As you may recall, I’ve offered several solutions for creating virtual machines on M1 Macs. UTM, for example, is a low-cost way to run Windows and Linux on Apple Silicon. Earlier this month, Parallels released Parallels Desktop 16.5, offering native virtualization for both M1 and Intel-based Macs. We gave Parallels Desktop 16.5 a thorough test drive and found it to be impressively fast. If you don’t currently own Parallels Desktop, you can purchase a license through MacSales.com.
Speedy Windows on Parallels Desktop 16.5
My career has made it necessary to use both Mac (preferred!) and Windows applications. To be honest, I’ve never felt that Windows virtual machines have offered the type of performance needed to make the Windows experience less painful. Running the Windows 10 ARM Insider Preview under Parallels Desktop 16.5 is fast. How fast? On an M1 MacBook Air, it’s the fastest Windows “machine” I’ve ever used.
Parallels says that it offers 30 percent better virtual machine performance than a Windows 10 VM running on an Intel Core i9 MacBook Pro. I can vouch for that – Windows apps that were slow to load and sluggish in operation load almost instantaneously now. In Parallels Coherence mode, Windows “disappears,” and apps appear to be regular Mac apps – perfect for a person who has used Macs for 37 years!
DirectX 11 performance is also enhanced on an M1 Mac, with up to 60 percent better performance than on an Intel-based MacBook Pro with a Radeon Pro 555X GPU.
Creating VMs in Parallels Desktop 16.5
This short video from Parallels shows just how simple it is to set up virtual machines in Parallels Desktop 16.5.
Seriously, it took just a few minutes to download and install Parallels Desktop, download Windows 10 ARM Insider preview, and set up a Windows VM. I’ll say that again – just a few minutes. Of course, you can also install other guest operating systems. Right now, ARM versions of Ubuntu 20.04, Kali Linux 2021.1, Debian 10.7, and Fedora Workstation 33-1.2 are available and run impressively fast on the M1 Macs.
To launch Parallels and then bring up Windows 10 on my M1 MacBook Air took just 21 seconds. To download and create an Ubuntu 20.04 VM under Parallels took two minutes. There’s something magical about having macOS, Windows 10, and Ubuntu Linux running at the same time on one machine. Sadly, there’s nothing that can be done about the slow update process that is a “feature” of Windows 10.
Now that the 2021 iPad Pros are running on the M1 system-on-chip, I’d love to see Parallels create a version of Desktop to run on iPadOS.
Why Would You Need Parallels Desktop?
Many users are happy to use just one or two operating systems – macOS and iOS/iPadOS. In the corporate world, it’s much more common for employees to have a need to run Windows applications. Developers often need tools that run on a variety of operating systems. Gamers find that there are many more great games available in the Windows world.
In case you find yourself needing Windows or Linux, your best bet will be to use Parallels Desktop 16.5 on an M1 Mac. It runs quickly and there’s no need to reboot to log into the other operating systems. You also have the luxury of using Parallels Toolbox – a suite of useful utilities – on both macOS and Windows.
It’s still early in the evolution of Apple Silicon. One can only imagine what future Macs will be able to do with virtual machines on multi-processor devices with more unified memory.