Windows 11 is the first version of Windows that Mac users can’t install natively on Mac. That’s because Intel-based Macs don’t need the minimum requirements for the new OS, while Apple Silicon Macs have dropped support for Apple’s Boot Camp multi-boot utility. In this article, I’ll explain how to install Windows 11 on Mac using Parallels Desktop 18 for Mac, which is now an officially-supported scenario.
Parallels Desktop for Mac is the most popular virtualization solution for virtualizing Windows and Linux on a Mac. Parallels Desktop for Mac added support for Windows 11 back in 2021, but Microsoft didn’t recognize it as a supported scenario for running the latest version of Windows until February 2023.
Here’s how to install Windows 11 on a Mac with Parallels Desktop in a couple of easy steps:
Parallels Desktop offers a 14-free trial, but after that, you’ll need to pay for a license. If you want to use Windows 11 without any restrictions, you’ll also need an activation key.
Unfortunately, it’s not possible to install Windows 11 on a Mac using Apple’s Boot Camp multi-boot utility. The M1 and M2-based Macs released since the fall of 2020 have dropped support for Boot Camp, and it’s not clear yet if Apple will ever bring it back to Apple Silicon Macs.
As for Intel-based Macs, these models can only use Boot Camp to install Windows 10, but upgrading it to Windows 11 isn’t supported. That’s because the latest Intel-based Macs don’t meet the minimum hardware requirements to install Windows 11.
For Apple Silicon Macs, the absence of the Boot Camp multi-boot utility means that it’s not possible to install any other OS than macOS on these devices. For Intel-based Macs, however, Windows 11 can’t be installed natively via Boot Camp because these Macs lack a TPM 2.0 security chip.
Even though all Intel-based Macs that have been released since 2016 actually come with the TPM 2.0 security chip that Windows 11 requires, Apple has actually never supported the technology on these Macs. While some hacks exist to install Windows 11 on Intel-based Macs by creating a custom ISO that bypasses the TPM 2.0 requirement, this is out of the scope of this article and not something I recommend you should do.
A little more than a year after the release of Windows 11, Microsoft has now clarified that there are two options for Mac users to run Windows 11: Windows 365 Cloud PCs and Parallels Desktop for Mac version 18.
Windows 365 is Microsoft’s software-as-a-service solution for running Windows 11 on a cloud PC on a per-user, per-month basis. Microsoft offers different pricing options for Windows 365, starting at $31 per user per month for a Cloud PC with 2 virtual CPUs, 4GB of RAM, and 128GB of storage.
For Mac users, running Windows 11 via a Windows 365 Cloud PC offers the convenience of accessing a personalized Windows 11 desktop via a web browser. For developers, Windows 365 also supports virtualization-based workloads, something that Parallels Desktop for Mac is missing. I’ll have more details on that later.
You can learn more about how to set up Windows 365 in our dedicated article on Petri.
Parallels Desktop 18 for Mac, the latest version of the virtualization app is the other supported way to run Windows 11 on a Mac. Parallels Desktop added support for Windows 11 back in 2021, with the version 17 of the app introducing a virtual TPM 2.0 chip to ensure hardware compatibility with the latest version of Windows.
Parallels Desktop 18 for Mac, which was released last year, supports running Windows 11 in a virtual machine on both Intel-based and Apple Silicon Macs. On Macs with M1 and M2 chips, however, it’s the ARM version of Windows 11 that will be installed in a virtual environment.
Unfortunately, running Windows 11 on ARM via Parallels Desktop for Mac comes with some limitations. Features such as DirectX 12 and nested virtualization aren’t supported, and I’ll have more details on that below.
Parallels Desktop for Mac 18 has a 14-day free trial. After that, you can either purchase a Parallels Desktop Standard license or subscribe to Parallels Desktop Pro or Parallels Desktop Business Edition:
Let’s install Parallel Desktop 18 for Mac, which comes with a 14-day free trial. Visit the Parallels Desktop for Mac product page on the company’s website and click on Try now. On the next page, click on Download Free trial.
Once the installer has been downloaded, open it and double-click on Install Parallels Desktop. You may see a pop-up window asking you if you really want to install this app downloaded from the Internet. Click Open.
During the installation process, the installer will ask for access to files in your Desktop folder. Click Ok on the pop-up window.
The installation of Parallels Desktop for Mac 18 will begin, and it will take a couple of minutes. Once it’s installed, the app will ask you to enable access to several directories: Click Ok to allow the app to access files in your Desktop folder (again), your Documents folder, and your Downloads folder. Click on Finish when you’re done giving the app all these permissions.
Now, Parallels Desktop will ask you to download and install Windows 11 on your Mac. You’ll see a message informing you that you’ll need to “activate this copy of Windows 11 after installation”, but you don’t need to worry about that right now.
That’s it! Our Windows 11 on ARM virtual machine is now up and running on our Apple Silicon Mac. Now, I’ll show you how to adjust the amount of resources you want to allocate to your virtual machine.
If I go to System settings on my Windows 11 virtual machine, I can see that it’s using 4 CPUs and 6GB of RAM by default. That’s more than enough for running Windows 11 in good conditions.
However, if you need more resources for your Windows 11 VM, you can allocate them in Parallels Desktop Settings.
As you use your Windows 11 VM on your Mac, you’ll sell a pop-up window asking you to activate Windows. You can either buy a product key from Microsoft or enter one you already have one.
You’re actually not required to activate Windows, though some features will be restricted if you don’t. Simple things like personalizing your background won’t be available without first activating Windows.
Parallels Desktop for Mac lets you run your Windows 11 in windowed mode and full-screen mode, but there’s also a Coherence mode that lets you hide the VM completely. You can activate it by clicking on the blue icon at the top left corner of your VM window. Alternatively, you can click on the Parallels Desktop icon in your menu bar, scroll down to View and choose Enter Coherence.
After entering Coherence mode, your VM will disappear and you’ll be able to use Windows apps from your macOS desktop.
When you click on the Windows 11 icon in your macOS dock, the Windows Start Menu will show up and you can launch any Windows app you have installed and run it side by side with macOS apps. Pretty neat!
To exit Coherence mode, you can once again click the Parallels Desktop icon on the macOS menu bar, scroll down to view, then click on Exit Coherence
Windows 11 on ARM has some limitations when it’s running in a virtual machine on Apple Silicon Macs. Nested virtualization isn’t supported, which may affect the workloads of app developers. But some Windows apps also won’t be compatible.
Here are the main limitations of Windows 11 on ARM running on a Mac via Parallels Desktop:
That’s quite a lot of asterisks, but this shouldn’t have too much of an impact on most workloads. If you really miss the Office apps for Windows on macOS, Parallels Desktop for Mac is a great way to get them back. Even better, you can run Office for Windows alongside other macOS apps with Coherence Mode, letting you enjoy the best of both worlds.
As someone who’s been using Parallels Desktop for Mac for many years, I’d say this remains a great solution for running Windows 11 or Windows 10 on Mac. Performance is really solid on Apple Silicon Macs, and Apple’s M1 and M2 chips still deliver an unmatched level of performance per watt on laptops.
Parallels Desktop’s Coherence mode, which lets users run Mac and Windows apps side by side is probably the app’s killer feature. Parallels Desktop gets major updates every year with new features and performance improvements, and I highly recommend taking advantage of the 14-day free trial to check out if virtualizing Windows 11 can help you get more value from your Mac.