Apple’s move to Intel chips almost 20 years ago opened up a world of operating system possibilities, but the current transition to custom ARM silicon has closed some doors. There’s finally an official method of running Windows 11 on the latest Apple computers. Microsoft has made Parallels Desktop 18 an officially supported way to get Windows on your Mac.
Virtualizing Windows 11 will give you access to Windows apps, but there will be some limits on what Windows can do. Anything that requires an additional layer of virtualization, like the Windows Subsystem for Android and Subsystem for Linux, won’t work in Parallels. You’ll also have to leave 32-bit apps behind. Microsoft is dropping all 32-bit app support in the ARM version of Windows, and many of the Windows-only apps that Mac users needed in the past were older 32-bit ones. If gaming is your reason for wanting Windows on your Mac, this announcement does little to help. Any titles that require DirectX 12 or OpenGL3.3 won’t work.
Parallels isn’t cheap software, starting at $100 for the basic license. Then you need a copy of Windows. However, the licensing angle is a bit unclear. Until now, Microsoft has only provided the ARM version of Windows 11 to system builders. Parallels says users can buy Windows 11 Pro licenses or go through an enterprise licensing process. Presumably, that grants access to the ARM version in Parallels via the new partnership.
Before now, it was technically possible to run Windows 11 on macOS with Parallels. However, it required an Insider preview of the operating system, and it wasn’t officially supported. Apple had no interest in helping to get Windows on its new ARM computers, so it’s nice to see this option, limited though it is, available to users.
Parallels is well-supported and capable virtualization software, but it’s still not native Windows. On Intel Macs, you could install Windows and use Base Camp to run it without virtualization. This method offered better performance and compatibility, but it doesn’t sound like there’s any appetite to devise a similar system for ARM-based Macs. A virtual machine is probably good enough in 2023, though. When Apple switched to Intel years ago, OSX was still lagging behind Windows regarding software support. Today, there are tools to do whatever you need inside Apple’s walled garden. Still, if you need Windows applications on your Mac, Parallels is the way to do it.
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