In just two steps, Windows 11 can be used for free on M1 version of Mac

With the launch of the new MacBook Pro equipped with M1 Pro and M1 Max chips, the second platform migration in Apple’s history has laid a solid foundation; the excellent performance of the M1 series chips also allows users to purchase without having to contact Intel Tangled between the old models of the platform. 

However, if there are any factors that restrict users, especially office users, from purchasing the M1 series of Mac models, it is the lack of a perfect solution for running Windows . In the past, Mac users had many options for running Windows: either using Apple’s officially supported BootCamp to install dual systems, or using a virtual machine. Since it was the same X86 architecture as mainstream PCs at the time, there were many choices of virtual machine tools, from paid Parallels Desktop and VMware Fusion to free VirtualBox and QEMU. 

Back to the present, BootCamp has been abandoned by Apple, and the virtual machine solution has been slow due to the gap in architecture. As of now, only the newly released Parallels Desktop 17 has announced support for the Windows 11 ARM64 version. This is certainly good news, but many users may be concerned about its higher price. 

So, is there a free plan for virtualizing Windows 11 on the M1 series of Macs, and can their performance meet the needs of daily use? This is the question to be answered in this article. 

Please note: 

This article applies to Mac models using M1, M1 Pro or M1 Max chips. For models with Intel processors, it is generally recommended to use the free and complete VMware Fusion Player directly. This article also does not introduce the steps to install Windows 11 using Parallels Desktop 17, because this operation has a complete official document and belongs to the developer’s technical support range.

The operation and method steps described in this article are only applicable to the situation at the time of writing (early November 2021), which will change over time, please pay attention to the subsequent progress of the search.

This article assumes that the reader understands the basic operations of “Terminal” under macOS and PowerShell under Windows, has installed the package management tool Homebrew on the Mac, and understands its basic usage.

Preparation: Get Windows 11 ARM64 from official channels

Although Microsoft has launched its own ARM-based hardware product Surface Pro X, and also upgraded Windows 11 for the first time, it has not provided a separate Windows 11 ARM64 version of the ISO installation image for download. It is true that the existing resources on the Internet are already available in one search, but we do not recommend downloading and using such installation images from unknown sources . This not only violates the license agreement, but more importantly, it cannot guarantee safety. 

In contrast, it is a safer choice to obtain the installation files from official channels in a flexible way. Up to now, there are mainly two specific ways: 

Download the required files from Microsoft’s “Unified Update Platform” (UUP), then package it into an ISO format image and install it.

Download the Windows Insider Preview virtual system disk file provided by Microsoft for the Hyper-V virtualization platform, and then convert it to a format that can be read by other virtual machine software and mount it.

In comparison, the two methods do not distinguish Xuanzhen: the first method is faster and can save installation time; the latter method is more general, and the obtained image file can also be saved for later use. Therefore, the following two methods are introduced in turn. 

Method 1: Package ISO image from UUP file

UUP was launched at the end of 2016. It can be understood as Microsoft’s “incremental update” technology, that is, when updating the system, according to the hardware environment, the gap with the latest version and other conditions, only the required upgrade files are downloaded, thereby speeding up the upgrade efficiency. From another perspective, UUP also provides channels for downloading special installation files for different hardware platforms. 

However, UUP does not disclose the file directory and download channels; moreover, the only incremental update files that can be obtained directly from UUP are not a small gap from the ISO installation image we need. Fortunately, someone has already done the homework for help; third-party websites such as UUP dump (https://uupdump.net/) simplify the steps of filtering, downloading, and converting to wizards and automated scripts. Since this project is open source (https://github.com/uup-dump/converter), its download source and security are relatively guaranteed. 

The method to use UUP dump to obtain the Windows 11 installation image is: First, visit the UUP dump website (with Chinese translation), from the “Quick Options” on the home page, click the “arm64” button on the right side of the “Latest Beta Channel Version” (because As of now, the two more stable channels have not yet provided Windows 11). 

Among the updates found, browse from top to bottom , and select the link with the highest version number and the name like “Windows 11 Insider Preview version number”. 

In the “Select Language” step, keep “Chinese (Simplified)” (or other languages ​​you want to use, such as English); in the “Select Version” step, check the version you want to use (it is recommended that you have a genuine license Version, which is convenient for subsequent activation, generally Home version is mostly); Finally, in the “Summary” step, click “Create Download Package” directly. 

