Microsoft is finally supporting the practice of running Windows 11 on Macs powered by Apple's M1 and M2 chips, opening the door for VMware and Parallels to offer full support for running virtualized Windows 11 on Arm.
The move was announced in a support page, noticed by users, stating that says Parallels Desktop is authorized to run Windows 11 on Arm on M1 and M2 chips.
"Parallels Desktop version 18 is an authorized 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," Microsoft notes.
When Apple released the M1 chip in 2020, users immediately started running Windows 10 on Arm on them. The problem was that while users could run Windows on Intel-based Macs using Apple Bootcamp (or Parallels and VMware Fusion), Microsoft didn't license Windows on Arm for devices beyond its own Surface range and other Windows on Arm OEMs, such as HP and Lenovo. Apple's software chief Craig Federighi at the time said it was was possible to run Windows on Arm on M1 hardware, including x86 apps, but that it was up to Microsoft to license Windows for that use.
Microsoft highlights some limitations with running Windows on Arm on M-series processors, but the change in status has prompted additional 'support' announcements from Parallels-maker Alludo (formerly Corel) and VMware.
"With today's announcement from Microsoft, we're thrilled to finally be able move full-speed ahead in offering world-class support for Windows on Mac computers with Apple silicon," VMware said in a blogpost, adding it will now be able to get development guidance directly from Microsoft.
Alludo says its customers now have the "assurance that Microsoft has authorized this solution". Parallels 18 for running Windows on Arm on Apple M-series chips has been available since last year. The timing was notable because Apple gave itself two years from 2020 to phase out Intel chips from its new Macs, which it has achieved, signaling a finite runway for Parallels.
Microsoft notes that Windows on Arm (for PCs and Macs) can impact games that rely on DirectX 12 or OpenGL3.3 or greater. Also, Windows features that depend on 'nested' Microsoft Hyper-V-based virtualization aren't supported, including the Windows Subsystem for Android, Windows Subsystem for Linux, Windows Sandbox, and Virtualization-Based Security (VBS).
Microsoft has also clarified that it's better to run 64-bit Arm apps on Windows on Arm, but that customers can also run apps in x64 or x86 emulation.
"32-bit Arm apps available from the Store in Windows are not supported by Mac computers with M1 and M2 chips. 32-bit Arm apps are in the process of being deprecated for all Arm versions of Windows. The preferred customer experience is to run 64-bit Arm apps, but customers can also use apps in x64 or x86 emulation on Mac M1 and M2 computers," Microsoft notes.