Zemax software compatibility with new Apple M1 computers

  • 1 July 2021
  • 6 replies

Userlevel 3



Apple recently introduced a Macbook with a new “M1” CPU, rather than the usual Intel CPU. This new CPU requires that any software written for standard Intel or AMD processors has to either be re-written for the new CPU or emulated via virtual machine software such as Virtualbox, VMware Fusion, or Parallels. Zemax products (OpticStudio, OpticsViewer, and OpticsBuilder) are WIndows based rather than native Apple applications, so they will not be rewritten for the M1 CPU.



Zemax software has worked fine with virtual machines on Apple computers in the past. However, as reported by some Zemax customers, it appears that Parallels is still in Beta on this platform, and that there is also a “preview edition” of Windows 10.



Zemax uses Thales (formerly Sentinel) licensing technology which does not support preview or beta editions of Windows 10. This means even if Opticstudio installs, you cannot access a license (either a black USB key red key , green key, or software-based (softkey) licensing on the Apple M1 at this time. Note also that Black USB licenses have been discontinued some time ago and will not have drivers created for the M1 so you will not be able to use this license type on the M1. The other license types may work in the future as things change. 



If the Windows 10 edition advances out of “preview,” and there are no other complications with licensing, OpticStudio will likely work fine on this platform. However, we cannot guarantee this until it can be tested fully. We will continue to update this space with updates as they are available.



In conclusion, until stated otherwise consider all Zemax software incompatible with any Apple M1 based computers. To use Zemax software, you need to install it on an Intel-based Apple machine or a supported Windows PC. We do have an article for Intel-based Apple machine in our knowledge base, just search on 'Apple Opticstudio'



Feel free to comment if you have any questions here, are experiencing issues, or have any other feedback.



Don Dickinson



Zemax customer It support specialist





6 replies


Any updates?

Userlevel 3

Hello all. 

I’ve sent the below to Joel but thought i’d post it here in case anyone else sees this thread.

We have confirmed the final Windows 11 release and softkey licenses work fine with OpticStudio 21.3. As for Apple machines: Since they are not an officially supported platform, we don't often test the Apple platform in house and so don't have any recent Apple hardware compatible with Windows 11.

I do anticipate that Intel CPU based Apple machines will work fine as they did before with Parallels or other virtualization software. For those with Apple machines using the M1 CPU’s, you would have to try Windows 11 ARM edition to see if things work as expected. Note that you would need to use the Final release, not an “insider preview” of Windows 11 since Zemax licensing doesn’t support preview editions of WIndows.

Microsoft officially isn’t supporting Windows 11 on Apple M1 machines - https://www.tomsguide.com/news/microsoft-confirms-that-windows-11-wont-support-apples-m1-macs .That being said it may still work (and Parallels has info on this as well), but it’s unlikely that any issues you have will have ready fixe especially from Microsoft. 

Please let us know if you try an M1 machine and if both Windows 11 and Opticstudio work for you.


I am fully aware that Windows 11 ARM is the only true option for virtual machines on the M1 Macs. As of today, QEMU is the only solution offering emulation of Windows 10/11 x86, but I tested it to be too slow to be used with Zemax.

That said, Zemax installs fine on Windows 11 ARM. Yet, Zemax uses the Thales Sentinel licensing system, which is blocking its HASP driver on Insider Previews. I would like to understand whether the following would work:

  • Download the latest HASP drivers for macOS from the official Thales website and install them on the M1 Mac. That would create a local licensing webserver at localhost:1947
  • Patch localhost:1947 to the guest VM (be it with Parallels, UTM or other virtualisation solution). Now any calls to localhost:1947 from inside the VM should be redirected to the licensing webserver in macOS. Tutorial

The question is: if I then ran the Zemax installation in the guest VM, would it load the licensing system on this already existing webserver on the macOS host? If not, would there be a way to make it do so?

Userlevel 3

@Miloth That is an interesting idea for a workaround! It would only be useful to help Opticstudio use a network license though; there is no way to activate a Zemax license on OS/X directly. I have no way to test if this will work though. Let us know how it goes! 

Userlevel 3

Just an update - The sentinel licensing still isn’t compatible with ARM versions of Windows, they may have something next year. I don’t know if opticstudio itself will work as it has its own compatibility issues on ARM. I have also updated the offical Zemax article on Apple support here which reflects the current state of things. 



Hi @Don Dickinson,

I can confirm that what I described in the post above works for network licenses. You just need to patch the keyserver 1947 port both on the VM and the host after installing HASP on the macOS host.

The only thing that does not work is checking out licenses or any interaction with the licensing driver that uses the Sentinel command line commands.

Zemax on an M1 mac