Windows 11 on ARM gets its game on with ARM64EC

ARM Chip

Back in June 2021, Microsoft unveiled ARM64EC for Windows 11 as a way for developers to bring their existing x64 applications up to speed with the native performance you would expect on ARM.

One year on, and some, the company confirms that ARM64EC is now fully supported on Windows 11.

Its arrival could be the key to getting developers to optimize their apps for the alternate platform, and holds promise to offer a big boost to Windows 11 on ARM. Devices powered by this type of hardware like the Surface Pro X and Lenovo ThinkPad X13s could see a new wave of supported apps.

App support is steadily improving, but the dial could turn even higher now.

Microsoft announced that ARM64EC is officially here in a blog post, noting that after a year of bug fixes and product stabilization, the toolset is leaving experimental mode in the latest release.

That being version 17.3.

For those of you unaware, the EC in the name is an abbreviation for “Emulation Compatible”. The idea here is to offer an application binary interface (ABI) that allows developers to build applications using both x64 and ARM code.

What this means is that ARM code will run natively on Windows 11 on ARM devices, while specific x64 code will run via emulation. Definitely a major milestone for Windows 11 on ARM, as it is the only supported Microsoft OS to feature x64 emulation that is the backbone of ARM64EC.

Ultimately, ARM64EC brings major benefits for developers.

In simpler terms, instead of an all-or-nothing approach where they had to ensure that their entire codebase is compatible with ARM, they can now incrementally update their code and have both x64 and ARM functionalities running simultaneously.

Of course, while ARM64EC has less of a performance hit than true emulation, it still has a performance hit as it disables certain features that are available on Intel processors like additional registers.

But it paves the way for developers to gradually migrate their applications to the ARM platform as opposed to having to wait to see immediate returns. Welcome development for a future that seems to be slowly drifting towards ARM.

Microsoft is targeting performance improvements in subsequent releases of ARM64EC.

In the meantime, if you are interested in checking it out, the software titan provides more details on how to get started here.