Want to take the Windows 11 preview for a test drive, but would you like to run it on your Mac so you can easily bounce between Windows and macOS?
This process is more complicated and more complicated than installing Windows 11 on a PC, but it is doable with the right software, especially Parallels Desktop 17.
Using the latest version of the popular Parallels Desktop application, you can install the x86 version of Windows 11 on an Intel-based Mac without much hassle. Apple’s new M1 chip-based Macs are more demanding as they can only handle ARM-based versions of Windows. But you can get it to work via Microsoft’s new Insider build for Windows 11 for ARM.
Windows 11 functions as a virtual machine within Parallels Desktop, similar to how it would run in a Windows VM application, such as VMware Workstation or Oracle VM VirtualBox. You will need a Windows product key to activate it within Parallels Desktop.
Parallels Desktop 17 costs $ 80 for the Standard Edition, $ 100 per year for the Pro Edition, and $ 100 per year for the Business Edition. People who upgrade from a previous version can get the Standard Edition for $ 50 and the Pro Edition for $ 50 per year. But anyone can try Parallels Desktop for free through a full 14-day trial.
How to install Windows 11 on an Intel-based Mac
On an Intel-based Mac, download and install the trial version or one of the paid editions of Parallels Desktop 17 on your Mac. Follow the installation steps. After the installation is complete, the software asks if you want to install Windows 10 ( Figure A ).
At this point you have two options. You can allow Parallels Desktop to install Windows 10 automatically and then upgrade to Windows 11 by choosing Dev or Beta channels through the Windows Insider Program. Alternatively, you can skip the automated process to install Windows 10 and install Windows 11 directly from Microsoft’s ISO file. Let’s go with the first option.
Follow the steps to allow Windows 10 installation. After installation, log in with a Parallels account. Windows 10 opens as a virtual machine inside Parallels Desktop. In Windows 10, go to Settings and then Update & Security. Select the setting for the Windows Insider Program. Click the Get Started button. Connect to an account already registered with the Insider program, a Microsoft account, or an account with your organization. On the screen to select settings, choose the Dev channel or Beta channel to upgrade to Windows 11.
The Dev channel is less stable and contains the latest updates, even beyond those expected for Windows 11 when it debuts in October. The Beta channel is more stable and contains only updates scheduled for the next release of Windows 11. Choose your favorite channel and click Confirm ( Figure B ).
Click Confirm again and then click Restart Now to restart the Windows VM. After restarting Windows 10, go to Settings and then to Update & Security. Check for available updates. You should see an update for Windows 11 Insider Preview. Allow this and any other updates to install, then click Restart Now to restart your Windows VM ( Figure C ).
After the VM restarts, Windows 11 should appear. Sign in to start using the new version.
How to install Windows 11 on an M1-based Mac
On an M1-based Mac, you must first download the ARM-based version of Windows 11. For this, go to the Windows 11 webpage on ARM Insider Preview and log in with the account you use for the Windows Insider Program. Even though the file itself is labeled as Windows 10, the downloaded version will be for Windows 11. Microsoft no longer appears to offer an Insider Preview download for Windows 10 on ARM.
Click the button for Windows Client ARM64 Insider Preview and allow the Windows VHDX file to go to your Mac’s Download folder.
So, download and install Parallels Desktop if you don’t already have it. At the end of the installation, the program tells you that you need an installation image with an ARM-based operating system. Click the link for “How to Download Windows 10 on ARM Insider Preview” for documentation and a video explaining the process. Return to installation and click Continue. On the Create New screen, click the “Install Windows or other operating system from a DVD or image file” button. Click Continue ( Figure E ).
On the Select Installation Image screen, click the Find Automatically button. Parallels Desktop should locate the downloaded Windows 11 VHDX. If not, click the Manually Choose button to locate the file and select it. After the VHDX file is displayed, click Continue ( Figure F ).
Choose Onscreen Productivity for “I will mainly use Windows for”. Click Continue. On the next screen, enter Windows 11 as the name. Leave the destination path as the default. But check the box to customize the settings before installation. Click Create ( Figure G ).
Parallels starts creating the virtual machine for Windows 11. The Windows configuration screen is then displayed. Click on the Hardware category and select CPU and Memory. Click the button for Manual. Make sure at least four CPUs are selected and then change the memory to 4GB ( Figure H ).
Then, click the + sign at the bottom of the left pane and select the option for the TPM chip ( Figure I. ).
Click the Add button in response to the message asking if you are sure you want to add the TPM to Windows 11. An entry for the TPM chip is displayed below. Close the configuration window and click Continue.
When the installation is complete, click the Installation Complete window. Log into your Parallels account or create one if you don’t have one. Windows 11 is now ready for use.
I ran into a hiccup during my tests. When I tried to add the Windows 11 VM to Microsoft’s Insider Program, Windows told me that my PC did not meet the minimum hardware requirements for Windows 11. But I was still able to fully use Windows 11.
How to use Windows 11 in Parallels Desktop
By moving or collapsing the Windows 11 VM window, you can access your Mac’s desktop and applications. You can also run your Windows 11 virtual machine in different modes and sizes. In Parallels Desktop, click the View menu to see the available options. Full screen uses the full screen for Windows 11. Picture in Picture reduces it to a small preview image. Coherence mode places a Windows 11 icon on the Dock where you can access the Start menu and run Windows apps alongside Mac apps ( Figure J ).