Bootcamp has been the go-to solution for Macbook users who want to run Windows OS on their laptops for a while now. However, there’s a new compatibility issue now. Apple has replaced the Intel chip in Macs with their own M-series silicon processors. And with this change, Apple no longer allows the installation of Windows the same way as before. Now, you have to rely on paid virtualization software like Parallels, CrossOver, or VMware Fusion, which no doubt are quite expensive. No worries though, as in this guide, we will explain to you, how to install Windows on a Mac M1 and M2 without Parallels, for free.
How to Install Windows 11 on Mac M1 Without Parallels
Windows is highly known for its functionality and user-friendliness while MacOS is an elegant powerhouse. Since the introduction of M1 and M2 processors on Macbooks, the only way to install Windows OS on them was to install virtual machine software. While this software allowed users to run both OS on a single physical machine concurrently, the only drawback is the cost & complexity of the process. On top of that, only Parallels has been updated to run on Mac with M1 or M2 processor.
We are here with some easier ways that can help you run Windows on your Mac PC.
Method 1: Use VHDX Image
Well, if you feel Parallels is expensive, why not let’s just go for an alternative? You can go for the quick emulator named UTM.
Prerequisites: Before you begin with the steps, ensure you have the following:
- Mac M1, M2, or M1 Pro/Max/Ultra.
- At least 100 GB of free storage space.
- Reliable internet connection.
Step 1: Download and Install UTM
You can download the UTM app directly from the UTM website for free and or buy it from the App Store. for $9.99. Well, the only difference is that the store version provides you with regular updates. You might have to manually download updates for the free version.
When you download the file from the UTM website, you get a disk image. Open the disk image and drag the UTM app to the Applications folder. As the disk image is downloaded in a compressed version, it might take about 1 GB of space once you shift it to the Applications folder.
Step 2: Download Windows 11 ARM Insider Version
As you may already know Microsoft only develops Windows for computers with Intel processors. Now to run the OS on M1 processors, you would need to install a version of Windows based on ARM processors.
However, Microsoft only provides this version as part of the Windows Insider program which you register in to get one. Once the registration is completed, you can download the free version of Windows Insider Preview of ARM 64-bit.
Note: Make sure to select the dev channel and not the beta channel while downloading the ARM version.
The Windows image downloaded will be in VHDX format which is compatible with the latest version of UTM.
Step 3: Create a New Virtual Machine
Now that we have both the UTM application and Windows Image file, let’s start the installation process. Follow the steps below:
1. Launch the UTM app and click on Create a New Virtual Machine or use the + icon in the toolbar.
2. Select Virtualize since you have the ARM version of Windows.
3. Choose Windows as your Operating System from the menu.
4. Check the following:
- Install Windows 10 or higher
- Import VHDX Image
- Install drivers and SPICE tools
5. Click on Browse to select the Windows 11 ARM disk image you downloaded.
6. Finally, click Continue.
Step 4: Configure Virtual Machine Settings
This step involves allotting memory and storage to the new virtual machine as well as creating a shared directory that can be used by both MacOS and Windows to transfer files.
1. Configure Memory and CPU cores. You can either start with the default values and adjust later if needed or set the RAM here only.
Make sure to select a minimum of 8GB of space for smooth functionality.
2. Choose the amount of disk space for the virtual machine, for which the default 64 GB is usually sufficient.
3. Click on Browse to select or create a folder and set up a shared directory. Doing so enables you to transfer files between macOS and Windows. Once set, click on Continue.
4. In the Summary window, set a Name for your virtual machine, review the settings, and click Save.
Also Read: How Much Memory Does Windows 10 Use?
Step 5: Launch Windows 11 on Your Mac
Once saved, the basic Windows installation process will start, which might be quite easy if you have already installed Windows before. However, do follow the steps below if you get stuck at any point.
1. Click the Play button in the center to launch the virtual machine.
You will see the Windows setup screen.
2. If you face network access issues during the process, restart the VM, and press Shift+ F10 when the country selection screen appears.
3. Once the Windows Command Prompt opens, type oobe\bypassnro in the terminal and press Enter. Doing so skips the network setup temporarily.
