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I have a few questions about Parallels that I would like answered before I buy a Mac. This info is critical for me to know, since Macs are the only computers that have the least flaws, at least for me. Bulky Windows laptops with 13 minutes of battery life are just not suitable for me anymore. So I need to know if macOS running on M1 Max + Parallels is a good solution. ("Good solution" as in optimal for hardcore gaming, running Microsoft Access with gigantic databases, GPU-accelerated AI software, developing C++ software for Windows through the Windows API, etc). Assume that I have the maximum possible specs (64GB RAM, 8TB SSD, M1 Max, you get the picture)

I have researched dozens of threads and websites belonging to Parallels, but no clear answer has been given. I cannot contact support because my parents don’t want me making an account on the Parallels website until the time comes when I have to buy it (for some strange reason). I read that Parallels tells Windows that it’s running on virtual hardware to stop it from doing the TPM 2 check. But if Windows 11 really needs DirectX 12, then how the heck is Parallels even booting up the VM? Or is this DirectX 12 requirement just there so people will buy more hardware and Microsoft will make more money?

Question 1: What architecture is a Windows VM running in Parallels? That is, does Parallels emulate x64 Windows or ARM64 Windows?

Question 2: Do Parallels graphics that are natively supported by Macs (such as OpenGL versions up to 4.1) get drawn on the physical GPU or on an emulated one?

Question 3: Does Parallels support DirectX 12? If so, does it support some sort of Nvidia RTX emulation?

Question 4: If Parallels emulates a GPU, does it get emulated on the physical CPU or using some sort of compute API on the physical GPU?

Question 5: How is the overall snappiness of a Parallels VM?

I want answers like “yeah sure you can do that, but this is impossible”

If anyone owns a Parallels license and would kindly answer my questions, it would be awesome. Thanks in advance. Stay safe.

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  • A "good" solution? For who? May work well for others but how can we guess for your case?
    – Solar Mike
    Jan 8 at 6:13
  • I will edit the question. Sorry, first time posting on Ask Different Jan 8 at 6:14
  • What does Parallels say? you should find most of the answers there (Q1 to Q4), Q5 is opinion.
    – Solar Mike
    Jan 8 at 7:24
  • Nothing. They either don’t like to release too much technical info (like any proprietary software company) or no one has asked them yet. Jan 8 at 7:46
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    Most of these questions should be answereable by Parallels, either directly on their website or by contacting pre-sales support. Also, please keep questions focused on one - well - question (you can always ask separate questions if necessary)
    – nohillside
    Jan 8 at 8:41

1 Answer 1

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I am a Windows sysadmin, so my workload is very similar to yours. I use Parallels on a 2019 iMac and a 2020 MacBook Pro all the time and I love it. But full disclosure — they’re both Intel. The only M1 Macs I have access to don’t belong to me, so I haven’t been able to run them through their paces. Unfortunately, from my limited experience and what I read, most of what you want to do is no longer possible on M1 Macs.

First of all, Parallels can only run ARM-based versions of Windows 10 and 11. Running x86/x64 programs in Windows goes through Microsoft’s translation layer inside the VM, which sadly is not as good as Apple’s. Access, Visual Studio, and ArcGIS run acceptably well as far as I can tell, but until the Windows ecosystem sees more ARM-native applications, I no longer see Parallels as a viable option going forward.

Gaming was always a mixed bag with Parallels even on Intel Macs. Parallels does not have access to the graphics hardware directly (no Mac application does), so it has to dynamically re-package DirectX andOpenGL calls into Apple’s Metal API. It’s still GPU accelerated, but Parallels is forced to use main system memory for the translation rather than the GPU’s video RAM, which causes a pretty significant performance hit.

That being said, it’s very good on Intel. Beefy applications like SolidWorks run impressively well. No other virtualization platform even comes close. But you can definitely tell it’s slower than native performance. I personally switch over to my Boot Camp partition when I want play most games.

But gaming with x86 emulation on Windows ARM in a Parallels VM on an M1 Mac? That’s out of the question. As for GPU-accelerated AI, I can’t really speak to that but that’s probably not doable either.

By the way, DirectX 11 is as high as Parallels goes, so even on an Intel Mac you won’t be able to run DX12.

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  • I appreciate it a LOT😃. Thanks, it is VERY helpful😁 Jan 8 at 17:50

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