Microsoft is officially supporting Windows 11 on Apple’s M1 and M2 Macs thanks to a partnership with Parallels to allow the operating system to run in a virtual environment. Parallels Desktop version 18 is “an authorized solution” to run Arm versions of Windows 11 on Apple’s latest M1 and M2 Macs, according to a new Microsoft support article published today.
While Microsoft has limitations on which CPUs are supported to 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 would be capable through a native solution, but Apple has shown no signs of supporting Boot Camp on M1 or M2 Macs.
Still, Microsoft’s plan to officially authorize Parallels to support this way of running Windows 11 on Apple’s latest Macs is a step beyond what we’ve had so far. Up until now, Microsoft has only licensed Windows versions of Arm directly to OEMs, making it difficult for M1 and M2 users to officially run it in VM.
Parallels started supporting Windows on M1 chips with the Parallels Desktop 16.5 release, but this latest version lets you download and install Windows 11 in a single click. Parallels is also handling the complexity of Windows 11’s TPM and Secure Boot requirements with a virtual TPM that’s paired with Apple silicon.
While you could technically purchase a Windows 10 license key and activate the Arm version before this wasn’t officially licensed. That’s a bigger problem for enterprise users of Windows that might have a mix of Windows- and macOS-powered laptops.
Windows 11 running on Mac hardware in a VM. Image: Parallels
The licensing situation here still isn’t super clear, though. Parallels says businesses can purchase a Windows 11 license “through their normal Windows procurement process,” and individuals can acquire the $199 Windows 11 Pro license direct from Microsoft. But it’s not clear how Microsoft has changed its licensing rules here, so we’ve asked the software giant to comment further.
Microsoft is also offering another alternative for those who want to access Windows 11 on an M1 or M2 Mac: Windows 365 Cloud PCs. These are virtual machines hosted in the cloud, and they include full application compatibility. The Arm version of Windows 11 that runs in Parallels Desktop 18 does have some limitations on the types of hardware, games, and apps that are supported.
Drivers for hardware will only work if they’re designed specifically for Windows 11 Arm-based PCs. Certain games won’t work, either, if they use OpenGL 3.3 or above or rely on anti-cheat drivers. A number of apps won’t run correctly, either, including ones that attempt to integrate into the Windows shell, like cloud storage apps or assistive technologies. Similarly, some third-party antivirus software can’t be installed, either.
For everything else, Windows on Arm now has x64 app emulation, so most apps should run fine. But you’ll probably want to run the native version of Microsoft Edge as your browser because emulated apps like Google Chrome don’t always run particularly well.