Although switching from Intel CPUs to Apple’s own M-series chips for the Mac has many benefits, one significant feature was lost in the process: Boot Camp, Apple’s software that enables Macs to run Windows alongside macOS natively. Boot Camp is not available on an M1 or M2 Mac, even if it is still supported in Ventura.
The Arm-version of Windows can be used using virtualization software if a user wishes to run Windows on one of those more recent Macs. Although it was technically possible, Microsoft’s licensing limitations prevented customers from installing Windows for Arm on an M-series Mac.
In contrast, Microsoft declared 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. This announcement was made in a support page. The approval is significant because it allows for the deployment of Parallels and Windows on Arm in corporate settings and the provision of support for users who encounter issues.
Parallels is particularly mentioned in the statement by Microsoft as an approved option. Although Windows 11 can be downloaded and installed directly using Parallels, Microsoft does not sell Windows for Arm as a stand-alone product. Although they can run Windows for Arm, virtual machines such as VMware Fusion, QEMU, and others don’t provide a mechanism to obtain it, and these VMs seem to be still illegal. Use of Microsoft’s Windows 365 online service and a Cloud PC are your only other legal options for operating Windows on a Mac.
Because the x86 architecture in Intel processors is different from the Arm architecture used by Apple’s M-series CPUs, the version of Windows that runs on Intel PCs will not function on M-series Macs. Apple opted not to provide Boot Camp for the M-series Macs because of their switch to the M1 CPU in 2020. Apple claims that the M-series Macs can run Windows for Arm, but it is not making any special efforts to do so, and there are no signs that any development has begun. Since the Windows for Arm licensing from Microsoft is explicit about the hardware it supports, it stands to reason that running Windows for Arm natively through Boot Camp is not approved.
As a component of Mac OS X Leopard, Boot Camp was formally included into the Mac operating system in 2006. Since Windows runs on Intel silicon, Apple was able to offer the benefit of running Windows (as well as Linux) natively on Mac hardware in 2006 as well. However, Apple always made sure to warn consumers that it did not provide support for Mac computers running non-Mac operating systems.
Boot Camp was a convenience for the few customers who needed to run a different operating system natively on a Mac, and users’ requests for Apple to reinstate the capability were ignored. Users’ hopes for a Boot Camp rebirth have been dashed by Microsoft’s announcement because it now provides Apple with a recognized remedy. Apple may now just direct people to the Parallels setup anytime a discussion about Boot Camp comes up. Discussion over. The Precision Touchpad driver update from August was the last time Apple updated the Intel version of Boot Camp, but such upgrades are likely to come to an end shortly as Apple stops investing resources in Boot Camp as the proportion of Intel Macs rises.
Although there is a performance trade-off when using virtualization software, it gets smaller over time and works for most people. You now have a reason to hang onto your Intel Mac—or purchase a PC—if you absolutely must run Windows or Linux natively.