M1-powered Macs can run Windows apps, with some help from CrossOver

The M1 is powerful enough to run 'Team Fortress 2' despite multiple layers of emulation.


Apple’s new M1-powered Macs appear to meet the company’s audacious speed claims, but there are still some drawbacks compared to Intel Macs. One thing that’s getting lost in the transition to M1 is Boot Camp, a tool that allowed you to install and run Windows on a separate partition of your Mac’s hard drive. Obviously, there’s no version of Windows that can run on the M1 chip, so Boot Camp is off the table for now.

However, Boot Camp isn’t the only way to run Windows apps — for years, CrossOver has provided a way to run Windows software on Linux, macOS and Chrome OS via the Wine open-source Windows compatibility layer. And out of the box, M1 Macs can run the latest version of CrossOver, so Windows apps are on the table. And somewhat surprisingly, performance is pretty solid, despite the fact that CrossOver is being emulated to run its x86 code through Apple’s Rosetta 2 tool — and then CrossOver itself is emulating Windows.

As Jeremy White from the CrossOver team writes, “I can't tell you how cool that is; there is so much emulation going on under the covers. Imagine - a 32-bit Windows Intel binary, running in a 32-to-64 bridge in Wine / CrossOver on top of macOS, on an ARM CPU that is emulating x86 — and it works!”

We’ve reached emulation inception, but the M1’s sheer power means that the CrossOver team was able to run games including Among Us and Team Fortress 2. While this video shows that frame rates were “all over the place,” the fact that it runs at all is pretty remarkable. This was all tested on the cheapest Apple Silicon laptop you can buy, the $999 MacBook Air with 8GB of RAM.

Of course, there’s plenty of optimization to do here, but the CrossOver team seems confident that with some work, things will run even better. An M1 Mac isn’t your best bet for running Windows software, but CrossOver shows that it’s not a lost cause. Indeed, Parallels, who has been building Windows virtualization software for the Mac for years, has also confirmed that it’s building a version of its software for M1 Macs — but for the time being, it looks like CrossOver is the only option.

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