If you were curious about the differences between Windows 10 PCs based on Intel and AMD processors, and those using Qualcomm’s Snapdragon chip,Microsoft Reveals The ARM Limitations For Windows 10. The list was first spotted by Paul Thurrott. Since its discovery, Microsoft’s list no longer exists, except for cached versions you can find on third-party internet archives. Why the secrecy? Just look at the original Surface tablet.
In 2012, Microsoft introduced the first Surface device packing an ARM-based Nvidia Tegra 3 processor and an operating system Microsoft dubbed as Windows RT. Microsoft designed the Surface for a mobile-first word obsessed over the iPad, but the device failed to gain traction because owners couldn’t run their traditional x86-based desktop software on the ARM-based tablet.
What’s in the list?
To the company’s defense, its “universal” multi-device app platform has matured over the last five years or so. You can install Cortana, Microsoft Edge, Word, Skype, and other apps on multiple devices. Whether they rely on x86-based processors by Intel and AMD, or ARM-based chips from Qualcomm and Samsung. But there are still limitations to Microsoft’s version of Windows 10 for ARM-based devices, as seen in the company’s recently pulled list.
Here is a simple breakdown, some of which pertain to developers but still trickle down to the end-user experience:
- Always Connected devices only support 64-bit drivers designed for the ARM architecture (ARM64).
- 64-bit apps developed for Intel- and AMD-based machines won’t run on these PCs.
- If a game or app relies on a version of OpenGL later than v1.1, they won’t work on these PCs. The same holds true for apps and games that require hardware-accelerated OpenGL, and/or “anti-cheat” drivers.
- Apps that load non-native Windows 10 components may fail/crash or simply not load.
- Apps assuming that all ARM-based devices are running a mobile version of Windows may render a user interface for smartphones, render the screen in the wrong orientation, or fail to start.
- Virtual machines using Hyper-V for ARM-based devices will not run.
It seems that for most Windows users, Windows 10 on ARM will support common apps and scenarios. Microsoft’s emulation work allows you to download most 32-bit .exe files from the web and install them on ARM-powered laptops. There are clearly some limitations, outlined above, but the majority of apps should run. We’re still waiting to test an ARM-powered Windows 10 laptop to see if the battery life is what has been promised, and whether performance for desktop apps is reasonable enough.