Windows 10 Support for Arm Chips Keeps Growing

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Microsoft isn’t backtracking on its support for the Arm64 chip architecture, despite some initial criticism and setbacks in terms of how the Windows 10 operating system (OS) and various apps work on it. The latest Windows 10 Insider Preview Build 19559 for the Fast Ring update cycle adds Arm64 support to Microsoft's Hyper-V hypervisor for Windows 10 Pro and Enterprise users. 

Hyper-V can yield higher performance from virtual machines (VMs) on Windows  because VMs running on a hypervisor can run at a lower level than when running on top of another OS.

Even if you don't typically bother with creating a VM for another Windows 10 instance or Linux distro, you may still want to use the Windows Sandbox feature. Windows Sandbox is one-click Windows 10 VM that allows you to browse more safely or download risky email attachments that get wiped after you close it (a feature most likely inspired by Qubes OS).

We don’t know if Hyper-V performance on Arm64 devices, such as Microsoft’s Surface Pro X, is just as good as on other devices with x86/AMD64 chips. However, it's clear Microsoft is making strides on supporting Arm.

Arm64 Gaining Steam

Despite a decades-long relationship with Intel, Microsoft has been one of the Arm architecture's biggest supporters during the past few years. Initially, the architecture suffered from a lack of support for third-party applications and supporting processors that were primarily designated for mobile phones with tiny power envelopes.

This has changed more recently, with Qualcomm launching the first truly desktop-class Snapdragon 8cx processor, which is, in a slightly modified version, in Microsoft’s Surface Pro X. The processor’s performance doesn’t blow away the competition, but it shows that Arm CPUs can finally run desktop-class OSes and apps. 

It’s also a sign of things to come, as the pace of improvement for Arm processors has been quite high over the years at around 20% annual improvement. The gradual improvement is much higher than the x86/AMD64 competition, but it’s also starting from a lower performance base, so a stronger uplift is somewhat expected.

On the server processor side, Arm’s “Neoverse” series of processors has recently shown that they can provide not just good value for the money, but can actually hold their own in terms of overall performance in the data center. 

Arm still has quite a bit of work to do before more developers jump on board and build native support for apps for the Arm architecture. But that's looking increasingly like a matter of when, not if. 

Lucian Armasu
Lucian Armasu is a Contributing Writer for Tom's Hardware US. He covers software news and the issues surrounding privacy and security.