Microsoft Says No to WOA Support on M1 Macs

Posted on September 13, 2021 by Paul Thurrott in Mac and macOS, Windows 11 with 91 Comments

Microsoft has finally gone on record about whether it will support Windows on Arm (WOA) on Apple’s M1 Macs. And it’s not good news.

The software giant told The Register that running the ARM version of Windows 11 on M1-based Macs is not “a supported scenario,” ending speculation that Parallels Desktop customers would be able to purchase and install Windows 11 legally on those systems. To date, Parallels has supported ARM-based versions of Windows 10 and 11 only through the Windows Insider Program, which doesn’t provide any product support and requires regular upgrading.

Further troubling, it appears that the most recent Windows Insider builds of Windows 11 have started triggering hardware errors in Parallels on M1 Macs. Parallels has released a software update to address that problem, but it’s not yet clear whether it was a glitch or a purposeful move on Microsoft’s part to prevent Windows 11 from working on M1 Macs.

What’s interesting about this is that I spoke to a source in late July who told me that they expected Microsoft to announce that it would formally support WOA on M1 Macs in September. So I had been waiting to see a confirmation of that tip.

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Comments (91)

91 responses to “Microsoft Says No to WOA Support on M1 Macs”

  1. untitled1

    This is something they're going to have to explain.

  2. angusmatheson

    I am afraid that they know that none of the chips that WOA the Microsoft sells will run WOA as well as a Mac with an M1. Windows machines already have a reputation that they run WOA poorly. The worse they they need is a comparison to WOA on a MacBook pro with M1X with the M1X. Windows will sell very few licenses supporting WOA on M11. But If they do and M1 is better than windows on ARM it will be a public relations disaster for first party WOA devices.

  3. blue77star

    Linux blows Windows and Mac OS out of water at performance level, it is not even funny.

  4. ringofvoid

    If Microsoft wants WOA to take off, allowing it on Parallels & VMware Fusion on M1 Macs is a great way to give it a boost.

    1. New Macs will all have M series processors.
    2. A lot of those Mac users actually want to buy and use WOA.
    3. Nobody is currently interested in buying actual WOA hardware

    My conclusion is that WOA on Mac is Microsoft's best chance in generating interest in the platform. Get it to thrive there and they may eventually be able to convince more that two people to pay money for WOA hardware

    • bradavon

      Good points but to make it worthwhile Qualcomm would have to also change their business model and sell Qualcomm chips directly to consumers.

      Retail Windows exists for people who build PCs. You can't bilis ARM PCs.

      • Jeremy Turnley

        Qualcomm is rapidly becoming a non-player in the ARM chip market. Most of the major players in the mobile are moving/have already have moved away from them in favor of custom silicon, with only Samsung left as a major partner. Alder Lake is bringing Big.Little to x86, so if Samsung decides that Exynos is good enough for the global market, they won't have any big customers left at all.

    • kshensley71

      MS doesn't want WOA to necessarily "take off" they want light powerful long-running tablets and slim laptops to run Windows and not Android or people buy Apple products. They want Samsung, Lenovo, and their own surface to be able to make long-lasting "powerful" light machines and to be running Windows. They would prefer that people who need to run Windows apps buy a windows pc so in that sense there is some incentive to not sell individual licenses so people have to make a choice of running a Mac or running Windows apps. But make no mistake they don't want WOA to become the main Windows, they want it to fill a niche that Windows cant.

  5. taswinfan

    Hah! Got 'em. I guess this Apple silicon macs aren't looking so fresh now if you can't run windows on it. ? Get yourself a nice HP or Lenovo lol.

  6. bradavon

    It's still bought legally, you just don't get support.

    You've still legally bought Windows 11.

    • wright_is

      No, you haven't. There is no way to purchase Windows 11 on ARM (WoA). You can only get it as an OEM version pre-installed on a new PC with a supported Snapdragon processor - which is non-transferable.

