Windows 10 can run on computers with x86 or ARM processors. But up until now Windows devices with ARM chips have had one major limitation: they couldn’t run 64-bit apps designed for computers with Intel or AMD chips.
Now Microsoft has announced it’s bringing support for x64 emulation to Windows 10 on ARM, which means that you’ll be able to run more existing Windows apps on ARM-based computers.
Microsoft says the new feature will roll out first to members of the Windows Insider Program in November before eventually making its way to stable builds of Windows 10, probably sometime next year.
Apps that run best on Windows 10 on ARM tend to be those that have been compiled specifically for ARM architecture. But there are thousands, maybe millions of programs that haven’t been… so Microsoft has made emulation of x86 architecture a key component of Windows 10 on ARM, allowing users to run 32-bit apps designed for x86 architecture.
That covers a lot of older Windows applications, but many newer apps are only available in 64-bit versions, so the support for x64 emulation could make Windows 10 on ARM a lot more usable.
What remains to be seen is what kind of performance hit you’ll take when using emulation to run those apps. 32-bit x86 applications do tend to run more slowly on Windows on ARM devices like the Microsoft Surface Pro X than native ARM software. I suspect the same will be true of x64 apps.
If so, then it still might make sense for some users to opt for PCs with low-power Intel chips rather than ARM-based processors unless they really need the integrated 4G and/or 5G connectivity, fanless design, and long battery life that tends to come with ARM devices and are willing to trade performance to get those things.
Then again, if you’re mostly using Microsoft apps such as Office, Outlook, and Edge, those are already optimized for ARM, and in today’s announcement Microsoft also notes that it’s working to make the Edge web browser perform better on computers with Qualcomm Snapdragon chips by improving speed and reducing power consumption.