Installing Windows on an Intel Mac using Boot Camp is a straightforward process. However, newer Apple devices like Mac Studio, MacBook Air M2, and MacBook Pro M2 cannot utilize Boot Camp since it only supports Intel chips and not Apple Silicon chips. Consequently, users of these new Apple devices face difficulties when they need to use Windows software. In this guide, we will explore how to install Windows 11 ARM on Mac using the M1 and M2 chips, using the free VMware Fusion Player as our preferred virtual machine software. This allows you to take advantage of both Windows 11 and macOS Ventura operating systems, providing the best of both worlds.
Step 1. Install VMware Fusion
You can use VMware Fusion Player for free for personal use. To download VMware Fusion, you need to register a VMware account and download VMware Fusion from the provided link. Make sure to save the free license key to activate VMware during the installation process.
Step 2: Download Windows 11 ARM
You can currently download the Windows 11 ARM installer for free. To access it, you need to participate in the Windows Insider program by visiting the provided link. Once enrolled, you can download the Windows 11 ARM version specifically designed for Virtual Machines from this location. It is important to note that the Windows 11 ARM installer for Virtual Machines is in VHDX format, which is a Virtual Disk format used by Hyper-V. Furthermore, the Windows 11 ARM installation comes with a pre-configured size of 10GB.
3. Convert Windows 11 ARM to VMware Virtual Disk
Because the Windows 11 ARM installation package is in VHDX format, it is not supported by other virtual machine software. Therefore, we need to convert the VHDX file to VMDK, which is a virtual disk file specifically for VMware.
To convert VHDX to VMDK, we need to use QEMU, a virtualization software for Ubuntu and Linux, to help us with the file conversion. To install QEMU, we can use Homebrew, a package management tool for Mac. If you are a programmer, you may be familiar with these tools. To install Homebrew and then QEMU, we can use the following commands sequentially in the macOS Terminal.
To install Home Brew on Mac, open Terminal in Mac Spotlight search then following the command:
/bin/bash -c "$(curl -fsSL https://raw.githubusercontent.com/Homebrew/install/HEAD/install.sh)"
To install QEMU, use the following terminal command:
brew install qemu
After installing QEMU, you can use the following commands to easily convert the VHDX image to VMDK:
qemu-img convert -f vhdx ~/Desktop/Windows11_InsiderPreview_Client_ARM64_en-us_25346.VHDX -O vmdk ~/Desktop/Windows11_InsiderPreview_Client_ARM64_en-us_25346.vmdk -p
-f vhdx: Location of the VHDX file.
-O vmdk: The output as a VMDK file with the desired location.
-p: Display the conversion process.
4. Install Windows 11 ARM on VMware Fusion
Start by installing VMware Fusion Player on your Mac using the provided free key in Step 1. Once installed, launch VMware Fusion Player from your Launchpad or Applications folder.
Next, click on the 'Create a Custom Virtual Machine' button to begin setting up a new virtual machine.
In the Guest OS section, select 'Windows 11 x64 ARM' and click 'Continue' to proceed.
In the 'Choose a Virtual Disk' section, locate and open the converted Windows 11 ARM.VMDK file from Step 3. Then, click 'Continue' to finalize the remaining settings. You can customize the RAM and CPU allocation, but the default settings provided by VMware should offer optimal performance for running Windows 11 ARM on your M1 or M2 Mac without excessive resource usage.
Once you have finished configuring your virtual machine, click the 'Play' button to start running Windows 11 ARM on VMware. Since this is a pre-installed setup by Microsoft, you won't have to wait for the installation process. The first step will be creating a new account on the Windows 11 ARM.VMDK.
Please note that creating a new account on Windows 11 ARM requires an internet connection and a Microsoft account. However, if you don't have internet access or want to save time, you can bypass the account creation process by following these steps.
On the Windows 11 ARM welcome screen and language selection in the virtual machine, press Command + Shift + F10. This will open the Command Prompt (CMD). Enter the command 'oobe\bypassnro' and press Enter. After restarting the virtual machine, you can create a Windows 11 account without needing an internet connection.
Step 5. Install VMware Tool and Use Unity mode
Now that you have successfully set up Windows 11 ARM on VMware, you can further optimize its performance and enable convenient features like file drag and drop, seamless integration with macOS Ventura like applications through Unity mode. To achieve this, you need to install VMware Tools.
To install VMware Tools, navigate to the View menu and select "Install VMware Tools." Then, on your Windows 11 ARM virtual machine, open File Explorer and run the VMware Tools installer to complete the installation process.
Once VMware Tools is installed, you can seamlessly use any Windows application directly on your macOS screen. In this guide, we tested Microsoft Store on macOS Ventura and found no limitations when working between Mac and Windows.
It's important to note that virtual machines may not fully utilize the GPU's capabilities. Therefore, resource-intensive applications like Core VideoStudio or Revit may not harness the full power of the M1 or M2 GPU. Virtual machines are better suited for regular applications.
In this guide, we have explored how to utilize Windows 11 ARM on Mac machines with ARM chips such as M1 and M2 Macs. With the assistance of VMware Fusion's free personal edition, you can confidently enjoy a wide range of Windows applications that were previously exclusive to the Windows platform.