Windows 11 just got a killer feature — at the expense of Windows 10

Windows 11 desktop with Start menu open
(Image credit: Microsoft)

Microsoft has announced that x64 emulation is now generally available for Windows 11 on Arm PCs, while seemingly confirming it will no longer be supported on Windows 10 Arm-based PCs going forward.

This is a cool new feature for Windows 11, and potentially a big letdown for folks who were enjoying the Windows Insider preview. Currently, those users are able to emulate x64 apps through Windows 10 on Arm. 

Windows on Arm is a version of of the operating system designed to run on devices packing low-powered Arm SoCs (system-on-a-chip), such as Qualcomm's Snapdragon chips. It's different from more traditional 64-bit CPUs from the likes of Intel and AMD. Windows on Arm can run many apps from the Microsoft Store, but it can't natively run apps built for x86-64 CPUs. 

That's why x64 (short for x86-64) emulation is a killer feature: it lets you run a game like Rocket League on an Arm-based PC like the Surface Pro X, which sports a Microsoft SQ1 or SQ2 Arm processor.

Surface Pro X

Windows on ARM is tailor-made for running on ARM-based PCs like the Surface Pro X (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Microsoft announced plans to support x64 emulation on Windows 10 PCs packing Arm SoCs late in 2020, and began rolling out Windows Insider Preview builds with beta versions of x64 emulation soon after. However, it looks like that feature will now never launch on Windows 10, as Microsoft quietly updated its original blog post. It now states that general availability requires a PC running Windows 11 on Arm.

That means it likely won't be supported in future Windows 10 Insider builds, effectively ending any hope of it becoming generally available to PCs running Windows 10 on Arm. So while Windows 10 on Arm users still using older Windows Insider preview builds should be able to continue emulating x64 apps, it appears Microsoft will no longer support or update the feature going forward. We don't recommend users holding off on updating their system as this could lead to security vulnerabilities. If emulating x64 apps like those in the Adobe Creative Cloud is important to you, this means it's probably time to start planning out how to upgrade to Windows 11.

Alex Wawro
Senior Editor Computing

Alex Wawro is a lifelong tech and games enthusiast with more than a decade of experience covering both for outlets like Game Developer, Black Hat, and PC World magazine. A lifelong PC builder, he currently serves as a senior editor at Tom's Guide covering all things computing, from laptops and desktops to keyboards and mice.