Mac & macOS

Windows 11 slow on M1 Macs? Here's the solution

If Windows 11 under Parallels on an M1 Mac bitches, Spotlight search may be to blame

The new M1 Macs do not run Windows 11 in Bootcamp, thanks Parallels but at least as virtual machine. On my entry-level MacBook Air with 8GB RAM and M1 chip (here the test about this from Christian) it didn't go great for quite a while, but it was good enough for the purpose. In the last few weeks, however, the number has suddenly turned into the complete opposite: Windows 11 on the M1 MacBook was practically no longer usable at all. Immediately after booting up the VM, the CPU load went up to 100 percent according to the task manager and each click took what felt like eons. Fortunately, the solution to the problem was quite simple.

macOS indexing can slow down Parallels

The incredibly slow VM experience only came about after switching to Windows 11 on ARM, the previously used Windows 10 ran flawlessly. in one Forum thread I then found a solution for my snail VM in the Parallels forum: indexing macOS for the system internal Spotlight search or the indexing of the Mac hard drive used in the process seems to mess up certain Parallels virtual machines. If the folder with the virtual machines is excluded from the scan, the CPU load in the virtual Windows 11 decreases significantly.

If your Windows 11 VM looks like this, Spotlight search may be to blame (Note: Windows updates in progress were not the cause of the stuttering)

Turning off Spotlight indexing for the Parallels VM folder is done with a few clicks: Open the System Settings from macOS. Here you click Spotlight and changes to the tab Data protection. Now click on the bottom left Plus symbol, navigate to the folder where your Parallels VM files are stored, and then select Select. The folder will now appear in the list of files excluded from Spotlight searches. You may have to restart your M1 Mac again.

With this setting you prevent the Spotlight search from "interfering" with the Parallels VM folder.

The next time Windows 11 is run as a VM on the Mac, the virtual machine should ideally run faster again. At least for me it worked with two test installations on the Macbook Air. Of course, future macOS updates or other changes may cause it to slow down again. However, exclusion from Spotlight indexing is still advisable, since the search does not offer any added value for virtual machines anyway.

Slow Windows 11 VM: Other approaches

Of course, there can be other reasons why Windows 11 is working slowly on your Mac. For example, it can help the virtual machine more CPU cores and more memory allocate – the latter of course not easy on a base M1 Mac with 8GB of RAM. To do this, shut down the virtual machine completely, click the cogwheel in Parallels Control Center and change the settings in the section Hardware - CPU & RAM.

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Performance is also affected by the programs running on the host system and in the VM itself. So look in the Task manager the VM or the activity indicator on the Mac whether any other process is eating up resources. We've already told you how you can generally make Windows faster in countless tutorials shown. Last but not least, you should keep in mind that Windows 11 on M1 Macs is still a great workaround in a way. Neither is the ARM version of Windows 11 final, nor does Apple offer support for Windows 11 via Bootcamp (or Bootcamp in general) on the M1 systems. So, there can always be reasons behind Windows 11 stuttering in a Parallels environment. But it shouldn't be as extreme as the Spotlight bug caused it ;-)

Even more Mac tips and tricks you can find here, more instructions for the virtualization of Windows, Linux and Co. we collect with this link for you.

Boris Hofferbert

Freelance journalist, enthusiastic about technology since the blissful Amiga days, Apple desktop fan and Android fan on the go, gambles on Windows, can’t do without music (from classic rock to ska to punk) and audio books, likes to take postcard photos, always has at least two cell phones and is very happy about one coffee donation ;-)

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