Unzip the compressed package to a separate folder, where uup_download_macos.sh is the script for downloading and generating the ISO image. As stated in its readme file, you need to install several dependencies with Homebrew before running: 

brew tap sidneys/homebrew

brew install cabextract wimlib cdrtools sidneys/homebrew/chntpw

Execute uup_download_macos.sh from the terminal and wait for the progress to be completed (the download is about 5GB), then you can see the output file with the name 22000.1_PROFESSIONAL_ARM64_EN.ISO in the unified directory of the script ; this is the installation image we need. 

Method 2: Convert from Hyper-V format virtual disk

In addition to the aforementioned ISO conversion method, you can also use the Windows 11 ARM64 preview virtual machine directly provided by Microsoft in one step. Specifically, what is downloaded is a virtual hard disk file, which can be used as a system disk by mounting it on a blank virtual machine. 

Unfortunately, Microsoft provides a format for its own Hyper-V virtualization platform, and Hyper-V does not have a macOS version. Therefore, it needs to be converted into a format that can be read by other virtual machine software. 

The specific method is: First, visit the download page of Windows 11 Insider Preview (https://sspai.com/s/66Rd). Note that this page can be accessed only by logging in to a Microsoft account that has joined the “Preview Program” (but without any threshold or fee). Click the blue “Windows Client ARM64 Insider Preview-[version number]” button to download the virtual machine. This will result in a file with a name like Windows11_InsiderPreview_Client_ARM64_en-us_22483.VHDX (about 10GB). 

Then, install the tools needed to convert the format through Homebrew: 

brew install qemu

Next, convert the above-mentioned virtual hard disk in VHDX format to a format usable by other virtual machines. The specific target format depends on the software you use (see below); for example, if you choose VMware, you should convert to the VMDK format: 

qemu-img convert -p -f vhdx -O vmdk Windows11_InsiderPreview_Client_ARM64_en-us_22483.VHDX win11.vmdk

Among them, the -p option refers to the display of the progress bar; the -f and -O options are used to specify the input and output formats respectively; the last two parameters are the input and output file paths, please adjust according to the actual situation and needs. For example, if you choose UTM, you should replace vmdk with qcow2 everywhere in the command . 

Install with VMware Fusion 

VMware Fusion is a virtual machine software developed by VMware, a veteran commercial virtual machine developer, for macOS. The software was originally paid software, but from 2020 it was announced that the basic version, VMware Fusion Player, will be provided free of charge for non-commercial use. 

As of now, VMware Fusion has not officially supported Apple silicon processors or Windows 11 ARM64 version, but released a technical preview version in September (free, but a VMware account is required). According to the testing guide issued by VMware, the support of Windows 10 or 11 is hidden and needs to be enabled by manually modifying the parameters. 

The specific steps to install Windows 11 with VMware Fusion are: download and install and open VMware Fusion. Click the plus sign in the upper left corner and select “New”. In the wizard that pops up, click “Create a custom virtual machine”> “Continue”. In the “Select Operating System” step, you can find that the software only lists a small number of Linux distributions, and does not include Windows. Therefore, for the time being, select “Other”> “Other 64-bit Arm” at the bottom of the pocket, and then click “Continue”. 

The next step of “Select Virtual Disk” also click “Continue”. In the last step, click “Custom Settings”. After specifying a storage location for the virtual machine, the virtual machine window and a setting window will pop up at the same time. 

Here, first enter the “Processor and Memory” page, allocate 2 cores, 4GB (4096MB) memory. This is the minimum configuration recommended by Microsoft; based on experience, it is enough to support the system itself and daily browsing and office operations; lower configuration can also be turned on, but the usability is very poor. 

After completing these settings, do not boot yet, return to the main VMware Fusion window, right-click on the name of the virtual machine you just created, and select “Show in Finder”; then, right-click again on the displayed virtual machine file icon, Select “Show Package Contents” to display its internal documents. Here, find the configuration file ending with vmx, right-click on it, and select your usual plain text editor to open it (you can also use the built-in “text editor”). 

Find the configuration line at the beginning of guestOS , change it to guestOS = “arm-windows11-64” , and save the file. 

Back to the virtual machine configuration interface. You can see that there are more options for Windows virtual machines such as “Default Programs” than before, and you can also choose a configuration for Windows 10 in “Mouse and Keyboard”; this indicates that Windows support has been successfully turned on. 

