You want to check out Windows 11 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 by using Microsoft’s Insider Preview of 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
First, you’ll need to download the ISO file for Windows 11 on your Intel-based Mac. Go to Microsoft’s Download Windows 11 page and select the third option for Download Windows 11 Disk Image (ISO). Click the dropdown menu for Select Download and choose Windows 11. Click the Download button. Select the product language and click Confirm. Click the button for 64-bit Download, and the ISO file is saved to the Downloads folder on your Mac (Figure A).
Next, download and install the trial version or one of the paid editions of Parallels Desktop 17.1. Follow the installation steps. At the end of the installation, the software asks if you want to install Windows 10 (Figure B).
At this point, you have two options. You can allow Parallels Desktop to install Windows 10 automatically and then upgrade to Windows 11. Alternatively, you can skip the automated process to install Windows 10 and instead install Windows 11 directly. Since you already downloaded the Windows 11 ISO, we’ll go with the second option.
SEE: How to install Windows 11 from Microsoft’s ISO file (TechRepublic)
At the window for Download and Install Windows 10, click Skip. At the Create New window, select the second option for Install Windows or another OS from a DVD or image file. Click Continue (Figure C).
At the next screen, click the link for Select a File. Browse to the Downloads folder and select the Windows 11 ISO file that you previously downloaded (Figure D).
Click Continue to start the installation. At the next screen, enter the license key for Windows 11. Uncheck the box for Enter Windows License Key for faster installation if you wish to bypass this for now. Click Continue. At the next screen, select the edition of Windows 11 that you want to install, such as Windows 11 Home or Windows 11 Pro. Click Done (Figure E).
Choose how you’ll primarily use Windows 11—Productivity or Games only. Click Continue. At the next screen, confirm the name and location for Windows 11. Check the option for Customize settings before installation. Click Create (Figure F).
At the Windows 11 configuration window, select the section for Hardware. Click the entry for CPU & Memory and change it to Manual. Make sure the number of CPUs is at least two and that memory is at least 4GB (Figure G).
Close the configuration window and click Continue. Windows 11 then installs. After the installation, click the Windows 11 screen to continue. Sign in with a Parallels account. Windows 11 opens as a virtual machine inside Parallels Desktop.
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, which currently is available only as an Insider Preview. For that, go to the Windows 11 on ARM Insider Preview webpage and sign in with an account registered with the Windows Insider program. Click the button for Windows Client ARM64 Insider Preview and allow the Windows VHDX file to go into your Mac’s Downloads folder (Figure H).
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 I).
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 J).
Choose Productivity at the screen for “I will primarily use Windows for.” Click Continue. At the next screen, keep Windows 11 as the name. Leave the destination path as the default. But check the box for Customize settings before installation. Click Create (Figure K).
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 two CPUs are selected and then change the memory to at least 4GB (Figure L).
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.
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 M).