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I am exploring VMWare and Parallel to be able to run Ubuntu or other Linux as a VM. However, I found that Ubuntu seems to only have a server version which is compiled for ARM?

Likewise, if we'd like to install Windows 10 or 11 on it, does that mean we need to find a Windows 10 or 11 compiled for ARM (Apple Silicon)?

Does that mean it takes a long time to be able to set up the GUI interface of Ubuntu? If that's the case, maybe using an Intel based MacBook or a low cost PC with an Intel chip is still the most feasible solution.

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  • Surely installing Ubuntu GUI is something you don't do often so the speed is not that much of an issue. If it is then do it once and then snapshot the VM - you can then create a new VM from the snapshot whenever you want. snapshot varies by which VM and which version of macOS
    – mmmmmm
    Nov 26, 2023 at 16:50
  • @mmmmmm Installing the GUI on Ubuntu Server is straightforward, it's just not installed by default.
    – nohillside
    Nov 26, 2023 at 16:53
  • So the last paragraph of the question makes even less sense
    – mmmmmm
    Nov 26, 2023 at 16:57

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VMWare Fusion and Parallels are virtualizers (that's what the "V" in "VMWare" stands for), not emulators. Virtualizers can only virtualize hardware that exists, they cannot emulate hardware that doesn't exist (that would be an emulator).

Of course, the lines are a bit blurry, because both VMWare Fusion and Parallels can emulate some devices. For example, they can emulate NICs. But they cannot emulate CPUs, which is what fundamentally makes them virtualizers. (On the flip-side, emulators often can virtualize hard disks and human interface devices, but they emulate the CPU, which fundamentally makes them emulators.)

So, both VMWare Fusion and Parallels can only virtualize the CPU you have, which is an ARM-based AArch64 Apple Silicon M-series CPU. And that means, you will need an ARM operating system.

I am not familiar with VMWare Fusion, but I know that Parallels offers fully automated installs of both Windows and Ubuntu (and many other operating systems). So, installing an ARM-based version of Windows or Ubuntu only requires you to click on the + icon in the control center, enter your username and password, maybe change some of the default settings, and click Install.

Parallels will automatically download the ISO image for the OS, create the VM, attach the ISO, boot into the installer, do a fully automated install, set up the user and password, install Parallels Tools, set up the OS for full and seamless integration with macOS (e.g. the Windows Desktop and macOS Desktop are the same, the two Documents folders are the same, your iCloud folders are visible in both OSs, you can seamlessly launch Windows apps from macOS Finder and macOS apps from Windows Explorer, etc.), and so on. It will also configure a keyboard layout that matches the one configured in macOS and make sure you can use macOS keyboard shortcuts (e.g. +c for copy).

The integration with Ubuntu is slightly less deep, but the installation and download is still fully automatic.

Of course, you can also do all of this manually.

Note that Windows ships with an AMD64 emulator similar to Apple's Rosetta 2, so you can run AMD64 Windows apps in your virtualized ARM Windows.

Ubuntu does not come with an emulator by default. You could use QEmu, but there is a better solution: Apple has made Rosetta 2 available for Linux, and Parallels can automatically create an Ubuntu VM with Rosetta 2 installed and configured.

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Parallels states in the product page that only ARM guests are supported on Apple Silicon, they list several Linux distributions though.

Screenshot from parallels.com stating that only ARM guests are supported on Apple Silicon

VMware states the same in the Fusion FAQ.

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