Parallels Desktop 17 will run Windows 11 on Macs

Parallels has introduced Parallels Desktop 17 for Mac, officially ushering in Windows 11 support on M1-based systems.

Apple, Microsoft, Windows, Parallels, ARM, operating systems, Macs, virtualization

Parallels has introduced Parallels Desktop 17 for Mac, officially ushering in Windows 11 support for Apple's new M1-based systems; all we need now is for Microsoft to offer its OS for such use.

Faster than before

Parallels Desktop is now used to run more than 200,000 Windows apps on Macs, the company said, and is available as a Universal Binary to run on both Apple Silicon and Intel-based Macs.

Some of the most interesting improvements come when running Parallels on an M1 Mac. That’s when you’ll see Windows launch faster, experience much faster graphics with higher frame rates in 2D and 3D gaming. It’s also possible to use Apple’s new QuickNotes feature with Windows apps.

One important limitation is that Parallels will work with macOS versions up to High Sierra on Intel Macs, but M1 Macs must run Big Sur or later. You’ll also find Intel Macs will support a wider range of guest OSes, mainly because ARM support is only available via Windows 10, 11, Monterey, and Linux distros Ubuntu, Fedora, Debian GNU, and Kali.

Will Microsoft release the ARM?

The biggest obstacle to Mac users hoping to use Parallels to support Windows 11 on their systems is that Microsoft hasn’t yet officially released the ARM version of Windows for sale.

Microsoft has made no announcement concerning its plans, if any, to sell the ARM version of Windows to Mac users for use with Parallels, though the Windows 11 Insider Preview works fine on Apple’s computers, including M1-powered models. Parallels has made it easy to install.

It is also interesting that Parallels will now run macOS Monterey as a virtual machine, meaning you can run two Macs on one machine, which might be of use, particularly for application testing, or if you need to run Monterey for testing before migrating to the OS on your main Mac. You can also run Mac operating systems back to High Sierra, 10.13.

The Parallels highlights

Parallels remains as strong a system for running virtual operating systems on your Mac as it ever has been, but benefits from significant enhancements in this release:

More speed: Applications on guest systems running with Parallels are now much faster – expect a 38% speed boost on all Macs, with M1 machines sometimes faster than Windows systems. The speed enhancements are even greater on M1 Macs, but are noticeable on all Macs. The performance illustrates just how far Parallels has travelled since it first introduced support for Windows on Macs; this VM is eminently usable.

Better graphics: OpenGL graphics on a supported Mac are up to six times faster. DirectX 11 graphics performance on an M1 Mac running ARM Insider Preview gets 28% better. What this means, of course, is that Windows games are playable on a Mac. Pro users may want to use AutoCAD, which is also supported. Expect a much smoother Windows experience, even when gaming.

Better drag-and-drop: You can now drag and drop text and images between Mac and Windows applications, just as if they were on the same system. Over 80% of Parallels Desktop users make use of Coherence mode, which has been improved to provide an even more unified experience when running Windows and Mac apps alongside each other.

Unique features for M1 Macs: When run on a Mac, Windows now recognizes Mac battery status, and you also get a better windowed experience when running Linux on your Mac. You’ll also experience significant start up, graphics and, disk performance speed improvements.

Something for enterprise users

Parallels has made a range of other improvements, but one that will be of particular interest to enterprises running Macs along with legacy Windows applications is support for corporate virtual machine provisioning to any Mac.

This lets admins provision pre-configure Windows VMs to fleets of Macs (both Intel and Mac). The idea here is that your business can provide Windows access across your enterprise. This support is available in Parallels Desktop 17 Business Edition ($99.99/year).

Another feature that may be of interest to enterprise users is the new virtual TPM chip, which lets Windows running on a Mac use BitLocker and Secure Boot. This means your data is that bit safer.

Parallels also now has an automatic resource manager that optimizes the settings for each installation. This is particularly useful to enterprises and education users deploying a VM to multiple Macs, as it means IT doesn’t need to optimize each Mac individually.

A quick note on use

I’ve had a little time to work with Windows 11 and Parallels on my M1 Mac mini. Given that I’ve used a Mac pretty much full-time since 1995, my ability to test Windows is limited, but when it came to speed and performance, the experience was impressive. In many cases, the fastest way to run Windows will be to install it on an M1X MacBook Pro, when these eventually ship. That’s going to do Apple no harm at all as it targets enterprise markets on the back of WFH and the renaissance of its platforms in that sector.

What Parallels says

In a statement, Nick Dobrovolskiy, senior vice president of engineering and support at Parallels, says:

“Parallels Desktop 17 for Mac continues to deliver performance and stability improvements as well as innovative, easy-to-use features on Intel and Apple M1 Mac, offering users the most advanced Windows-on-Mac experience ever. In collaboration with Apple, we’re thrilled to have created the world's first prototype of a macOS Monterey virtual machine running on a Mac with Apple M1 chip.”


For consumers, Parallels Desktop 17 costs $49.99, while a new license costs $99.99, with subscriptions available for $79.99. A full-featured 14-day trial is available.

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Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

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