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I have an older computer that runs Windows 10 and has a bunch of apps installed and lots of documents on it. I want to "export" that installation and install it in a virtual machine on my Macbook (Apple M1 CPU).

I could of course copy all data from the physical machine onto a external harddrive and from there copy everything over to the virtual machine, but it's a lot and can't be sure I don't miss any files.

I have created a system image via the "create system image" function of Windows 10, but it gave me a bunch of folders and three .vhdx files which don't help me in Parallels on my Mac (respectively I don't know how to use them).

So what would be a good approach to copy / clone my existing installation onto my Macbook (inside the VM) without installing the OS in the VM and copying everything over manually?

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    Can it be assumed your MacBook is using x86 silicon instead of an ARM/Apple silicon?
    – Ramhound
    May 26, 2022 at 20:55
  • @Ramhound It is an ARM/Apple CPU. I forgot to mention that
    – CodeF0x
    May 27, 2022 at 11:14

3 Answers 3

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Using a third-party tool will give better results in this case.

I suggest the following tools :

  • Install AOMEI Backupper Freeware on the old computer and backup the entire disk to USB

  • Use AOMEI to Create Windows PE or Linux Bootable Media on another USB

  • Create a new empty VM for Windows and set it to boot the above bootable media

  • Boot the VM into the bootable media and restore the old Windows backup to the virtual disk of the VM.


If your Apple computer uses the M1 chip, you are out of luck.

The knowledge-base article About Parallels Desktop for Mac with Apple M1 chip says:

To run virtual machines on a Mac with Apple M1 chip, Parallels engineers created a new virtualization engine that uses the Apple M1 chip hardware-assisted virtualization and allows to run ARM-based virtual machines.

And also:

To run Windows 11 and its applications on a Mac with Apple M1 Chip, you need to install Windows 11 on ARM that can run the majority of Intel-based Windows 11 applications by using a built-in emulator.

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    This all assumes the MacBook is Intel based instead of using Apple's own M1 silicon.
    – Ramhound
    May 26, 2022 at 20:56
  • Right, I didn't think of this. I wonder if a VM can emulate Intel on the M1. The M1 should be fast enough to do that.
    – harrymc
    May 26, 2022 at 21:09
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    Windows on ARM can run x86/x64 software through software emulation. Windows on ARM cannot be ran on x86/x64 hardware. Windows 10 cannot be ran on ARM hardware. Likewise, to my knowledge, macOS on M1 hardware can only perform x86/x64 software emulation. However, Parallels is performing hardware virtualization not emulation, so I don't believe it can run x86/x64 operating systems. Hardware virtualization is not emulation, hypervisors use the underlined hardware, there is no x86/x64 hardware on an M1 processor.
    – Ramhound
    May 26, 2022 at 21:17
  • All that article says it supports Windows on ARM which I already knew, and within Windows on ARM, can run x86/x64 which I also already knew.
    – Ramhound
    May 26, 2022 at 22:13
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Parallels can import directly from a Windows PC, via network or external storage, to a Mac VM using Parallels Transporter Agent - but only on Intel. M1 is not yet supported [because it would require changing the actual windows version from X86 to ARM.]

See Parallels KB - Transfer your PC to Mac using Parallels Desktop for Mac for full instructions.

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  • Thank you, but I'm afraid this does not work for me - I forgot to mention it's an M1 Macbook
    – CodeF0x
    May 27, 2022 at 11:15
  • Then it cannot be done at all. You will need to start from a fresh install of Windows for ARM.
    – Tetsujin
    May 27, 2022 at 11:30
  • Very frustrating, but thank you anyways.
    – CodeF0x
    May 27, 2022 at 11:44
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I ended up copying everything from the host machine onto a external hard drive and from there onto the virtual machine.

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