The ARM version of Windows 10 will run most things, but not everything and you may be disappointed.
Devices using an ARM-based Snapdragon 835 processor are set to appear very soon running Windows 10. We’ve known Microsoft is working on an ARM version of its operating system ever since Qualcomm announced real Windows for ARM back in 2016. But it has taken a long time to arrive, and now we’re starting to hear about the limitations of Windows 10 in this new platform.
We’ve already heard the good news. Windows 10 on ARM promises multi-day battery life and all Win32 apps are supported in unmodified form. However, as Paul Thurrott explains, it’s not going to be perfect and there are some key limitations, some of which are really going to disappoint users.
They break down as follows:
- No support for 64-bit apps
- Unable to use x86 drivers
- Apps relying on OpenGL may not work
- Specific types of Windows apps unsupported
- Hyper-V platform is unsupported
The good news is, there’s workarounds for most of those as the Microsoft troubleshooting page reveals. The x86 drivers can be recompiled for ARM64 using Microsoft tools. 64-bit apps need to be submitted as either 32-bit (x86) or non-64-bit (x64) ARM applications. In most cases a developer should be able to provide an alternative app for use on ARM that meets those requirements.
If an app requires a version of OpenGL later than 1.1, or demands hardware-accelerated OpenGL it won’t work. Microsoft’s solution is to switch to DirectX mode instead, but that assumes the app has the option. This could impact a number of older PC games. There could be a lot of game patches required.
The specific types of Windows apps that aren’t supported include anything that modifies the Windows user interface, input method editors, assistive technologies, and cloud storage apps. They all need recompilation specifically for Windows 10 on ARM, which is likely to happen for anything popular or paid-for.
Finally there’s Hyper-V, which is used to create virtual machines on x86-64 Windows systems. This won’t be available and it looks as though Microsoft currently has no intention of getting it to work. Other virtual machine solutions will likely present themselves, though.
Depending on your needs, most of these limitations probably won’t impact you and over time those that can be fixed with app recompilation will disappear. Meanwhile, you’ll be enjoying that multi-day battery life which seems to be the main draw right now.