The following settings are different according to the installation method you choose: 

If you choose Method 1, install via ISO: Go to the “CD/DVD” page, check “Connect CD/DVD Drive”, and then select the previously prepared ISO format installation image from the drop-down menu. Then, enter the “hard disk” page and allocate 64GB of space (same as above, the minimum configuration recommended by the official, but it can be increased or decreased as needed).

If you choose the second method, install by converting the virtual machine file: enter the “hard disk” page, click “advanced settings” to remove the hard disk created by default. Then click the “Add Device” button in the upper right corner, select “Existing Hard Disk”, and select the VMDK format virtual hard disk file prepared before.

Bypass Windows 11 installation restrictions

Windows 11 has special requirements for hardware conditions, including the requirement to support TPM (Trusted Platform Module) 2.0 and Secure Boot (Secure Boot), etc., otherwise the installation will be refused (for related discussions, please refer to the previous guide of the minority group ). 

The bypass method is also very simple. In the first step of the installation interface, the interface of the “Install Now” button is displayed, press Shift-F10 to open the command prompt interface, then enter regedit and press Enter to open the registry editor. 

At this point, locate this path in the left pane: 

Computer\HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\Setup

Then right-click on the Setup key and select “New”> “Key” to create a new key named LabConfig . 

Then, right-click on the blank space in the right pane, select “New”> “DWORD (32-bit) Value”, create a new DWORD type value named BypassTPMCheck , and double-click to change its value to 1. In the same way, create a new DWORD type value named BypassSecureBootCheck , and change its value to 1. 

Close the registry editor to bypass the restrictions and complete the installation. 

Enable networking for the virtual machine

In the traditional virtual machine configuration process, the first step after installing the system is to install the dedicated drivers and auxiliary programs provided by the developer. For VMware, it is VMware Tools. Unfortunately, because VMware does not officially support Windows 11 ARM64, VMware Tools has not completed the adaptation; the most significant obstacle to normal use is that the virtual machine cannot access the Internet because it cannot find the network card. 

In this regard, community users have found a paradoxical but quick solution: Open the Windows Terminal terminal with administrator privileges (you can search for “Terminal” in the start menu to find it, right-click on it and select “Run as administrator”), and then Run the following command: 

bcdedit /debug onbcdedit /dbgsettings net hostip:10.0.0.1 port:50000

If you find the above command inexplicable, it is because… there is no way. bcedit is a command line tool for debugging startup options on Windows; and the function of the above two lines of commands is to first enable the kernel debugger, and then add an Ethernet network connection dedicated to kernel debugging. Yes, the only purpose of this is to add a virtual network card without a driver to the system. Because of this, the values of the hostip and port options in the command can be filled in arbitrarily, because they all refer to the IP address and port of the kernel debugging host, which is not important for our purposes. 

After completing the settings, restart the virtual machine to connect to the Internet normally. 

Use remote desktop workarounds to achieve high-definition resolution

Another problem caused by the lack of drivers is that the virtual machine cannot flexibly adapt to the resolution as the window zooms, nor can it support high-definition displays with Retina resolution. 

However, note that Windows operating systems can be accessed remotely through the RDP protocol, which does not require any additional driver’s built-in support, and the resolution can be set independently; also note that VMware’s default networking mode (NAT) , The virtual machine and the host machine are in the same virtual local area network ( vmnet8 ). 

Therefore, as long as the virtual machine is regarded as a “remote” machine and connected from the host machine through the remote desktop client, the problem of no display driver can be avoided, and its interface can be displayed in high-definition resolution. 

To do this, first enable remote desktop in the virtual machine. The method is to go to “Settings”> “System”> “Remote Desktop” and turn on the “Remote Desktop” option. 

Next, open the Windows Terminal terminal, execute the ipconfig command, and write down the displayed IP address of the machine ( 192.168.162.128 as shown in the figure below ). 

Then, download and install the free Microsoft Remote Desktop application (of course, you can also use better paid software such as Jump Desktop). After opening, click the “Add PC” button, fill in the IP address noted in the previous step in the “PC name” field, and add the virtual machine administrator account in the “User account” field. 

Finally, switch to the “Display” tab, check “Optimize for Retina displays” and “Update the session resolution on resize”, and click “Save”. 

In this way, you can use a virtual machine with high-definition resolution and real-time scaling with the window size. Because it is a local transmission screen, except for occasional freezes, there is basically no delay. If you want to further improve the response speed, you can consider turning off visual elements such as animations, shadows, and wallpapers. 

