Apple M1 MacBooks can now run Windows 10 — here's how

M1 MacBook
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Parallels is rolling out an update to its Parallels Desktop virtual machine software that lets users install Windows 10 on Macs using Apple's ARM-based M1 chips. Parallels Desktop 16.5 for Mac enables Windows 10 ARM Insider Preview to be run inside a virtual machine at the native speeds of M1 Macs.

It's great news for Windows devotees, who have come up short during Apple’s transition from Intel x86 processors to its own ARM-based silicon, as seen in the latest MacBook Pro and MacBook Air with M1.

The handy utility Boot Camp, which lets users install and directly boot into Windows on Apple’s MacBooks, has not yet made it across to the ARM architecture. That's apparently due to licensing issues rather than any technical limitation. 

Until now, this has meant that users of M1-based MacBooks cannot use Windows on their machines, which is a real nuisance if you rely on Windows 10 for your daily business.

The latest version of Parallels Desktop for Mac now adds support for M1 Macs, allowing for the running of Linux and the Insider Preview of Windows 10 on ARM. Because this is run inside a virtual machine, some purists may dispute that it's not quite the real deal, as it doesn't use an actual installation of Windows running natively on the CPU, which is what Boot Camp enables. 

With that said, it's about as close as you can get to the real thing without jumping ship and forking out for a Windows model from our best laptops

Performance gains in Parallels Desktop 

Parallels' results look promising. Significant increases in performance and battery improvement have been reported by Parallels Desktop owner Corel.

According to Corel's results, the 16.5 update reportedly uses up to "250% less energy" on the M1 Mac than on the MacBook Air fitted with the Intel chipset. There's also a 30% overall uptick in virtual machine performance on the ARM-based Windows 10 build on the M1 Mac, compared to a Windows 10 VM on an Intel-based MacBook Pro.

Parallels Desktop hits a home run

Apart from running Windows 10 at nippy speeds, Parallels Desktop 16 brings a slew of other useful features. One such feature, Coherence Mode, lets users run Windows programs on their MacBooks as though they were native Mac apps. That should be pretty neat and useful for users locked into Windows programs.

For some users, this will be a functional stopgap to tide them over if they've been affected by the lack of Boot Camp on the M1 Macs before — if ever — Boot Camp makes its debut on the new Macs. 

Otherwise, the majority of users will be pleased with the speeds on offer, enabling them to draw out impressive performance from their ARM-based silicon for Windows 10.

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Luke Wilson

Luke is a Trainee News Writer at T3 and contributor to Tom's Guide, having graduated from the DMU/Channel 4 Journalism School with an MA in Investigative Journalism. Before switching careers, he worked for Mindshare WW. When not indoors messing around with gadgets, he's a disc golf enthusiast, keen jogger, and fond of all things outdoors.