Windows 10 can now run on MacBooks with M1 — but there's a catch

MacBook Air
(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

While the transition to Apple Silicon is proceeding far smoother than anyone outside of Apple would have predicted, one notable casualty was Boot Camp. Dropping this utility removed the ability to easily install and run Windows 10 alongside macOS. 

Enter Parallels. The team there has been delivering one of the most popular virtual machine options for bringing Windows to your Mac for years now. It was announced that a solution would be coming back in November, and now that update is here (via The Verge). 

The Parallels Desktop 16.5 for Mac update adds support for running both Windows 10 on ARM and the more common x86 apps directly from macOS Big Sur. The company received feedback from over 100,000 M1 Mac users that beta tested the technical preview, which gives you confidence in the new release. 

Some of the specific benefits that Parallels points to for M1 owners include up to 2.5 times less energy consumption, up to a 60% boost to DirectX 11 performance and 30% better performance overall than running a Windows 10 VM on an Intel-based MacBook Pro.

That's all great, so what's the catch? The first is simply that Parallels is paid software. It's well worth it for those that need it, but not a free solution like Boot Camp. The other is that you can only run the preview version of Windows 10 on ARM; it is still only available for PC manufacturers, so you can't buy your own standalone copy. This just means downloading a copy directly from Microsoft Windows Insider.  

Linux fans will be happy to hear that they aren't being left out. Parallels Desktop 16.5 also adds support for a number of Linux Distros including Ubuntu 20.04, Debian 10.7, Kali Linux 2021.1 and Fedora Workstation 33-1.2.

Sean Riley

Sean Riley has been covering tech professionally for over a decade now. Most of that time was as a freelancer covering varied topics including phones, wearables, tablets, smart home devices, laptops, AR, VR, mobile payments, fintech, and more.  Sean is the resident mobile expert at Laptop Mag, specializing in phones and wearables, you'll find plenty of news, reviews, how-to, and opinion pieces on these subjects from him here. But Laptop Mag has also proven a perfect fit for that broad range of interests with reviews and news on the latest laptops, VR games, and computer accessories along with coverage on everything from NFTs to cybersecurity and more.