You’ve heard about all the amazing benefits of Apple’s new M1 chip over Intel’s offerings, but ARM-based Apple silicon has one huge drawback: no support for virtualizing Microsoft Windows. But there’s hope! Martin Nobel has produced a YouTube video showing a Windows Insider build of Windows 10 on ARM running under the open-source QEMU emulation software on an M1-based Mac mini. Despite a lack of optimization on Microsoft’s end, the emulated Windows 10 on ARM produces better benchmark scores than Microsoft’s own Surface Pro X.
You can’t currently buy a copy of Windows 10 on ARM. It’s officially available only pre-installed on ARM machines like the Surface tablets unless you’re a member of the Windows Insider program. Apple has said it’s open to Windows 10 on ARM running on the M1-based Macs, but only Microsoft can make that happen. If Microsoft added graphics acceleration, performance would be even better.
How useful would Windows 10 on ARM be? It offers emulation for Intel-based Windows apps, so a surprising number of Windows apps should work unchanged, albeit with a performance hit. The ARM version of Windows has supported 32-bit Intel apps for a while, but Microsoft announced earlier this year that 64-bit app emulation was coming to the Windows Insider versions in November. In short, it looks like most non-game Windows apps will eventually be usable on Apple silicon Macs, but the ball is in Microsoft’s court.