      The only way to get Windows 10/11 running in a VM on the Mac is currently through the Insider Programme. You can't purchase a legal WoA license and you can't use a Windows x64 license to license the WoA. The licenses are platform (processor architecture) specific.

  7. bradavon

    Does Microsoft support Intel Macs?

  8. waethorn

    This is troubling for Parallels, who said for quite some time that you could run Windows on ARM this way, and has blog posts on how to acquire Windows on ARM.

  9. harris0n

    What would keep Apple from blocking them at any point, Paul?

  10. jack

    Is the Apple silicon market share worth supporting (a full and complex operating system) Windows on or ensuring Office 365 and other app compatibility?

  11. bluvg

    There may be other things we just don't know about yet, especially related to Intel's moves. Apparently they locked up the majority of TSMC's N3 ("3nm") production for a while, though reportedly for server CPUs and a GPU. Conflicting reports say Apple will have the majority, though, so who knows. AMD, Qualcomm, nVidia, and even Intel itself are also ARM wildcards. Just saying there may be unannounced products and competitive pressures at play.

  12. Christopher Spera

    This is something that will effect the business viability of both Parallels Desktop and VMWare Fusion. Microsoft may have killed both businesses with this move. I wonder what, if anything, either organizations will do? I wonder if one or both sue Microsoft for unfair business practices or monopoly power abuse. It will be intersting to watch.

    • spiderman2

      Why? it's not their OS, it's not their product, they're not obliged to provide any service

      If the business needs, will buy a Windows PC

    • wright_is

      A lot of developers still need either a virtualised macOS for testing or they need to set up test servers for their applications, which are generally Linux or BSD based. It will reduce the need for those that need a specific Windows program, but I suspect a lot of users already use the products for things other than Windows.

      I had VMware Workstation on my Windows PC, it was running half a dozen different Linux machines, for example.

  13. melinau

    WOW! This has generated a lot of responses.

    My guess is that MS needs:

    1 on the one hand time to refine WOA & make it work properly in all respects and

    2 on the other it doesn't want the grotty performance of WOA on legit platforms to be shown-up by much better performance on the Apple Mxx chips.

    I've got to agree, however that assuming it can deal with the issues surrounding compatibility, functionality & reliability MS would be well advised to support WOA on Apple devices. MS is a Software supplier after all & should be agnostic as to what hardware is used to run it.

    Having said that, with Office ported to the Mxx MS' best-selling & most profitable package is available on Apple - so the most obvious reason for wanting to run Windows on Mx, "legacy" applications aside, disappears.

  14. geoff

    Mac hardware doesn't support touch screens, so running Windows 11 locally on Mac hardware isn't providing any advantage for the user.

    And for that one Windows application that you need, while using a Mac, just remotely access Windows 365 (or any of the many alternatives).

    It's difficult to see who will get genuinely upset about this. It was never going to be a mainstream solution. It was always one of those "why would anyone bother doing that?" scenarios.

  15. yourcomputerguy

    Serious question. What can Windows on ARM do that you can't accomplish with web apps or Apple apps?

  16. WaltC

    How can you blame Microsoft? It probably won't be any time at all before Apple pulls another CPU-switcheroo! Apple loves its transitions...;) Microsoft has better things to do than to hop when Apple says jump. Maybe Apple will spend the money to get Windows working on M1--that's the way it should be, imo. It's what Apple did with Bootcamp, after all.

    • ringofvoid

      I'm feeling that this is the final CPU transformation for Apple. They've gone Motorola to IBM to Intel to finally owning thier own destiny. They're not turning back now

  17. grabaclue

    I wonder if this is a ploy to get Apple to support more Windows versions of their apps, like Messages; or update iTunes on Windows to the newer Music and Podcasts apps

  18. randallcorn

    But what about Mac on Windows? It seems everyone needs Windows but.......

  19. Michael Iafrato

    I doubt MS will bring Windows to Mac arm. My theory, which may not be correct, is that they will want to drive people to windows on the cloud.

