Windows runs fast on Apple Silicon, developer shows

Apple’s M1 Macs don’t officially support Windows, but a developer has managed to get Microsoft’s OS running on an ARM-based MacBook anyway.

Apple, Microsoft, Windows, M1, Mac, macOS, Apple Silicon, ARM
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Apple’s M1 Macs don’t officially support Windows, but a developer has managed to get Microsoft’s OS running on an ARM-based MacBook anyway – fast.

Apple’s M1 Macs seize the day

We’re already convinced by the performance data of the first M1-powered Macs. The 8-core chips and 8GB/16GB of memory inside them are delivering impressive processor and graphics performance benchmarks, and the company is expected to introduce higher-end Macs based on its silicon architecture in 2021 and beyond.

However, for some enterprise users the fact the new Macs lack support for Boot Camp and the lack of Windows for VM on Macs is a sticking point to adoption. However, it looks like the ball is firmly in Microsoft’s court, as there seems no real reason Apple’s latest Macs can’t run the OS.

Developer Alexander Graf has now proved this with a version of Windows 10 for ARM running on his Apple Silicon MacBook Pro, which, while not completely stable, is performant. Graf ran the Windows ARM64 Insider Preview through the Hypervisor framework supported by a custom patch to execute guest code on the Mac’s CPU using QEMU.

He has published his work on the project, which means others are beginning to get Windows working on their new Macs. This also means we have Geekbench scores to show Windows performance on these new Macs, and it seems impressive.

[Also read: M1 Mac mini shows a bright future for Apple Silicon]

What are the scores?

Here are the Geekbench 5 test results for the Mac running macOS:

Single-core: 1,737.

Multi-core: 7,549.

Here are the Geekbench 5 test results for the Mac running Windows 10 on ARM in a virtual machine:

Single-core: 1,288.

Multi-core: 5,449.

Finally, what follows are the claimed Surface Pro X scores on the same test:

Single-core: 799.

Multi-core: 3,089.

What makes these scores all the more impressive is that the developer had to figure out how to get the Windows system running on the Mac in the first place.

In itself, this suggests that if Microsoft and Apple support Windows on ARM for Apple Silicon Macs, the performance data could be even higher. This proof-of-concept augurs well for the work virtualization company Parallels is doing to enable virtual machine support on the new Apple chips. The latter firm recently drew attention to a Microsoft note concerning Windows 10 running on ARM processors.

What Apple has said

Apple Vice President for Software Engineering Craig Federighi recently told Ars Technica that its quite possible to run Windows on the new Macs:

"That's really up to Microsoft… We have the core technologies for them to do that, to run their ARM version of Windows, which in turn of course supports x86 user mode applications. But that's a decision Microsoft has to make, to bring to license that technology for users to run on these Macs. But the Macs are certainly very capable of it."

Federighi also indirectly touched upon recent speculation Microsoft may have a plan to make it possible for Apple Silicon Macs to run a Windows virtual machines in the cloud. He noted that CodeWeaver’s CrossOver can run both 32-bit and 64-bit Windows binaries under emulation. The CrossOver team recently succeeded in making their software run on macOS Big Sur.

When it comes to Windows on the new Macs, Microsoft has said nothing. We do know it is developing a virtualized windows experience called Cloud PC. It is also working on Apple Silicon native versions of its Office apps and has already published tweaks that let these run well in Rosetta 2 emulation mode on Apple Silicon Macs. (FYI: I’m writing this on the perfectly stable Office running on an M1 Mac mini).

We still don’t know whether Microsoft has any intention of officially supporting Windows on Apple’s new Macs, but the evidence suggests it’s perfectly possible to do just that.

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Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.

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