 Install with UTM 

UTM (https://mac.getutm.app/) is an open source virtual machine software, with the command line virtual machine tool QEMU as the bottom layer, which can be said to be the latter’s graphical interface packaging. UTM’s best-known appearance may be in the iOS jailbreak news-this is currently very rare virtual machine that can run on iOS. 

On macOS, UTM performs equally well. One of the easiest features is that it is designed in strict accordance with modern macOS interface specifications, and is very compatible with the new native style after macOS Big Sur. It stands out in the generally “ruffled” open source world. 

Thanks to the accumulation on iOS, UTM has realized the adaptation to Apple silicon very quickly. It can run on the M1 chip MacBook Pro through UTM shortly after the launch of the Windows 10 ARM version last year. 

In terms of usage, the usage of UTM is similar to that of VMware, and the official document has updated the steps to install Windows 11. Just refer to the steps of VMware and the instructions in this document. Here, only tips for common problems found after personal attempts are made. 

About the installation method

The official document demonstrates the second method under the category of this article, which is to install by importing a virtual hard disk, and there is no format conversion. However, as mentioned at the end of the document, UTM’s support for the VHDX format is not complete, and problems such as blue screens and application crashes are prone to occur. 

Therefore, it is still recommended to convert the downloaded file to the native QCOW2 format and then import it according to the method described above. 

In addition, the solution of using ISO image installation is still feasible on UTM, but the registry also needs to be modified to bypass the two installation conditions of TPM and Secure Boot (see above for the method). 

At the same time, due to the flaws in UTM’s simulation of the USB bus, there is a certain chance that a problem similar to “disk dropping” will occur during the installation process, that is, it is impossible to continue to read data from the ISO image. Up to now, the community has not found a way to completely avoid it. If you encounter a re-installation, you will generally not “win the lottery” continuously. 

About network and display driver

As in the case of VMware, due to Apple silicon adapter at an early stage of development-related driving did not have charge points to keep up. 

A little better than VMware is the driver and auxiliary tool SPICE Guest Tools used here (link: https://mac.getutm.app/support/ Note: The file is in ISO format, download it and mount it to the CD-ROM drive of the virtual machine Installation) At least the network card support is realized, and there is no need to modify a network card through the command line. 

However, the display driver is also very imperfect. Not only can it not support high resolution, but the mouse pointer suddenly evaporates randomly. In this regard, it is recommended to use the remote desktop method described above to bypass this problem. 

Performance comparison and selection suggestions

After the above setting steps, Windows 11 installed through VMware Fusion and UTM can be connected to the Internet normally, and the operation is relatively smooth. According to tests, common applications such as browsers and Office run without problems. 

As for performance, I did a loose test. On a 16-inch MacBook Pro equipped with an M1 Max processor, using the configuration described above (dual-core, 4GB memory) through an ISO image, the running results of GeekBench 5 are shown.

It can be seen that the paper performance of VMware Fusion is slightly stronger than that of UTM, and both are inferior to Parallels Desktop, but the gap is not big; the feeling in actual use is generally the same. 

Therefore, if the requirements are not high, but occasionally need to use Windows, it is recommended to use VMware Fusion . Not only is it free, because it is supported by commercial companies, subsequent adaptations may be more timely and complete than open source projects . 

On the other hand, if your daily work relies heavily on the Windows environment, then the paid but officially supported Parallels Desktop may be a better choice . On the one hand, the extra cost can get a simpler and smoother installation process, and can also get advanced features that improve the user experience, such as the integration mode (that is, the direct display of the Windows application window on the Mac desktop). In contrast, although the free official version of VMware is worth looking forward to, the official still hasn’t given a letter on the timetable, so it is not worth waiting for. 

5 Comments

  1. I got error for bcdedit command bcdedit /debug onbcdedit /dbgsettings net hostip:10.0.0.1 port:50000 as below.
    invalid command line switch /debug
    The parameter is incorrect.
    What to do to get net?

    • I installed it again on my M1 macbook again with PD 17.1.1, there is no need to use this code.

      Please note: PD 17.1.1 only supports Windows 11 ARM edition.

    • These are two commands that have accidentally been merged. They should be

      bcdedit /debug on
      bcdedit /dbgsettings net hostip:10.0.0.1 port:50000

      In that order

  2. Ciao, ho provato piu volte tutti i passaggi dopo aver convertito il file in .vmdk, ma puntualmente mi da Errore Transport (VMDB) -14: Pipe connection has been broken
    Cosa sbaglio?

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