    • ericgharrison

      That was my first thought as well.

    • curtisspendlove

      Yup. I’m guess most Windows on Mac stuff is business related and there are (more profitable to Microsoft) ways to do that for business.

      I expect a consumer version of Cloud PC to release eventually. If people can spin up a Windows PC in a browser and toss a few bucks at Microsoft that is probably a far better user experience.

      But then again, Microsoft doesn’t seem to care much about lowly consumers these days so who knows…

  20. markbyrn

    Microsoft is intent on making Win 11 as difficult to use as possible.

  21. ivarh

    Well, if you want to sell your own arm-based hardware, getting the $900 machine that runs the pants of your hardware that for 1.5 times as much out of the picture...

  22. hbko

    With "Windows 365" on the horizon it's not hard to imagine a strategy where it's slightly harder to run Windows virtually when one could instead be encouraged to pay a little something to access Microsoft's cloud offering.

    • tnthorne

      I agree, I think Windows365 is the future of Windows on Mac. Not sure why everyone is complaining when a viable solution to the issue exists.

  23. spiderman2

    Funny to read upset comments ... but when you cannot install mac OS on a PC everything is fine, LOL

  24. peterc

    I really think this points towards a Win 11 future of combined hardware (chip) and software security measures as has been speculated already in response to win 11 backwards compatibility questions. That’s life people, choose your OS to suit your needs, and hey buy both if you need/want both. Why should one company should bend over backwards to placate for another’s hardware choices.

    Soon google will join the fun and you just just know fuscia/chrome os/android will have its own set of hardware/software security tie ins (chip security) which will create conflict for android/windows users…… everyone wants bespoke hardware and a walled garden through strategic fragmentation, well everyone with a dominant mobile OS that is…..

  25. nbplopes

    In my opinion, it makes sense at many levels. The current technological landscape is not to play nice with other platforms.

  26. roundaboutskid

    Wow! That's not good. I just invested in a Parallels subscription for the sole purpose of running Windows on my new Mac Mini M1. I know a lot of business running windows on Macs for serious purposes (like my research wife who needs to run SAS and the standard issue at her workplace are Macs so they run Parallels), and they will need to look for new solutions. Not sustainable!

  27. jdjan

    I don't think this means much at all. Saying it is 'not a supported scenario' really just means that they aren't going to invest in the engineering required to, for example, let an M1 dual-boot to Windows ARM. I don't see why they would purposely break the functionality either - they just won't care if it works or not because it isn't a target use case.

    The reality is that in a browser based world, the need to run Windows on a Mac is an edge-case scenario. Don't get me wrong, I'm one of those folks, but I really only do it for convenience and for a little bit of legacy software support. I will miss this capability, but it's not going to be a dealbreaker.

    • anoldamigauser

      The problem is that they will not sell Windows on Arm as a standalone product. It can only be purchased with a device.

    • Greg Green

      Edge case scenario. I see what you did there.

    • rferreiradba

      “Edge case”. Not really. I’m a Database Administrator and I rely on Parallels running a Win10 VM to manage my Microsoft SQL Servers. Without the ability to run my VMs I’m prevented from using Macs for my job, which I have been doing for more than 10 years. This is seriously disrupting. I need to be able to run SSMS on my Macs, again, to do my job. Your comment is shortsighted at best. R.

      • bradavon

        But as others have said you can buy retail Windows for Intel/ARM.

        You can't buy Windows on ARM retail anyway. So there's no way to install it on your VM.

        Outside of the Insider route. Which isn't a permanent route. Windows on ARM licences are tided to a device.

        By going ARM Apple are cutting off Windows.

        This was clear from the start when they announced no Boot camp either.

        • curtisspendlove

          Apple implemented an entirely new hypervirtualization API (which Parallels is porting their engine over to).

          They also said they aren’t actively doing anything to prevent Windows from running on Apple Silicon Macs.

