'Windows 10 on Arm' runs better on an M1 Mac than it does on the Surface Pro X

Cal Jeffrey

Posts: 2,971   +790
Staff member
In context: If you need to run Windows on that shiny new Mac M1, there is no easy way to do it anymore. The standard x86 version of Windows is not compatible with the Arm architecture, and the Arm-based Windows 10 that Microsoft installs on the Surface Pro X is not available commercially. However, if Microsoft ever does release it to the public, it will reportedly run better than it does on the Surface Pro X.

When Microsoft introduced its new Surface Pro X, it also launched a fork of Windows 10 exclusively for use on the tablet's Arm-based processor. Windows 10 on Arm is only available pre-installed on Surface devices or from OEM partners like HP, Asus, and Lenovo. But how would the Arm version of Windows run on Apple's new M1 silicon?

As it turns out, it runs very well. Amazon Web Services principal engineer Alexander Graf recently tested Windows 10 on an M1 processor using QEMU virtualization and found that it runs "pretty snappy."

Indeed, another curious developer tweeted Geekbench 4 and 5 scores comparing Windows 10 on an M1 computer compared with a Surface Pro X. Apple silicon scored 1,288 in single-core tests and 5,685 in multi-core on GB5. Microsoft's own tablet only turned in 799 and 3,089, respectively.

"Who said Windows wouldn't run well on Apple silicon," Graf tweeted.

Graf was obviously being facetious since Apple's software chief Craig Federighi confirmed last month that the M1 SoC could run Windows 10 on Arm. "That's really up to Microsoft. We have the core technologies for them to do that, to run their Arm version of Windows, which in turn, of course, supports x86 user mode applications," the Apple boss told Ars Technica when asked about the possibility. "But the Macs are certainly very capable of it."

As Federighi points out, the real question is not whether you can run Windows 10 on Mac silicon, but rather, will Microsoft ever allow it?

In the past, users who needed to use Windows on their Intel-based Macs could simply install it alongside macOS via Apple's Boot Camp virtualization software. However, Microsoft does not issue individual licenses for Windows 10 on Arm at this time and has not indicated that it would in the future.

Image credit: DenPhotos

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DZillaXx

Posts: 264   +388
You would think Qualcomm would wake up and try to compete. But honestly they have little to no reason to with the lack of competition in SoC area for Android phone. Its not like Samsung has stepped up.

Already ordered a M1 Macbook Air and I don't think it will be long before we get Windows via bootcamp. I'd give it a year or two, which is fine as windows on ARM doesn't have x86-64 support yet.
 

yRaz

Posts: 3,674   +3,670
You would think Qualcomm would wake up and try to compete. But honestly they have little to no reason to with the lack of competition in SoC area for Android phone. Its not like Samsung has stepped up.

Already ordered a M1 Macbook Air and I don't think it will be long before we get Windows via bootcamp. I'd give it a year or two, which is fine as windows on ARM doesn't have x86-64 support yet.
well the problem with windows on arm is that it's been around for 8 or so years now and they don't sell individual licenses for it. That means the only way to get Windows for ARM is to either buy a device with it installed or pirate it.
 

bviktor

Posts: 404   +718
well the problem with windows on arm is that it's been around for 8 or so years now and they don't sell individual licenses for it. That means the only way to get Windows for ARM is to either buy a device with it installed or pirate it.

You're confusing Windows on ARM with Windows RT.
 

yRaz

Posts: 3,674   +3,670
You're confusing Windows on ARM with Windows RT.
Microsoft only licenses Windows 10 on ARM to PC makers to preinstall on new hardware, and the company hasn’t made copies of the operating system available for anyone to license or freely install.

“Microsoft only licenses Windows 10 on ARM to OEMs,” says a Microsoft spokesperson in a statement to The Verge. We asked Microsoft if it plans to change this policy to allow Windows 10 on ARM-based Macs, and the company says “we have nothing further to share at this time.”

it's at the top of the page
 

terzaerian

Posts: 913   +1,311
palpatine-do-it-gif-18.gif
 

duckofdeath

Posts: 371   +474
It's very selective benchmarks to get this. It is true that Apple's SoC is better optimized for full operating systems than Qualcomm's, for instance 64-bit code. That said, Apple's silicon also has a lot of hard limitations on peripheral and expansion support. So, it would also be as easy to prove the opposite.
That said, I doubt there'll ever be a real demand for Windows on ARM. It's a solution to a problem created by itself. Windows will thrive on hardware competition between AMD and Intel. AMD is winning on knockout at the moment.
 

Lew Zealand

Posts: 1,813   +1,967
TechSpot Elite
Haha, well, few PC games are ever ported to Mac given its market share. Given that the effort goes up significantly to port to ARM, I don't expect it unless Microsoft moves more aggressively on their Windows on ARM efforts.

I meant it more as ARM as a viable hardware platform. The current M1 APU is clearly faster than the entry-mid level Intel CPUs Apple usually puts in it's entry-level machines so that bodes well that with further efforts ARM could be a viable hardware alternative to x86/x64.

But as you said, that will also require more effort from Microsoft to get Windows working on ARM as well as it currently does on Intel/AMD.
 

antiproduct

Posts: 182   +225
So the news here is:
Intel silicon sucks and they haven't really been competitive for several years, other competitors came along (AMD and Apple), but MS is sticking with Intel.
 

Wrinkle

Posts: 53   +42
Perfectly shows how pathetic Microsoft's current ARM product line is.

It shows how pathetic companies like Qualcomm or Rockchip are. You can't fault MS, or Google for that matter, for not investing hundreds of millions in better ARM cpu's.
 

bviktor

Posts: 404   +718
It shows how pathetic companies like Qualcomm or Rockchip are. You can't fault MS, or Google for that matter, for not investing hundreds of millions in better ARM cpu's.

I can definitely blame both, MS is awful at optimizing their OS for laptops. Apple comps don't have some magic hidden in their batteries, yet they always excel at battery life.
 

Lew Zealand

Posts: 1,813   +1,967
TechSpot Elite
I can definitely blame both, MS is awful at optimizing their OS for laptops. Apple comps don't have some magic hidden in their batteries, yet they always excel at battery life.

Because Apple not only makes the hardware, but also derives the majority of their Mac sales (and I assume profit) from laptops, they are quite focused on running their laptops pretty efficiently. This is most obvious when comparing my 2014 MacBook Pro in Mac OS vs a similarly specced Dell E6440 in Windows. The 4c8t Core i7 Mac uses about 1W while idle while the 2c4t Core i7 Dell uses around 2W at idle. If the rest of the machine's power use is similar, then the background power usage (sans screen) could be roughly double in the Dell, reducing overall runtime.

OK I just fired up the Dell again and with Intel Power Gadget up it takes 6W at idle, but that's because IPG doesn't let it calm down to the 2W level. Sigh. However in XTU you can get this information without triggering Windows to triple the power usage.