You Can Now Run Windows 11 on macOS Without Much Effort

But it isn’t the Windows you’re used to

  • Recently released Parallels Desktop 18 can roll out Windows virtual machines (VM) in a single click.
  • The app boasts impressive performance improvements allowing users to play Windows-only games inside VMs.
  • Since Apple Silicon is based on the ARM architecture, it deploys Windows for ARM, which experts suggest isn’t as polished as the regular release.
Parallels Desktop 18 now compatible with Apple's M1 and M2 chips


Parallels has announced a new version of its virtual machine (VM) software for macOS, which claims to make it easier than ever to run Windows 11 on Apple Silicon. 

Virtualization is usually considered too geeky a process for average desktop users, but all it takes is a single click to install Windows 11 on top of the new Parallels Desktop 18. With a significantly improved performance, and the ability to work with Xbox and PlayStation controllers for playing Windows-only games, initial reviews on Twitter seem to suggest Apple Silicon Macs are the best Windows PC, though the experts aren't buying any of it.

"While you can technically accomplish running Windows 11 on your Apple Silicon hardware, that doesn't make it the best windows box on the market," Tom Bridge, Principal Product Manager at JumpCloud, told Lifewire over email. "Until Microsoft puts the work in to make the licensing work, and until they put some elbow grease into the ARM version of Windows, it's going to be [an unconventional] solution at best."

Unparalleled Release

People with Apple hardware have long used Parallels Desktop to run Windows, or even Linux, inside a VM on their Macs. With the latest Parallels Desktop 18 release, the app introduced a host of new functionalities, with the headline feature being the ability to launch into a fully-working Windows 11 VM thanks to an automated process that does all the grunt work.

The ARM-based Apple Silicon chips inside the latest generation of Macs can no longer run the standard version of Windows designed for Intel x86 chips. This is why Parallels Desktop 18, running on top of the latest generation of Macs, uses the ARM version of Windows.

As it’s setting up the Windows 11 VM, Parallels Desktop 18 allows owners of M1 and M2 Macs to download and buy Windows 11 for ARM from within the app.

Parallels Desktop 18 running Windows 11 on a MacBook


The biggest drawback in running any kind of software through virtualization, however, is the performance hit. Since virtualization creates hardware in software, any apps running on virtualized hardware perform significantly worse than when they're run atop hardware they were designed for.

However, in their press release, Parallels claims apps running inside VMs in their latest release perform just as well as they do running on hardware they were designed for. It asserts its M1 optimizations provide up to 96% better performance over the previous version of Parallels Desktop.

"We are proud of our engineering team that continues to be at the forefront of innovation to offer a remarkably more powerful and seamless Parallels Desktop for Mac experience to our users," noted Prashant Ketkar, Chief Technology and Product Officer at Corel, which acquired Parallels back in 2018, in the press release. "This is as simple and easy to use as it gets, and our users can rely on Parallels Desktop for Mac to focus on the job at hand."

Quirky Solution

One of the biggest advantages of using a virtualization tool like Parallels is that it allows Mac owners to seamlessly work with both macOS and Windows-exclusive apps simultaneously. The latest release further enhances this by allowing Mac owners to play Windows games that are incompatible with Apple devices.

One user posted a Twitter video of playing Need for Speed: Most Wanted on a virtualized Windows 11 VM inside his M1 MacBook Pro. In the video, he can be seen using a wireless Logitech gaming controller, and the gameplay appears smooth.  

Bridge, however, isn't impressed, saying that while it's indeed possible to virtualize Windows for ARM on Apple Silicon, there are a couple of peculiarities.

"First up, and this is the most important part: you cannot currently license Windows 11 on ARM processors," said Bridge. "This should get fixed someday, but it's likely not a priority for anyone in the decision-making process right now."

He's also not entirely sold on the performance advantage, which has more to do with Windows for ARM than with Parallels.

"It's a whole platform port to a new architecture, and that's not something Microsoft has had to do as often as Apple (thrice in two decades)," reasoned Bridge. "There are idiosyncrasies with Windows on ARM that means it's just not as polished a product."

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