          They solidly punted the ball onto Microsoft’s field. It’s up to Microsoft.

          • nbplopes

            By the way, if I was MS I would even stop supporting Office in iOS and Mobile Safari, (gradually) … In 4 years business people would be moving to Android.

            • curtisspendlove

              I think you’re overestimating how many Mac users run Microsoft tools. ;)

              Windows has been steadily killing off their consumer offerings. And you can run Office in a browser (or, as you mention, the iOS apps) at a level good enough for most consumer needs.

          • nbplopes

            But they actively prevented xCould to run on their systems … so …

      • wright_is

        Can't you move the VM over to your supported VM platform?

        I have a Windows laptop at the moment, but our SQL management software runs on a dedicated VM in the data centre. I just have to connect to it from whichever device or PC I happen to be using.

  28. hrlngrv

    MSFT intentionally fubarring WOA under Parallels?

    The old saying was Windows ain't done till Lotus won't run. Can't come up with a good rhyme for WOA and Parallels, but the sentiment is the same. Good to see MSFT hasn't forgotten its repertoire.

    • wright_is

      I see less and less need for a Windows VM on M1. Businesses have other options, for example VMware ESXi, HyperV or cloud based Windows instances for their users, for those one or two applications that just aren't available or don't have a compatible equivalent on macOS.

      Microsoft itself has "no reason" to have Windows on M1, all their "normal" software runs on Mac and the rest has a much more profitable cloud solution.

      It is "just" the home user or enthusiast that is stuck out to dry.

  29. jimchamplin

    Well that's stupid.

    How do they make their "support" decisions anyway? Do they ask some crotchety old bastard who makes a living repairing typewriters?

  30. Username

    “Windows Everywhere,” abandoned.

  31. crunchyfrog

    Is this a Microsoft issue or perhaps Apple is pumping the brakes on Windows on a Mac behind the scenes?

    • bhofer

      I think it's a Microsoft issue. Craig Federighi has said it was "up to Microsoft" if they want Windows to run natively on M1-based Macs.

      • bradavon

        Apple also said there'll be no Boot camp on M1 Macs. So it's obviously Apple blocking it too.

        Going truly native is going to be tricky without bootcamp.

        • bhofer

          There is no Boot Camp because there isn't anything that can make use of it at the moment. Also, Boot Camp isn't a requirement to install and run Windows. Windows can be installed on an Intel-based Mac perfectly fine without using Boot Camp. It's basically just a utility to help people partition their drive easily.

          • wright_is

            And dual boot with macOS.

            There is a version of Linux that runs on the new M1 Macs. It is still rudimentary and in development, but it can be installed and it boots and works like a normal Linux - the biggest problem at the moment is video acceleration, given that Apple doesn't document its hardware or provide open source drivers for their chipset. They are busy reverse engineering the video, but normal desktop stuff works.

        • wright_is

          There hasn't been much of a need to "go native" for about a decade now.

          Fusion or Parallels with Unity mode means that you can run the Windows software as if it were a native Mac application. No need to keep rebooting to jump back and forth.

          It would be interesting to know what percentage of users actually use Windows VMs these days. The noisy minority always bubble up to the surface, but I wonder if there are any statistics about the number of Windows VMs running on Macs?

          And business users have other options, today. Either terminal servers, virtual instances on their ESXi, HyperV Servers etc. or cloud based instances. We are a Windows user, but we also have Windows instances in our ESXi infrastructure for accessing resources on different sites, or shared applications etc.

          If you are a business, you can justify the cost of a Windows cloud instance, that gets billed onto the client, either directly or indirectly through hourly rates etc.

          The ones this really hurts is the home user, who can't justify a cloud instance of Windows. But what percentage of the total are they? And they also, probably, don't mind running an Insider Build, which might be unstable occasionally. A business, on the other hand, can't afford to use unlicensed software or unsupported software for production purposes.

