Apple confirms Boot Camp won’t feature on ARM Macs

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Boot Camp iMac
It's the end of the line (almost) for Boot Camp.
Photo: Apple

Apple has confirmed that Boot Camp, the tool that allows Mac users to boot into Windows, will not be available on upcoming machines powered by custom ARM chips. Users will need to rely on virtualization software instead.

Many Mac fans feared that a switch to Apple Silicon would mean the end of Boot Camp, a feature first introduced in 2006 — soon after Apple made the switch to Intel processors from PowerPC — with Mac OS 10.5 Leopard.

Licensing restrictions mean that Windows cannot be used on an ARM-powered Mac. And even if it could, Apple has no plans to offer dual-booting — even though it is still available in macOS Big Sur.

No Boot Camp for ARM-powered Macs

“We’re not direct booting an alternate operating system,” said Craig Federighi , Apple’s senior vice president of software engineering, during an interview with John Gruber this week. “Purely virtualization is the route.”

It’s not that Macs powered by Apple Silicon won’t be compatible with Windows. There is a version of Microsoft’s operating system that is designed for ARM-powered PCs, like the company’s own Surface Pro X.

However, “Microsoft only licenses Windows 10 on ARM to OEMs,” a Microsoft spokesperson explained to The Verge. That means the software must be pre-installed by PC-makers, which Apple obviously isn’t going to do.

When asked whether Microsoft might consider changing its policy to allow future Macs to run its software, it said it has “nothing to share at this time.”

Virtualization the way forward

If you must run Windows apps on an ARM Mac, then, you’ll need to use an app like Parallels or VMWare Fusion, which put Windows in a container inside macOS — assuming these apps are updating to run on Apple Silicon.

“These hypervisors can be very efficient, so the need to direct boot shouldn’t really be the concern,” Federighi added, and that might be true for most Windows apps. But virtualization isn’t suitable for intensive apps, like games.

Given that the number of Mac users who actually take advantage of Boot Camp is likely rather small, ensuring this feature carries over to ARM-powered machines probably wasn’t a priority for Apple.

And most Mac users won’t miss it, but those who have found Boot Camp to be crucial to their workflows will need to look into other solutions — or avoid Apple Silicon altogether.