4. When the VM restarts, on the let’s connect you to internet screen, choose I don’t have internet.
5. Click on Accept for the Microsoft license agreement and wait for a few minutes while Windows gets things ready.
Step 6: Complete Windows Setup
Once the installation process is complete you can set up a user account with your desired username and password. Make sure you provide secure answers to security questions. Continue through the setup process, and after a few steps, you’ll be able to see the Windows desktop.
Step 7: Install SPICE Guest Tools
As you disabled the Network Access earlier, it is important to download software that enables it again, including other additional features. Spice tools are already downloaded in your Windows directory and you just have to access & install them.
1. Go to File Explorer in Windows (Yellow file folder).
2. Find the CD drive and launch spice-guest-tools-xxx.exe, where xxx is the version number.
3. Follow the installation instructions provided by the Windows installer.
Once installed, the virtual machine will reboot, after which you will be able to adjust the resolution and change the desired settings.
How to Use UTM
After you successfully install Windows on your Mac M1 without Parallels, here’s how you can use it. Exiting and cursor usage are two of the most important actions for a user therefore you can make use of the below instructions to do so.
- Escape Keys: To exit the virtual machine, press Control + Option.
- Capture Mouse Cursor Button: UTM includes a button for capturing your cursor. When pressed, your cursor in the host OS will move to the corresponding position in the virtual machine, significantly improving usability.
Also Read: How to Install macOS on PC without Mac
Method 2: Convert VHDX image to qcow2
In case UTM is causing an error while installing VHDX Image then an alternative is to use a qcow2 image. One such option is QEMU and UTM (GUI version of QEMU). You might ask why we need both of these when we have the UTM itself. Well, the reason is that the Windows we will install here won’t be available as a simple ISO image but a VHDX image, which needs to be converted to qcow2 format to make it compatible with UTM and remove the error we faced earlier.
Step 1: Install QEMU Using Homebrew
As we discussed in the beginning, we will need to convert the Windows image file format. So we will install QEMU for that. But for this, you require Homebrew. For those who don’t know, it is a package manager for MacOS that can install software on your Mac that Apple can’t. If you don’t have Homebrew, you need to write three commands to get one.
Install Homebrew (Avoid if already installed)
If you don’t already have Homebrew, you can install it by executing these commands in the Terminal:
1. Open the Finder app on your Mac.
2. Click on the Applications folder, followed by Utilities, and select Terminal.
Enter this command.
/bin/bash -c "$(curl -fsSL https://raw.githubusercontent.com/Homebrew/install/HEAD/install.sh)"
This will install Homebrew, Now, enter two more additional commands to set the Homebrew path and avoid any errors in the future.
echo ‘eval $(/opt/homebrew/bin/brew shellenv)’ >> ~/.zprofile
eval $(/opt/homebrew/bin/brew shellenv)
4. Once Homebrew is installed, you can proceed to install QEMU with this command in the terminal: brew install qemu
Now that we are ready with our installation tools let’s download the Windows image.
Step 2: Convert the VHDX Image to qcow2
In this step, we will again use the Terminal to run some commands to convert the image file.
Open Terminal as we did earlier and write the following command with the necessary changes.
qemu-img convert -p -O qcow2 /Users/<file name>/Virtual\ Machines/Windows11_InsiderPreview_Client_ARM64_en-us_22598.VHDX /users/<file name>/Virtual\ Machines/Windows11_22598.qcow2
- Original Location Path: Users/ <file name>/Virtual\ Machines/Windows11_InsiderPreview_Client_ARM64_en-us_22598.VHDX
- New Location Path: users/ <file name>/Virtual\ Machines/Windows11_22598.qcow2
Note 1: Replace both the paths with <file name> in the command with your own.
Note 2: The provided paths are specific to the example image (22598), so make sure to adjust them to match the version of Windows you downloaded.
Once you have converted the file all the further steps remain the same as Method 1. The only change is in Step 3 where we will uncheck: Import VHDX Image.
That is it! We hope our guide helped you install Windows on M1 Mac for free without Parallels. Though it might be a little difficult for non-tech users, taking into consideration the zero cost, it’s worth it. If you have any queries or suggestions, do let us know in the comments box below. Stay tuned to TechCult for more such tech-related blogs.