  32. djross95

    Sigh... The circular firing squad is back in action at Microsoft.

  33. jwdixonjr

    It's unfortunate they're going down that path. Guess we'll see if this is a short-term thing or ends up being a permanent stance.

  34. fishnet37222

    They're shooting themselves in the foot with this decision.

    • garethb

      So... How many licenses do you think Microsoft would actually have sold to M1 Mac owners?

      How much development time would they have to make it officially supported, and the maintain that support throughout the life of that product?

    • will

      Like everything else Windows 11, I am curious if in a week or two this will change. "We are always updating our offerings..."

      Honestly it is frustrating that Microsoft does this and not just provide the best experience for customers.

  35. vernonlvincent

    I have to be honest here and say this bothers me less than it probably should. Apple has never allowed its OS to be virtualized for use on Windows (or Linux or other operating systems) - and it was Apple's choice to change their architecture from x86 to ARM. So Microsoft is doing nothing different than Apple in this instance.

    Now - I know that's not the answer that we should have. Microsoft has never taken this kind of stance before and it directly flies in the face of the notion that they 'want to be where their customers are'. But I'm really having hard time getting upset over this.

    • wright_is

      On the other hand, they are where the customers are. They have the Office suite (with the exception of Access), always have had, the Office suite started life on the Mac and was ported to Windows, replacing Multiplan and Word for DOS. Everything else these days is cloud based.

      There is less and less need for Microsoft to have Windows running in virtual machines or in Bootcamp on Macs. Especially with the ARM version. This is the "cleanest" version of Windows there is out there. It has done away with a lot of legacy cruft already and is aimed at a specific SoC. The last thing Microsoft wants to do is start compromising this version with support for Mac hardware.

      That leaves the Mac users who need Windows for one specific (non-Microsoft) application, for example, in a dilemma, they can't move to M1 and keep Windows VMs running. Does their software even run under WoA? Probably a lot of it is legacy stuff anyway that will struggle with Windows 10 on Intel, let alone trying to run under emulation on a virtualised platform.

      MS has better options (for MS) Windows 365, for example, VMs in the cloud running native Windows on supported hardware. It will also bring them a regular income, compared to a one-off license.

      • wright_is

        Just to add, for business users, most companies still have on-premises virtual host systems (HyperV, VMware, KVM etc.), where they can set up virtual Windows machines or even terminal servers and the users can access them through either a VM player or the web browser.

        There are plenty of options out there.

    • curtisspendlove

      As counter-point, Apple considers the Mac business to be perfectly profitable without Windows running on it.

      They have made it clear the ball was in Microsoft’s court for ARM support.

      But no worries, I’m sure Microsoft will get a ton of sales of WoA from all their wonderful devices that run it. Right?

      • vernonlvincent

        "But no worries, I’m sure Microsoft will get a ton of sales of WoA from all their wonderful devices that run it. Right?"

        I don't know that I'd go that far. But I am sure Microsoft has the sales figures on the WoA devices to justify whatever decision they want to make on this. I'm not saying I agree with this decision from Microsoft. From the stand point of people like wright_is - this is clearly an issue that can impact people using the MacOS platform but still have need for Windows in specific instances. I'm just saying that, from a personal standpoint, Apple engages in the same behavior with respect to the virtualization of their OS. Their solution has always been 'buy a Mac if you want MacOS'. So - comparing the behavior of both companies here: why would this behavior be acceptable from Apple and not from Microsoft. I completely get this is a change for them in terms of what users can typically do with Windows.

        As I originally said - this bothers me less than it probably should. I need to put myself in the position of those impacted by this. But I'm also tired of Apple getting a pass for behavior that others companies get criticized for.

      • nbplopes

        What about without running Office?

        • curtisspendlove

          I use the office Web App when I need to access work mail from my Mac.

          Works perfectly well. Microsoft themselves seem to be wanting to port all their stuff over in a form that will work fine on multiple OS’s.

