Yes, you can officially run Windows on Apple Silicon Macs

There’s good news for users who still need to run Windows for legacy enterprise apps — Parallels Desktop for Mac now officially works on Arm versions of Windows 11 on M3 Macs.

Recently updated, Parallels was the first solution Microsoft authorized to run Windows on M1 and M2 Macs; that official support has now been extended to Macs with the latest Apple Silicon processors.

Who is using this?

The ability to run Windows on Macs is clearly good news for enterprise professionals who might still need to dip into Windows. The support also means Apple now offers developers the perfect software development machine. We know developers and spatial computing pioneers are already making extensive use of the M3 MacBook Pro, but it looks like they can achieve even more on those machines.

Aleksandr Sursiakov, senior director of product management for Parallels Desktop at Alludo, explained how Macs are becoming multi-platform development tools.

“We are witnessing increased interest from developers for two key reasons,” he said. “Firstly, the Mac is recognized as a robust platform for building applications across major platforms, including macOS and iOS/iPadOS natively, Android in GoogleStudio, Windows, and Linux in Parallels Desktop. Also, many software vendors utilize macOS VMs in Parallels Desktop for automating software building and testing.

“Secondly, the compatibility of Windows on Arm and Visual Studio on Arm allows for building binaries for both x86 CPU (Intel/AMD) and Arm CPU.”

All about the silicon

The introduction of Apple Silicon helped maintain a dramatic uptick in Mac deployment. Speaking during fiscal results calls, Apple executives have noted that every second Mac is sold to someone new to the platform.

“While the instances of IBM and Cisco expanding support for Mac computers are publicly evident, we, too, observe a similar trend among other customers, even in the face of inflation and cost reductions,” said Sursiakov.

Customers in this category prioritize certifications and security, which prompted our Arm SystemReady certification effort last year and we anticipate achieving more such industry standards in the near future,” he added.

Windows can be even better on a Mac

When Parallels first introduced support for Windows to the M1 series, Mac testers found the implementation to be one of the “fastest versions of Windows” they had used. They saw a 30% improvement in performance on the Apple chip compared to an Intel Mac running Windows via Parallels. Windows ran faster on the Mac than on some dedicated Windows PCs, they said.

“Apple’s M1 chip is a significant breakthrough for Mac users,” Nick Dobrovolskiy, Parallels Senior Vice President of Engineering and Support, said at that time.

This performance benefit is maintained on M3 Macs: “This remains true for most Windows applications,” Sursiakov told me. “Even those operating through emulation are snappy with exceptional battery life and minimal impact on users in terms of fan noise and heat.” (There are some exceptions noted below).

Early tests of Windows/Parallels on M1 Macs also showed a significant 250% reduction in energy consumption compared to running on Intel Macs.

What kind of support is available?

This support means you can officially run Windows 11 Pro and Enterprise in a virtual machine on every Apple Silicon Mac. All you need is a licensed copy of the Windows operating system and Parallels Desktop 18 or 19.

If you use a Windows VM on Macs with Parallels and also require use of a hardware security key, you’re in luck. In December, Parallels was updated so that it now supports use of such keys using Sign In With Apple, which makes it a lot easier to access Windows on a Mac even more securely.

Parallels 19.2 also lets users reliably run a Windows VM installation on a Mac from an external drive.

There are limitations to this support

There are a couple of caveats to the support: some Windows software that makes use of DirectX 12 multimedia technologies might not work so well, and 32-bit Arm apps won’t work at all. The latter may be of concern to any Windows user with legacy applications, as support for 32-bit apps is being removed from Windows. Apple abandoned 32-bit app support years ago.

You can get more information on running Windows on Mac chips here (Microsoft) and here (Parallels).

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