ArcGIS Pro on M1 MacBooks

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03-11-2021 07:57 AM
BrianBaldwin
Esri Regular Contributor
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UPDATE: 8/16/2021

Parallels Desktop 17 was just recently released, which has been "rebuilt and optimized to natively run on Apple M1 and Intel based Mac devices"

ORIGINAL POST

In November of 2020, Apple released a new processor for their computers called the M1. If you want to dive into it, you can read about the details here (https://www.apple.com/mac/m1/). 

The impact for users of ArcGIS Pro, is that there are currently no Windows virtual machine (VM) platforms that support this new processor (this is not the case for virtual desktop infrastructure or VDI platforms, which have been released and support M1). 

Below is a list of the current recommendations and options that are available to users that need to run ArcGIS Pro on a Mac.  

 

Intel MacBooks 

Users can still purchase MacBooks that contain the latest Intel processors. Virtual machines are supported on the majority of MacBooks that contain an Intel chip. When purchasing a laptop, just make sure that you are purchasing the Intel chip option if running Windows in a VM is critical for your work. 

 

Wait for VM Support 

There is currently no VM client that can be installed locally to support a Windows VM (as of this writing 3/3/2021). The 2 major vendor details for support are currently as follows: 

VMWare 

  • There is currently no roadmap or technical preview of a VMWare product that will support M1 (as of this writing 3/3/2021).  
  • Please refer to the VMWare website for the latest news/updates 

Parallels 

  • There is currently a ‘technical preview’ that has been released to support Windows 10 ARM. The caveat here is that users would be relying on a VM ‘technical preview’, to load an OS ‘insider preview’ (Windows 10 ARM), to install ArcGIS Pro (not yet supported on Windows 10 ARM), so this isn’t an option yet. 
  • For updates related to x86 Windows support on a M1 VM, or Windows ARM, please refer to the Parallels website for news/updates 

 

Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) 

Virtual desktop infrastructure, or VDI for short, provides the ability to run applications like ArcGIS Pro over the internet and serve them through a browser. For schools or institutions that currently support VDI infrastructure (Citrix, VMWare Horizon, Parallels RAS, Amazon Workspaces, etc.), ArcGIS Pro is supported. Refer to your VDI vendor’s documentation to see what versions are current for installing on M1 MacBooks. For those that currently own an M1 MacBook and need to run ArcGIS Pro locally, this is currently the only option available. 

 

Summary 

The M1 processor is still relatively new (released November 2020) and VM platforms are certainly aware of the need to support Windows VM environments. For users that have already purchased an M1 MacBook, a VDI is currently the only option for running ArcGIS Pro. As vendors update their platforms to support VMs on the M1, we will work to keep you informed.   

While ArcGIS Pro is the workhorse for data management, map production, and analysis, there is also an ever-expanding list of functions that can be accomplished in ArcGIS Online (spatial analysis, joins, visualization, map production, etc.). For power users as well, the ability to run ArcGIS Notebooks with the ArcPy library inside of ArcGIS Online provides a wealth of advanced GIS functionality that could be run from any machine (or phone). 

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About the Author
Brian works as a Solution Engineer at Esri to support customers in Education. Brian has worked as a lecturer in GIS, supported non-profits through his community planning work, and honestly just loves working with users to help solve their geospatial quandaries!