Apple’s choice to its own M-series CPUs for the Mac has many benefits, but one significant feature was lost in the transfer from Intel processors: Boot Camp, Apple’s software that allows Macs to run Windows alongside macOS natively. Boot Camp is still supported in Ventura, however it is not available on M1 or M2 Macs.
If a user want to run Windows on one of these more recent Macs, they must utilise virtualization software to run the Arm version of Windows. Microsoft’s licence constraints did not allow customers to run Windows for Arm on an M-series Mac, despite the fact that technically it was possible.
Microsoft stated via a support article on Thursday that Parallels Desktop 18 is now “approved” to run Arm versions of Windows 11 Pro and Windows 11 Enterprise on M1 and M2 Macs. The permission is significant because it enables the deployment of Parallels and Windows on Arm in business contexts, as well as the provision of assistance to users who encounter issues.
Microsoft’s release expressly identifies Parallels as a certified solution. Microsoft does not sell Windows for Arm as a standalone product, but you can download and install Windows 11 straight via Parallels. VMware Fusion, QEMU, and other virtual machines do not provide a method to get Windows for Arm (though they can execute it), and these VMs appear to be illegal. (When I spoke with Microsoft PR about unauthorised VMs, they referred me to the above-mentioned support paper and stated that they have no further information to provide at this time.) The only other allowed way to run Windows on a Mac is to use Microsoft’s Windows 365 online service and a Cloud PC.
The final nail in Boot Camp’s coffin
In 2006, Mac OS X Leopard incorporated Boot Camp as an official part of the Mac operating system. Apple switched from Motorola processors to Intel in 2006, and because Windows runs on Intel silicon, Apple was able to provide the benefit of running Windows (as well as Linux) natively on Mac hardware. However, Apple always reminded users that it does not provide support for Mac hardware running non-Mac operating systems.
Apple’s M-series chips employ the Arm architecture, which differs from the x86 architecture of Intel processors; hence, the version of Windows that runs on Intel-based PCs will not function on M-series Macs. With Apple’s 2020 switch to the M1 processor, the company has opted not to create Boot Camp for M-series Macs. Apple claims that the M-series Macs can run Windows for Arm, but there are no indications that development is occurring and the company is not making any special efforts to do so. As Microsoft’s Windows for Arm licencing specifies the hardware it supports explicitly, it seems likely that running Windows for Arm natively via Boot Camp would be illegal.
Boot Camp was a convenience for the tiny number of users that required to run a different operating system natively on a Mac; nonetheless, Apple ignored user requests to reinstate the feature. Users’ hopes for Boot Camp’s rebirth have been dashed by Microsoft’s announcement, which provides Apple with an official alternative. Apple can now refer consumers to the Parallels installation if the Boot Camp topic arises. Discussion concludes. Apple has continued to work on the Intel version of Boot Camp; it was last updated in August with an update to the Precision Touchpad driver. However, these updates are likely to end soon as Apple ceases investing in Boot Camp as the proportion of Intel-based Macs in the installed base continues to decline.
Virtualization software is effective for the vast majority of users, although there is a performance trade-off, which diminishes over time. If you must run Windows or Linux natively, you now have a reason to keep your Intel-based Mac or to purchase a PC.