          Isn’t that what all the PWA hype is suppose to be?

          And they released that amazing Windows on ARM test system a while back. They obviously have their bases covered. ;)

  36. sykeward

    I wonder if this is just a semantics game. OEM versions of Windows are supported by the OEM and not Microsoft directly (at least the last time I checked). Microsoft only provides support for retail copies and I believe that Microsoft has gone on the record that WOA SKUs will not be sold at retail, so I wonder if that's all it means when they say it'll be "unsupported".

    Or not! I feel like I can't take anything MS says about Windows at face value anymore, given their recent history with Windows 11 communication

    • stephenf

      As a side note, if you work through the lists of Microsoft supported CPU's for Windows 11 and prior versions, I see something similar. For example, I have a Dell laptop that has a Windows 7 logo sticker on it that shows that the hardware supports Windows 7. However the CPU in the unit is nowhere to be found on any list of supported CPU's by Microsoft. This leads me to conclude that Dell has taken the responsibility for support for the CPU chosen. I found it odd that no one in the blog space has commented on this.

    • bradavon

      That's a good point actually. A clarification to a long standing practice.

      Microsoft has never supported OEM versions of their hardware and software.

      • mikegalos

        That's not quite accurate. OEMs could buy their licenses with or without Microsoft support but the larger ones found it cheaper to provide support rather than pay for it.

        • wright_is

          Yes, but Apple isn't a Windows OEM, so no license, either supported or unsupported on WoA.

          You can only buy Intel architecture licenses retail, which can't be used to activate a WoA instance - which is OEM only, because you can't buy a barebones Snapdragon SoC solution, so no need for a retail license.

  37. christophercollins

    I seriously have a feeling, that when some new hardware is ready, a new push for WoA will be done by Microsoft. I also feel like this will most definitely include selling licenses to end users.

    They are giving WoA away via Insider. If anything, I think the Insider Program for WoA stops, then you buy a license for it is how you get it. None of the big tech companies are going to turn away free money.

    Parallels is a super solid company too. I can see Microsoft and them working together to have a supported, for pay version. Possibly linked to from within Parallel's itself.

    My .02 as a person trying to apply logic to the crazy tech world.

    • wright_is

      I think the Insider Program for WoA stops, then you buy a license for it is how you get it.

      Except you can't buy a license. That is the whole point. You can buy an x64 Intel license, but there are no WoA licenses to buy, it is OEM only and comes pre-installed on a WoA compatible Snapdragon device and the license is non-transferable.

      • ringofvoid

        I don't see how that prevents MS from selling an OEM license to Parallels or VMware for them to bundle with their products for M1 Macs.

        • wright_is

          If they sell an OEM license for Parallels, they have to invest extra time and effort to ensure that it runs stable.

          If it is unofficial and nobody can buy a license, those that use the Insider Programme to get their copy on Parallels have no comeback if it doesn't work properly: it is a test version (which is supposed to be unstable) and you are running it on an unsupported platform.

  38. kshensley71

    I think this is a little misleading. Microsoft has NEVER supported windows on mac, whether on boot camp or in a virtual machine. They sell you a Windows license and if it works on your machines, such as a Mac or VM great, if not that's not really their problem. Microsoft will never go out of its way for a specific circumstance such as running Windows on a Mac. The issue is they don't sell individual Windows on Arm licenses right now, they only sell licenses to OEMs. So the correct question shouldn't be will MS support windows on a Mac (they wont), it should be "are they going to sell individual licenses of Windows on Arm to the public?". If they do then you will be able to buy it and install it on a Mac legally. If not, you are going to have to use a pirated license to get it on a mac. At this time no one is really making generic arm PCs without an OEM WOA license, and no one is making their own homemade ARM PC so there is little incentive for MS to go through the hassle of selling WOA licenses to individuals. Unless or until large volumes of people start making their own ARM PCs (and why would you?) MS is unlikely to market individual licenses of WOA.

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