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Apple’s new ARM-based Macs won’t support Windows through Boot Camp

Apple’s new ARM-based Macs won’t support Windows through Boot Camp

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Virtualization is the route forward

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Apple will start switching its Macs to its own ARM-based processors later this year, but you won’t be able to run Windows in Boot Camp mode on them. Microsoft only licenses Windows 10 on ARM to PC makers to preinstall on new hardware, and the company hasn’t made copies of the operating system available for anyone to license or freely install.

“Microsoft only licenses Windows 10 on ARM to OEMs,” says a Microsoft spokesperson in a statement to The Verge. We asked Microsoft if it plans to change this policy to allow Windows 10 on ARM-based Macs, and the company says “we have nothing further to share at this time.”

Apple has been working closely with Microsoft to ensure Office is ready for ARM-based Macs later this year, but the company didn’t mention its lack of Boot Camp support at WWDC.

Apple later confirmed it’s not planning to support Boot Camp on ARM-based Macs in a Daring Fireball podcast. “We’re not direct booting an alternate operating system,” says Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of software engineering. “Purely virtualization is the route. These hypervisors can be very efficient, so the need to direct boot shouldn’t really be the concern.”

VMWare Fusion.
VMWare Fusion.

Other methods to run Windows on ARM-based Macs will include virtualization using apps like VMWare or Parallels, but these won’t be supported by Apple’s Rosetta 2 translation technology. Virtual machine apps will need to be fully rebuilt for ARM-based Macs, and it’s not immediately clear if that’s even a workable solution for Windows on ARM (given the licensing complexities) or whether VMWare, Parallels, and others will commit to building these apps with Windows support.

Apple did demonstrate Parallels Desktop running Linux in a virtual machine, but there was no mention of Windows support. VMWare has asked its community about how they would use its Fusion virtualization on ARM-based Macs, but there’s no commitment to building the app just yet.

So the Windows situation on ARM-based Macs looks complicated at best and impossible at worst. The best hope is that Microsoft changes its strict licensing model for ARM-based Macs, but it would still likely require Apple to create Windows on ARM drivers for its future Mac hardware for virtualization methods.

Given the small percentage of macOS users that actually use Boot Camp and the roughly 100 million install base of Macs, running Windows 10 on ARM natively on Apple’s ARM-based Macs clearly wasn’t a priority for Apple.

Update, June 25th 7:45AM ET: Article updated with comment from an Apple VP confirming Boot Camp will not be available on ARM-based Macs.

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