Apple’s move to its own processors in the M1 MacBook Air and M1 MacBook Pro have left some power users with a problem: their shiny new Macs don’t do Boot Camp, so they can’t run Windows apps. So hurrah for Parallels, whose latest version of Parallels Desktop for Mac fully supports M-series Macs – just in time for the MacBook Pro 2021, which we’re expecting to see next week at Apple's 'Spring Loaded' event on April 20th.
Parallels Desktop 16.5 for Mac is the first version of the venerable virtualisation app to run a version of Windows on M1 processors, enabling M1 Macs to run Windows apps as if they were using a PC… well, sort of, as we'll explain below.
The really good news is that, according to Parallels, Windows apps run at native speeds, which means in many cases they’ll run faster than on Intel-powered PCs thanks to Apple’s speedy silicon. The app also enables M1 Macs to run Linux variants, if you prefer.
M1 Macs run Windows faster – but there's a catch
Parallels says that running the latest Parallels Desktop on an M1 Mac delivers up to 30% better performance than on a 2019 15-inch MacBook Pro with an Intel Core i9 processor, Radeon Pro Vega 20 graphics and 32GB of RAM – and it also says that on the M1 Macs, Parallels Desktop uses 2.5x less energy than the latest Intel-powered MacBook Air.
We mentioned a catch, and that’s that the version of Windows we’re talking about with these performance increases isn’t the standard Windows 10, which runs happily on Intel-powered Macs. It’s the Windows 10 ARM Insider Preview version. The ARM version of Windows is used on machines with non-Intel processors, and not every Windows app actually runs on it.
Even more of a spanner is that Windows on ARM isn’t currently on sale to the general public without a computer attached to it, so that means M1 Mac users who aren’t signed up as Windows Insiders won’t be able to enjoy Windows on their Macs just yet.
But it now means that it's possible, which is a huge step forward itself. Microsoft could make this version of Windows available, and M1 Macs could run it. That wasn't true for these machines before now, and it makes their future even brighter and more exciting.