How to Install and Run Windows 11 on a Mac

Wouldn’t it be great if you could run Windows 11 on your Mac? Pity you can’t use Boot Camp anymore,as Apple hasn’t bothered to update it to work with Windows 11. But although neither Apple nor Microsoft support Windows 11 on macOS, other companies have stepped up to fill in the gap, so it’s still possible.

Follow along with us as we walk you through the steps to install Windows 11 on an Intel or Apple silicon Mac using virtualization with Parallels. You can use the seven-day trial of Parallels to do this yourself for free, but after that time you’ll need to pay $80 for a full license.


What Is Parallels Virtualization?

Parallels Desktop is a piece of virtualization software for running a second operating system, like Windows or Linux, inside the current one. To do this, it emulates a complete computer system with a so-called virtual machine. Parallels Desktop even supports ARM editions of Windows for Apple silicon Macs, although not many PC apps are compatible with Windows ARM.

As of version 17.1.0, Parallels also emulates a Trusted Platform Module (TPM) chip. This lets you run Windows 11 on any Mac as a virtual machine. The virtual TPM 2.0 chip in Parallels also supports Windows features like BitLocker, Secure Boot, and Windows Hello. Getting these features is a good reason to install Windows on a Mac.

For this tutorial, we’re going to use a trial version of Parallels with a non-activated copy of Windows 11. This lets you get Windows 11 on your Mac for free. If you decide the solution works for you, you can always upgrade to the full version of Parallels and purchase a Windows license at a later date.

Step 1. Download a Windows 11 ISO Image

Visit the Download Windows 11 website and scroll to the Download Windows 11 Disk Image (ISO) section. Click the Select Download menu and choose Windows 11 (multi-edition) ISO.

Choose your language under Select the product language and click Confirm, then hit 64-bit Download to start your download. Move onto the next step as you’re patiently waiting for the download to finish. Keep in mind that your unique download link is only valid for 24 hours.

Step 2. Download Parallels Desktop for macOS

As the Windows 11 installer is downloading, now’s the perfect time to grab a free trial of Parallels Desktop 17 for Mac, so click the Download Now button on the Parallels Desktop website. You can use all of Parallels features without restriction during the trial. When the app finishes downloading, open the Install Parallels Desktop file from your Downloads folder.

Does macOS throw a message saying it couldn’t open the file because it wasn’t downloaded from the App Store? If so, launch System Preferences, select Security & Privacy, click the General tab, and then the Open Anyway button.

With the disk image mounted, double-click the Install Parallels Desktop icon in the Finder to run the installer. If you see a security message when attempting to launch the installer, simply override it in the Security System Preferences. To finish installing Parallels, you’ll need to accept the terms and provide the username and password for your macOS account.

You may also need to follow some prompts to give Parallels permission to access your Mac.

Step 3. Install Windows 11 in Parallels

Launch Parallels on your Mac and the Installation Assistant should take over. If it doesn’t show up, click the File menu and choose New to create a fresh virtual machine. If the Installation Assistant offers to download and install Windows 10, decline by choosing Skip. Instead, click Install Windows or another OS from a DVD or image file and then Continue.

Now select the Image File icon at the top and click the button labeled Find Automatically. Parallels will look for the Windows 11 installer on your Mac. If it can’t find your installer automatically, click Select a File and find it yourself in the Downloads folder. Highlight the file, click OK, and then choose Continue.

Enter an Option License Key

You now have the option to enter a 25-character license key to activate your copy of Windows 11. You don’t need to do this to install and use Windows 11, but certain options are off limits without one, such as the Windows Personalization settings. If your copy of Windows 11 isn’t licensed, you’ll also need to put up with annoying notifications reminding you that you’re using a non-activated version of Windows.

If you want, you can purchase a Windows 11 license on the Microsoft Store. You’ll find your Windows 11 license key in the confirmation email from Microsoft that contains the order history. Microsoft’s activation website provides helpful instructions on activating Windows, the types of licenses available, and so on. Be sure to avoid unbelievably good online discounts on Windows product keys—those are often counterfeit serial numbers that will stop working after a while.

Customize Your Windows Installation

If asked which edition of Windows 11 to install, choose Windows 11 Home. Parallels also needs to optimize your virtual machine, so choose whether you’ll primarily use Windows 11 for productivity or gaming and click Continue.

Now name your Windows 11 virtual machine by clicking the Name field. To change where to save it on your Mac, select the Save To field.

You can now tick the box next to Customize settings before installation and click Create to proceed to the next step. The settings window should open. Click the Hardware tab to fine-tune your virtual PC by adjusting the amount of virtual RAM, processors, and more available to Windows 11.

Click other sections in the sidebar to configure additional capabilities, including how software features such as sharing and picture-in-picture behave. Close the settings window to save the changes to your virtual PC. Don’t worry, you can revisit these settings at any time.

Complete the Installation

Click Continue in the Installation Assistant to boot your virtual machine, which will execute the Windows 11 installer. After everything has been installed and set up properly, you’ll see a message in the Installation Assistant confirming that Windows 11 is ready for use.

To continue using Parallels Desktop, you must activate and register the app by creating a free account. Choose Sign in with Apple to do so without sharing your real email address. Parallels Desktop includes a free 7-day trial without limitations. After it expires, though, you’ll need to buy a license from the Parallels website. Parallels will now boot your virtual machine to finish installing Windows 11.

You’ll see a message confirming that Windows 11 has been installed. Congratulations, you can now run Windows 11 and your favorite Windows apps and games alongside macOS! There’s just one (optional) step left: Getting the Parallels Toolbox.

The Parallels Toolbox includes a variety of helpful utilities for freeing up storage space, content creation, optimizing computer settings for a presentation, and more. To get them, launch Parallels and click Parallels > Install Parallels Toolbox for Mac from the menu bar, then click Install Now.

You can access the tools right from the macOS menu bar in the top-right corner. The Parallels Toolbox probably won’t replace the need for multiple apps, so we wholeheartedly recommended installing your favorite Windows apps, too.

You can get third-party Windows apps either via the Microsoft Store or the developer’s website, just like you would on a real PC. Alternatively, open a Windows app installer directly from the Finder in macOS—Parallels will take over and do the right thing. For some inspiration, check out our list of must-have Windows apps for any new PC.

Why Would Anyone Run Windows on a Mac?

There are some perfectly valid reasons to run Windows 11 on your Mac, like using an old accessory that lacks software support on macOS. Occasionally, you may need to run a niche app or an ancient piece of software that doesn’t exist on macOS. Or maybe you just want to play cool Windows 11 games on your Mac. Regardless of your reason, virtualization software like Parallels is a very convenient method to run Microsoft’s latest operating system alongside macOS with minimal effort.

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