Video: Testing Windows on an M1 Mac With Parallels 16

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Late last week, Parallels launched a Parallels Desktop 16 for Mac Technical Preview Program, which allows M1 Mac owners to use the Parallels software. Paired with a version of Arm-based Windows that’s available through the Windows Insider program, it’s possible to get Windows up and running on an Arm-based Mac.

In our latest YouTube video, we installed Parallels on an ‌M1‌ Mac and tested out Windows, but it didn’t exactly go smoothly. When we first set up Parallels on an ‌M1‌ Mac, it was functional, but about an hour into the experience we kept running into errors attempting to get Windows working. It continually froze and the performance was abysmal.

With some tinkering and some troubleshooting help from the MacRumors forums, we were able to get it working well enough to test out. Parallels on the ‌M1‌ Mac is available as a Technical Preview and Windows can only be installed through Windows Insider, so neither of these are release versions of software. Given that we’re working with beta software that’s still in development, it’s not surprising that there are issues that need to be worked out, and anyone who wants to test out Windows on an ‌M1‌ Mac through Parallels should expect to deal with bugs.

When running macOS Big Sur, the ‌M1‌ MacBook Pro with 8GB RAM has a single-core Geekbench score of 1719 and a multi-core score of 7384. When running Windows 10 through Parallels using the default two-core setting, the ‌M1‌ Mac achieved a single-core score of 1491 and a multi-core score of 2753.

That’s pretty similar to Microsoft’s own Surface Pro X in terms of multi-core performance, and better when it comes to single-core performance, so when it works, speeds aren’t too bad. Parallels defaults to allowing just two cores when running Windows, but you can swap over to four core operation.

With four cores activated, multi-core Geekbench scores were much better, hitting 5013. The single-core score didn’t improve quite as much at 1518. You can enable eight cores too, but going from four to eight cores did little for performance (1524 single core and 5958 multi-core).

In the four-core mode, there are some performance issues, so it’s best to stick to the two-core default where possible. When an app is able to open and run, performance is solid, but there are a lot of bugs to deal with and a lot of software that does not work.

Many pre-installed apps don’t function well and often refuse to open, but third-party apps like Geekbench seem to operate as expected. Paint 3D, the Xbox app, and the Calendar app refused to work, for example, but the Microsoft Edge browser and Office suite of apps were functional and performed decently. Third-party apps like Spotify, Notion, and others worked well, and the Windows VM is even capable of playing older games like Civilization IV and Skyrim.

Right now, getting Arm-based Windows on an ‌M1‌ Mac requires Parallels and the Windows Insider preview version of the software, and it continues to be unclear if Microsoft will make a release version of Arm Windows available for people to license.

Those who want to try out Windows (or another OS) on an ‌M1‌ Mac can sign up to try the Parallels Technical Preview.

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