With Parallels Desktop 17, you can run Windows 11 on Intel-based and M1-based Macs, though an M1 Mac will support only the ARM-based version of Windows 11.
You want to take the Windows 11 Insider preview for a test drive, but you’d like to run it on your Mac so that you can easily bounce between Windows and macOS. That process is trickier and more involved than installing Windows 11 on a PC, but it is doable with the right software, specifically 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 fuss. The new Macs powered by Apple’s M1 chip are more finicky as they can handle only ARM-based versions of Windows. But you can make this work via Microsoft’s new Insider build for Windows 11 for ARM.
Windows 11 runs as a virtual machine within Parallels Desktop, similar to the way it would run under a Windows VM application, such as VMware Workstation or Oracle VM VirtualBox. You will need a product key for Windows to activate it within Parallels Desktop.
Parallels Desktop 17 costs $80 for the standard edition, $100 a year for the Pro Edition and $100 a year for the Business Edition. People upgrading from a previous version can snag the Standard Edition for $50 and the Pro Edition for $50 a year. But anyone can check out Parallels Desktop for free through a full-featured 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. At the end of the installation, 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 the Dev or Beta channels via the Windows Insider program. Alternatively, you can skip the automated process to install Windows 10 and instead install Windows 11 directly from Microsoft’s ISO file. Let’s go with the first option.
SEE: How to install Windows 11 from Microsoft’s ISO file (TechRepublic)
Follow the steps to allow Windows 10 to install. After the installation, sign 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 Windows Insider Program. Click the Get Started button. Link to an account already registered with the Insider program, either a Microsoft account or an account with your organization. At the screen to pick your settings, choose either the Dev channel or the Beta channel to upgrade to Windows 11.
The Dev channel is less stable and contains the latest updates, even beyond those slated for Windows 11 when it debuts in October. The Beta channel is more stable and contains only the updates scheduled for the upcoming release of Windows 11. Choose your preferred channel and click Confirm (Figure B).
Click Confirm again and then click Restart Now to reboot your Windows VM. After you boot back into Windows 10, go to Settings and then Update & Security. Check for the available updates. You should see an update for Windows 11 Insider Preview. Allow that and any other updates to install and then click Restart now to reboot your Windows VM (Figure C).
After the VM reboots, Windows 11 should appear. Sign in to begin using the new version.
How to install Windows 11 on an M1-based Mac
On an M1-based Mac, you first need to download the ARM-based version of Windows 11. For that, go to the Windows 11 on ARM Insider Preview webpage and sign in with the account you use for the Windows Insider program. Even though the file itself is labeled Windows 10, the version you download will be for Windows 11. Microsoft no longer seems 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 into your Mac’s Downloads folder (Figure D).
Next, 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 that explain the process. Return to the installation and click Continue. At the Create New screen, click the button for “Install Windows or another OS from a DVD or image file.” Click Continue (Figure E).
At the screen for Select Installation Image, click the button for Find Automatically. Parallels Desktop should locate the downloaded Windows 11 VHDX. If not, click the button for Choose Manually to browse to the file and select it. After the VHDX file appears, click Continue (Figure F).
Choose Productivity at the screen for “I will primarily use Windows for.” Click Continue. At the next screen, enter Windows 11 as the name. Leave the destination path as the default. But check the box for Customize settings before installation. Click Create (Figure G).
Parallels starts to create the virtual machine for Windows 11. The Windows configuration screen then appears. Click the category for Hardware and select CPU and memory. Click the button for Manual. Make sure that at least four CPUs are selected and then change the memory to 4GB (Figure H).
Next, click the + sign at the bottom of the left pane and select the option for TPM chip (Figure I).
Click the Add button in response to the message asking if you’re sure you want to add TPM to Windows 11. An entry for the TPM chip then shows up at the bottom. Close the configuration window and click Continue.
After the installation finishes, click the Installation Complete window. Sign into your Parallels account or create one if you don’t have it. Windows 11 is now ready for you to use.
SEE: How to get the preview version of Windows 11 (TechRepublic)
I did run into one hiccup in my testing. 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 shrinking the Windows 11 VM window, you can access your Mac desktop and applications. You can also run your Windows 11 VM in different modes and sizes. In Parallels Desktop, click the View menu to see the available options. Full screen uses the entire screen for Windows 11. Picture in Picture reduces it to a small thumbnail image. Coherence mode puts a Windows 11 icon on the Dock where you can access the Start menu and run Windows apps alongside Mac apps (Figure J).