Parallels Desktop 16.5 Ships with Native M1 Support

Posted on April 14, 2021 by Paul Thurrott in Apple, Mac and macOS with 38 Comments

Parallels Desktop 16.5 is now available on the Mac, offering native M1 support. That said, you still can’t run normal Windows 10 in a VM. Instead, you’re stuck with an unsupported preview version of Windows 10 on ARM via the Windows Insider Program.

“Apple’s M1 chip is a significant breakthrough for Mac users,” Parallels senior vice president Nick Dobrovolskiy says. “The transition has been smooth for most Mac applications, thanks to Rosetta technology. However, virtual machines are an exception and thus Parallels engineers implemented native virtualization support for the Mac with M1 chip. This enables our users to enjoy the best Windows-on-Mac experience available.”

Improvements for M1-based Macs in this release include:

  • Improvements in Parallels Desktop 16.5 on M1-based Macs include:
  • Parallels Desktop 16.5 uses 2.5 times less energy than on a 2020 Intel-based MacBook Air computer.
  • Parallels Desktop 16.5 running on an M1 Mac delivers up to 60 percent betterDirectX 11performance than on an Intel-based MacBook Pro with Radeon Pro 555X GPU.
  • Running a virtual machine (VM) of Windows 10 on ARM Insider Preview on Parallels Desktop 16.5 on an M1 Mac performs up to 30 percent better than a Windows 10 VM running on Intel-based MacBook Pro with Intel Core i9 processor.

The sticking point, here, of course, is Windows. If you’re using Parallels Desktop on a new M1-based Mac, you still cannot virtualize mainstream Windows 10 versions. Instead, you must install a non-supported and time-limited copy of Windows 10 on ARM Preview via the Windows Insider program and then keep it up-to-date.

Or, as Parallels notes, “Running VMs on Apple M1 Mac computers in Parallels Desktop 16.5 requires ARM-based operating systems (OSs). Customers who install guest operating systems in Parallels Desktop virtual machines are responsible for making sure that they are compliant with each OSs’ end-user licensing agreement (EULA).”

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Comments (41)

41 responses to “Parallels Desktop 16.5 Ships with Native M1 Support”

  1. jchampeau

    It would be interesting to get someone from Parallels to be a guest on First Ring Daily and ask them how they think this will evolve over time and what they think M1 means for the Windows/Microsoft enthusiast.

  2. giskemo

    Just a question to all of you that actually know something. If you needed a Windows software only running x86 , could you then install a VM with Linux on the M1, then install a Windows x86 VM inside the Linux VM? I dont know why you would do it this way... but maybe the x86 app would work..

    • jimchamplin

      In reply to giskemo:

      It would be painfully slow! Excruciatingly so.

    • hrlngrv

      In reply to giskemo:

      Linux distributions available for M1 processors date all the way back to late January of this year, 2021. If you want to use an untested distribution for which most of the kinks have almost certainly not yet been discovered much less addressed, feel free. Then there's the question whether Linux running under Parallels has access to virtualization to be able to run VMs within a VM. FWIW, x86 Windows VMs running under Linux hosts on ARM systems aren't notable for performance.

      • giskemo

        In reply to hrlngrv:

        Since i dont have a Mac i thought about this as a thought project more than anything else. Painfully slow if it had worked, certainly.... but i guess you are right... x86 under linux would probably be an issue

    • markiehill

      You can run Windows ARM on parallels and then install the X86 software - i have tried this with notepad++ works really well and fast (obv a limited use case) In reply to giskemo:

  3. Sir_Timbit

    I wonder if/when Microsoft's ever going to make Win10 on Arm available to non-OEM/Insiders.

    • Truffles

      In reply to Sir_Timbit:

      From Microsoft's perspective I'm not convinced there's a business case at the moment. I'm sure there are people inside the company saying, "We own the existing X86 business market, and anyway we're a services company now, so why go to the expense of supporting ARM hardware?"

      • bkkcanuck

        In reply to Truffles:

        You either cannibalize your own market, or someone else will do it for you eventually. Also Microsoft's interests and Intel's interests are not necessarily the same (nor are all market segments the same themselves - so the situation is rather complicated). I doubt you will ever have as efficient an x86 processor as you will with ARM based one (or for that matter a RISC-V one as it matures), the issue is that Microsoft has bent over backwards for so long trying to maintain as complete as possible compatibility that the applications technically speaking stagnated on old stacks that are now problematic when it comes to moving forward to a potentially new architecture. Microsoft could double down and retrench completely x86 world, but there is a risk in doing that that they will both be technologically behind and seen as being behind that they might continually lose market share to ARM in the future (i.e. Chromebooks and Apple on the mobile side; and servers moving to ARM in the future - the Graviton2 instances at Amazon give significant cost savings for the same performance on their ARM instances than their x86 instances). Even potentially game machines could be at risk (I believe the Playstation 3 was based on PowerPC architecture not Intel and with nVidia's ARM announcements there is potential for movement in that market as well).

  4. coolpatent

    Does anyone know when Windows 10 on ARM is expected to be ready for prime time?

  5. hrlngrv

    Would it be fair to say that until Parallels can host VMs for Intel/AMD OSes that its market may be less than 10% of what it had been for Intel-based Macs?

