Microsoft today announced the first preview of x64 emulation for Arm PCs, with the feature now available to Windows Insiders in the Dev Channel. That means Windows users who have Arm PCs like the Surface Pro X can now install apps that have not been ported to Arm64.
When we first launched Windows 10 on ARM in late 2017, the long tail of apps customers needed were dominated by 32-bit-only x86 applications, so we focused our efforts on building an x86 emulator that could run the broad ecosystem of Windows apps seamlessly and transparently. Over time, the ecosystem has moved more toward 64-bit-only x64 apps and we’ve heard the feedback that customers would like to see those x64 apps running on ARM64. That’s why we are working on expanding the capability of our emulation to include x64 applications and sharing this first preview to gather feedback.
Microsoft says that while it is expanding the capabilities of its emulator, it recommends that developers implement native Arm support for the best possible app experience.
In the new preview, Windows users can install x64 apps from the Microsoft Store or from other locations, with Microsoft highlighting the availability of x64-only apps like Autodesk Sketchbook and games like Rocket League. Other apps will benefit from being run as 64-bit instead of 32-bit, such as Chrome.
Microsoft says that the new emulation feature is still in the early stages of testing and will continue to improve in compatibility and performance over time, and some of the apps that are run in emulation may not work initially.
Users who are expecting a smooth emulation experience should not get their hopes up because as The Verge points out, Microsoft’s prior emulation work has not been fantastic, with apps loading and running slowly.
Microsoft has not been able to match Apple’s work with Rosetta 2, which is designed to allow M1 Mac users to run Intel-based apps on their machines. Rosetta 2 has proven to be streamlined and speedy, with none of the emulation complaints that Microsoft has faced.
Though an Arm version of Windows is available for PCs, Windows is not compatible with Apple’s M1 Macs due to licensing issues. Microsoft only provides Windows 10 on Arm to PC manufacturers to preinstall on their hardware and does not offer a consumer version.