Microsoft offers a bit more guidance on running Windows 11 on Apple Silicon Macs

February 16, 2023
Microsoft is giving its own Windows 365 service and Parallels Desktop the nod when it comes to running Windows 11 on Apple's Arm-based Macs. But there are still more questions than answers for users interested in this scenario.
Windows 11 running virtually on Apple hardware

Ever since Apple began rolling out Macs using its own Arm chips just over two years ago, Microsoft officials have provided incomplete answers to users' questions about running Windows on those devices. But today, February 16, Microsoft added a new support page which (possibly) added a bit more official guidance for those interested in using Windows 11 on M1 and M2 Macs.

Traditionally, those interested in running Windows on a Mac would run Windows directly on Apple hardware using Apple Boot Camp or run Windows via third-party virtualization software like Parallels Desktop, VMware or Oracle VirtualBox. Microsoft officials have said that customers could license a Windows 11 virtual machine on an Apple Silicon Mac using a retail license, but Microsoft might or might not support them if they encountered compatibility issues. Microsoft officials have continued to stress that Windows on Arm (WoA) was built to run on certain Qualcomm Arm processors only.

In Microsoft's new support article, officials stated that there are two ways to use Windows with Mac: Microsoft's Windows 365 Cloud PC service or Parallels Desktop 18, which supports running the Arm versions of Windows 11 Pro and Windows 11 Enterprise virtually. The article notes there are limitations in running Windows 11 on Arm, including incompatibility with apps using DirectX 12 or OpenGL3.3 or higher, as well as with apps requiring nested virtualization, such as apps requiring the Windows Subsystem for Android, Windows Subsystem for Linux, Windows Sandbox and Virtualization-based Security (VBS).

Parallels has been touting the ability of its virtualization software to run Windows 11 on Arm on Apple Silicon-based Macs for a while now. But now it is "authorized" to do so, whatever that distinction actually means.

There is no mention in the new Microsoft support article about support for running Windows 11 on Apple Silicon hardware via Azure Virtual Desktop, VMware or Oracle. I asked Microsoft why these scenarios are not called out. I also asked why Microsoft published this new support page guidance today. So far, no word back on either query.

Update (February 17): A spokesperson sent the following statement, which circumvented the questions I asked: "It’s important to ensure customers have the right information to make informed decisions about the technology they use. Customers have asked what their options are for running Windows 11 with Apple Mac computers with M1 and M2 chips, so Microsoft published a support page detailing the options that are authorized." The spokesperson said Microsoft had "nothing to share at this time" on any of the questions I asked.

"While it’s good to see Microsoft offering some semi-officially guidance, the omission of certain technologies leaves it incomplete," said Directions on Microsoft analyst Wes Miller. "I also notice this still does not mention support or supportability of the software when running directly on Apple silicon. Customers need to continue to bear that in mind if they’re relying on a Windows VM on an Apple silicon Mac for business-critical work."