    • ivarh

      In reply to hrlngrv:

      I thought I would never move to the new M1 mac's since I have to run windows for work. Then I discovered that corporate IT have not blocked RDP on my work laptop. So now for the first time in 10 years I use my work provided laptop every day (I work) but as a masking I RDP to from my M1 MacBook Pro. The best of both worlds. I can run all the crap work uses that is windows only over RDP and run teams and zoom natively on my MacBook Pro. This machine has 60% battery left at the end of the day with the screen on 100% of the time and never get's warm so it's perfectly lappable without cooking the family jewels.

      I still use Parallels for my linux VM that I use when I need to look at customer provided logs. I am running Windows 10 for arm under parallels and it works great to but since corporate IT is not going to add that to the corporate domain it's just for play.. It is really embarrassing for Qualcomm to be so truly beaten in cpu performance. Windows 10 for ARM screams in Parallels on my M1 MBP.

      • ivarh

        And today MS Remote Desktop was released with Apple Silicone support

        • hrlngrv

          In reply to ivarh:

          Remote desktops count? I've used Chrome Remote Desktop to have my Chromebook use my home PC. Does that mean my Chromebook runs x86/64 Windows software?

          OTOH, running software remotely may (should?) eventually be the future for all. It'd eliminate a lot of the awkwardness of using lots of different processors in local machines.

  6. bluvg

    This bit is fascinating: "...Windows 10 on ARM ... on an M1 Mac performs up to 30 percent better than a Windows 10 VM running on ... Intel Core i9 processor."

    The usual "up to" caveats aside (I'm guessing there are scenarios where the i9 performs "up to x%" better also), this gives some insight of the ARM performance landscape, Apple vs. Qualcomm et al.

  7. crunchyfrog

    I use Parallels on my Intel based MacBook Air. I'm beginning to wonder what this will mean going forward for those of us who rely on running Windows 10 on Macs.

  8. will

    Now what about Parallels having an app to run VM's on the iPad Pro? Seems like the next step for them and Apple?

  9. rosyna

    Parallels is a virtualization product, not an emulator. I’m not sure where the confusion about this comes from.

    • hrlngrv

      In reply to rosyna:

      I’m not sure where the confusion about this comes from.

      Wishful thinking, not least among Intel-based Mac users running Windows versions of Office (mostly Excel) via Parallels who may want a new M1 Mac but still need to be able to run Windows versions of Office.

      If MSFT were to host Office online along the lines of rollApp for Linux desktop software, problem solved as long as one had fast and reliable internet connections.

      • whiplash55

        In reWly to hrlngrv:

        Why would someone need to run a Windows based version, are they that different? Not much of an Office user anymore, but I never had issues crossing platforms with Office documents I was working on or importing them from someone else.

        • hrlngrv

          In reply to Whiplash55:

          Dunno about the other programs, but desktop Excel for Windows using VBA is a lot more full-featured than desktop Excel for Macs. Also, there's no Mac version of Access. The Mac VBA development environment is a bad joke compared to the Windows analog.

          My wife has an older iMac she seldom uses, and what little 1st hand experience I have with Office for Mac has been using that machine; that said, it's Office 365, so latest version.

        • coolpatent

          In reply to Whiplash55:

          I need to run Visio which is not available on OS X. Also, the Windows 10 version of Outlook is still much better than the Mac version in my opinion. I also like managing files and folders better using Windows Explorer and OneDrive in Windows than on the Mac. And I really like the Apple Keyboard (better than my Surface keyboard). So if I were to use an M1 Mac I would run Windows using Parallels for these programs. Other than that, Word, Excel, and Power Point on the Mac work just fine on the Mac, and Adobe products look nicer on the Mac. OneNote works great on both platforms. If I were to use a Mac, I would be willing to pay for a license for Windows 10 ARM just for Visio and Outlook, and also to run some of the Windows 10 built in programs such as Weather. I need Windows but I want Mac. Parallels allows both on a single machine. So now the issue is whether or not Microsoft will make this happen with Windows 10 ARM. I'm not holding my breath.

          • Jeffsters

            In reply to coolpatent:

            If you were running an M1 Mac you could at least use MS Visio Viewer from the iOS App Store.

          • hrlngrv

            In reply to coolpatent:

            also to run some of the Windows 10 built in programs such as Weather.

            I believe you, but I marvel that there's no decent weather applet for Macs. OTOH, I agree that MSFT's Weather applet is one of the best bundled items.

            We have a difference of opinion about the completeness of Excel for Macs: no Power Pivot or Pivot Charts, less database connectivity for PowerQuery, no Windows Script Host scrrun.dll to access from VBA, so one must roll one's own regular expression or associative array support in VBA if one needs those. If MSFT made it easier to use Python as a scripting language for Excel, Excel for Macs could be a lot more capable than it is today.

          • bkkcanuck

            In reply to coolpatent:

            You need Visio compatibility for sharing documents? I have grown to love OmniGraffle myself (though I would not consider myself a power user).

  10. Alastair Cooper

    Unfortunately, it's not possible to 'virtualize' mainstream Windows 10 editions on an M1 Mac since they're compiled for x86. All virtualization does is allow multiple native OSs to co-exist.

    Running an x86 version of Windows 10 on an M1 Mac would require an emulator, which is a different thing from what Parallels offer.

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