As far as computers go, Raspberry Pi’s are cheap. The latest (and vastly incompatible) Pi4 is no real exception. Now you’d think Microsoft would want to get WoA (Windows on ARM) into as many hands as possible to get people to port apps to the new cpu architecture. But that is not the case.
As of this moment there is no real desktop machines, the only route to go is with the laptops, which are the few models from Lenovo, HP, Acer and Microsoft themselves. Brand new these things are not cheap, and of course people find out quickly enough that the emulation just isn’t quite there (not all that surprising) and of course the lack of native apps doesn’t help. It’s that chicken/egg problem that can only be solved by getting hardware into people’s hands.
So getting back to to the Pi, on ETA Prime’s channel I saw this video, which quickly went over how to get Windows 10 up and running in no time flat.
- You’ll need the image on Amir Dahan’s Discord server
- Large(ish) SD card (I’m using a 256GB card)
- Pi4 (4GB/8GB it doesn’t matter thanks to a DMA bug you can only use 3GB)
On the Discord look for the #download-links and look for build 0.2.1 After you extract it, the image should be about 10GB
10,100,932,608 build 0.2.1.img
With a MD5 checksum of: aad51a0e02ba947d24d543ff8ed612b0
Use etcher to write the image to the SD. It took me about 5 minutes to do so. No bigge. I unplugged the SD/IDE/USB adapter thing I’m using, plugged it back in, and used Windows disk manager to expand the partition to take up the rest of the disk. It’s not terribly complicated to setup.
After that slap in the SD to your Pi4 and away you go. Or so I first thought.
Realistically you also need:
- A USB Hub
- A USB Ethernet adapter (I have some cheapo no name realtek)
- A USB audio card
- A mini HDMI to regular human sized HDMI cables/adapters
- a 5Amp USB charger for extra power!
As I found out rather quickly that the only peripherals that are working is the USB ports. However the USB controller has some DMA bug where it can’t xfer higher than 3GB which caps the current memory ceiling to 3GB.
Otherwise the Pi will think and reboot a few times, and about 15-30 minutes later (I didn’t time it, I walked out) you’ll be up and running Windows 10 on ARM!
It’s heavily customized in that when Windows boots up it is only consuming about 1GB of RAM. So that gives us just under 2GB for user programs. GREAT! Included is the setup program for the latest beta of Microsoft Edge (with the chromium engine) so at least you can actually hit web sites. However Google doesn’t like it, so if you are going to try to watch anything with DRM it will not work.
While many people complain about STEAM, game compatibility, really what on earth were you expecting? Naturally people will want to know how fast it is, and well… It’s not. Although it does have 4 cores, running at 1.5Ghz, there is barely any cache (well compared to an i7/Xeon), and it’s clearly not a power house of a box. The only real test of a machine like this is going to be native stuff. And speaking of, it’s nice that my previous builds for ARM still work! The sales guy that borrwed the ASUS should be back soon so I can do some side by side comparisons of how slow they are.
In addition to DOSBox, Neko98, and frontvm, I managed to get MAME 0.36 cross compiled and I had to disable the DirectX input and output, as although they do compile they have issues on the Pi4. So it’s GDI all the way. That said, it does run:
This isn’t the port you want, or the platform to play it on. I’m using the command line Visual C++ tools to build this, and MAME 0.37 drifted to being more of a MinGW thing, and I just don’t feel like fighting the build process.
Another point of fun, is that this processor & OS does have x86 compatibility you can take things to the extreme with OTVDM, and run Win16 based programs on Windows 10 for ARM! Not that I would know why you want Excel 3.0, but rest assured, it works fine.
Hit:1 http://ports.ubuntu.com/ubuntu-ports bionic InRelease Get:2 http://ports.ubuntu.com/ubuntu-ports bionic-updates InRelease [88.7 kB] Get:3 http://ports.ubuntu.com/ubuntu-ports bionic-backports InRelease [74.6 kB] Err:1 http://ports.ubuntu.com/ubuntu-ports bionic InRelease Unknown error executing apt-key
The platform supports WSL, so I went ahead and installed Ubuntu 18 & 20… and both have one apparently known catastrophic failure on the Pi’s. When trying to update packages the updater crashes. The fault is apparently in dirmngr, or the usual Linux bandaid of switching distros. There doesn’t appear to be any ‘fix’ to this, so if anyone knows what to do, I’m all ears. Also don’t enable WSL2, it’ll hang at the bootloader. I ended up having to reflash the disk.
In my quick conclusion, is this the RISC Windows workstation of the future? No, not really. It’s more the $50(+peripherals) tyre kicker edition. It’s a cheap way into the platform, to see what the fuss is all about. This machine feels like a low end i3, the CPU just isn’t there, it’s only a BCM2711 Cortex-A72, so there isn’t all that much to be expected. On the other hand it’s FAR FAR FAR cheaper than something like the Surface X. If you have the hardware it’s worth checking out if you are interested in non x86 Windows. Otherwise you aren’t going to miss much.