Home Reverse Engineering on Windows 11 ARM (Macbook Pro M1/M2)

Reverse Engineering on Windows 11 ARM (Macbook Pro M1/M2)


I have recently purchased the new Macbook Pro M2 Max 16” as I finally wanted to switch over into the ARM world on the desktop. One of my main concerns was around my focus on reverse engineering malware and how that will play out on an ARM-based device.

The primary questions to be answered were:

  • Will VMware Fusion 13 (the latest at the time of this writing) install Windows 11 ARM properly or will I need to re-visit Parallels?
  • Can I install IDA Pro within Windows 11 ARM properly without issue?
  • How will x86 / x86_64 malware disassemble and more importantly, how does it run in x64dbg on the ARM version of Windows (will Rosetta 2 x86 emulation end up showing me ARM or x86 instructions when dynamically running)


  • VMware Fusion 13 in its current state is a terrible option for the M1/M2 ARM-based machines and too many things do not work or have not been implemented – VMware is massively struggling on this front right now
  • Parallels has hit the ball out of the park and everything worked 100% perfectly with Windows 11 ARM
    • They provide ease of install and all functionality is present (even coherence works perfectly)
  • IDA Pro installs and disassembles binaries the same it would on an Intel-based system
  • When debugging x86 binaries on ARM you see the x86 instructions and not ARM (this is very important so I can map addresses and assembly between IDA Pro disassembly and the debugger)
  • The current experience after reversing both x86 and ARM malware is that I am able to do both and it’s proving to be the best of both worlds

The Windows 11 ARM Windows Defender disabling issue

I previously posted on how to reliably disable Windows Defender for Windows 10 (non-ARM) and that no longer works for Windows 11 ARM. Microsoft continues to make it as difficult as possible for a user to have any sense of control of their operating system.

That said, I have found the below steps to work in stopping Windows Defender from interfering with malware analysis. Of course, with any Microsoft update they will likely revert these settings to ruin your analysis machine again so you’ll have to repeat them to re-baseline and get a new snapshot.

Post Windows 11 ARM configuration (Disable Windows Defender)

  • Get autoruns via choco install AutoRuns
  • Run msconfig as admin
    • Boot -> Enable Safe Boot
    • Restart Windows
  • Run AutoRuns
    • Services -> WinDefend (Uncheck)
  • Run gpedit.msc
    • Click Computer Configuration -> Administrative Templates -> Windows Components -> Microsoft Defender Antivirus
    • Set Turn off Microsoft Defender Antivirus to enabled
  • Run msconfig
    • Services -> Disable Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection Service
    • Services -> Disable Windows Defender Firewall
    • Services -> Microsoft Defender Antivirus Network Inspection Service
    • Restart Windows

NOTE: You will notice that some Windows Defender services still seem to be running after the reboot, however, when you open the Security Center you will see that it is in a non-operable state (which is what we want).

Extra setting for yet another annoying thing Microsoft has done

  • Add back the full right-click menu so you don’t have to click “Show more options”
    • reg add HKCU\Software\Classes\CLSID\{86ca1aa0-34aa-4e8b-a509-50c905bae2a2}\InprocServer32 /ve /d "" /f


The above steps no longer seem to work for new Windows 11 installs. There is a trick to remove directory permissions that non-optimal but continues to work.

Quick steps

  • Reboot to safe mode
    • msconfig->boot options->safe boot
    • reboot
  • Remove permissions from Windows Defender directory
    • Navigate to c:\ProgramData\Microsoft\
    • Right-click->Properties->Security tab on “Windows Defender” directory
    • Change owner to “Administrator”
    • Remove all other permission entries
  • Reboot back into normal mode
    • msconfig->boot options->uncheck safe boot
    • reboot


  • OALabs video that explains the directory permission trick
    • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0eR8yrDLV5M

FlareVM Install

Once the above steps have been performed you’ll be able to carry on with installing the FlareVM packages to turn this into your new machine to perform reverse engineering on.


This post is licensed under CC BY 4.0 by the author.