cloud storage apps or assistive technologies. Similarly, third-party antivirus software cannot be installed.
Other than that, Windows on Arm now supports x64 app emulation, so most apps should work fine. However, you should probably use the native version of Microsoft Edge as your browser because emulated apps like Google Chrome don’t always perform well.