It seems that Apple’s M1 Silicon isn’t yet done amazing people, even those from outside of Apple’s circles. The processor’s benchmarks have already been covered to death but nothing is probably more impressive than the M1’s performance outside of the common and officially supported use cases. Running Windows games via CrossOver, for example, is already quite a feat but running Windows itself on top of macOS Big Sur, just like what one developer accomplished, is even more dumbfounding. Especially when it clocks better than Windows 10 ARM’s “reference” Microsoft device.
Apple has removed the Boot Camp from macOS Big Sur on M1 Macs but not because Windows doesn’t run on ARM-based hardware. Apple is putting the ball in Microsoft’s court, explaining that it’s up to the Windows creator to make that happen by changing Windows 10 ARM’s licensing and making installers available. That said, it is technically possible to still run Windows on M1 Macs as developer Alexander Graf proved.
To be clear, he didn’t use the x86 version of Windows 10 as that would have added a layer of complexity to be emulated on an ARM-based Mac. Instead, he took an Insider Preview of Windows 10 ARM and ran it through a modified version of QEMU, a popular open source virtualization and machine emulation software, and utilizing Apple’s own Hypervisor.framework designed exactly for virtualization purposes.
According to Graf, the performance of this layer cake was quite snappy, though other testers who tried to replicate the setup did point out some issues. More interesting, however, The 8-bit reports the Geekbench scores for this Window ARM on ARM Mac outdid Windows ARM running on Microsoft’s own Surface Pro X.
That said, the current setup is hardly ideal and M1 Mac owners who need to run Windows software might want to wait for something like CodeWeavers’ CrossOver instead. It might also be a while before a full version of Windows will be able to run officially on these new Macs, via dual boot or virtualization, but this latest experiment still showcases the first Apple Silicon’s prowess.