Microsoft Begins Publicly Testing Windows 10 on ARM x64 Emulation

Posted on December 11, 2020 by Paul Thurrott in Windows 10 with 18 Comments

A newly-released Windows Insider Preview build is giving the public its first chance to experience x64 app emulation in Windows 10 on ARM.

“When we first launched Windows 10 on ARM in late 2017, the long tail of apps customers needed were [sic] dominated by 32-bit-only x86 applications, so we focused our efforts on building an x86 emulator that could run the broad ecosystem of Windows apps seamlessly and transparently,” Microsoft’s Hari Pulapaka explains, somewhat disingenuously. “Over time, the ecosystem has moved more toward 64-bit-only x64 apps and we’ve heard the feedback that customers would like to see those x64 apps running on ARM64. That’s why we are working on expanding the capability of our emulation to include x64 applications and sharing this first preview to gather feedback.”

In this first preview, which is part of Windows 10 Insider Preview build 21277, part of the Dev channel, those using Windows 10 on ARM can now install x64 (64-bit x86) apps from the Microsoft Store or from any other location of your choosing. These apps may benefit from having more memory when run as 64-bit emulated apps, Pulapaka says.

What everyone is wondering about, of course, is performance. Pulapaka only addresses that in passing—both compatibility and performance will “improve over time,” he says–but users are advised to install a preview version of the Qualcomm Adreno graphics driver for the best experience with this particular build. You can find download links here. You will also want to install a preview version of the ARM64 C++ redistributable.

I will be testing this new functionality as soon as possible.

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