Apple has been warning macOS users and developers about the end of 32-bit software support for quite some time. With macOS Catalina (macOS 10.15), the end is actually here.
How is this going to affect you? It really depends on what type of apps, software, and hardware you use on your Mac. Read on to find out what you need to know.
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Without getting into the weeds with the technical details here, more bits really just means better performance for a computer. Because of that, the transition from 32-bit to 64-bit software is a natural one. And Apple has been on it over the past few years.
Apple began requiring all Mac App Store submissions and app updates to be 64-bit back in 2018. It also began warning users that Mojave will be the last macOS update that will support 32-bit software.
Essentially, what this means is that 32-bit software just won’t run in macOS Catalina. It won’t be slow, sluggish or result in a warning — 32-bit apps will simply not run or open whatsoever.
What apps are affected?
Because of Apple’s slow transition to 64-bit software, there’s a good chance that most of the apps on your Mac are already updated to account for it. But there will be a few exceptions.
Apps that don’t come from the Mac App Store are one big exception. Although there are plenty of non-App Store apps that are 64-bit, there are likely quite a few other apps that haven’t been updated.
There’s also a good chance that apps you’ve installed in the past but haven’t updated in a while are still 32-bit. Based on our research, there are some Adobe and Microsoft apps and software that need to be updated to 64-bit manually.
The latest update for these apps is likely to be 64-bit unless the developer has abandoned them.
macOS Catalina and third-party accessories
From anecdotal user reports, a lot of third-party keyboard, mouse, and printer drivers are also 32-bit. That could cause some major compatibility issues if you use external computer accessories like these.
In fact, it’s these peripherals drivers that may just cause the most headache. Those third-party accessories will simply stop working once you update to macOS Catalina. Here are a couple of examples.
macOS Catalina and printer/scanner:
It’s better to wait for drivers to appear under 10.15, at least for your printers. Most printer manufacturers update their software so it should not be an issue. If the scanner driver is not updated, you may have to explore a third-party scanning software such as VueScan.
macOS Catalina and Logitech keyboard:
Logitech usually provides updated device drivers. You can check on their support page and download the 64-bit driver. This should help avoid any issues with macOS Catalina.
How do I check for 32-bit apps on my Mac?
By default, macOS will send you a dialog box if you attempt to open a 32-bit app in macOS Mojave. The popup will say that the app is “not optimized for your Mac,” or something similar.
You can also check your apps for 64-bit compatibility manually with the following steps.
- Click on the in the top left of the menu bar.
- Select About This Mac.
- Click on the System Report… the button underneath your Mac’s specifications.
- In this next window, scroll down until you see the Software section in the sidebar.
- Click on the Applications option under Software.
- This is your list of applications. You can navigate by scrolling, using the arrow keys or typing the first letters of an app.
Once you’re in this list, click on any app. You should see a section titled “64-Bit (Intel).” Next to this is either Yes or No. Yes means the app is 64-bit, No means the app is 32-bit and needs to be updated.
What are my options?
First, you should update all of your apps to 64-bit before attempting to install macOS Catalina. You can generally find app updates by searching for the app’s webpage or within an app itself.
If you have a critical app, driver or another piece of software that’s still 32-bit and it doesn’t have an update, you only really have a couple of options.
- Contact the developer. If there isn’t a 64-bit update available, contact the developer to see if there’s an update in progress or if they have plans to even update to 64-bit at all.
- Find alternatives. You may just need to find new apps that are 64-bit. Similarly, you may need to ditch your current keyboard, mouse or printer in favor of newer models that have 64-bit drivers. The other option is to look for device drivers for your accessories in the open-source projects. CUPS.org has a list of resources (Open printing resources developed by Apple). You can also check for open source drivers at Gimp-print.
- Stick to macOS Mojave. If you have a “mission-critical” piece of software or hardware that won’t be updated, then your last option is to avoid macOS Catalina. This isn’t recommended, however since newer versions of macOS have better security features and other advantages.
Before downloading and installing macOS Catalina, please make sure to check out all your 32-bit apps currently running on your MacBook. You may have to update your Microsoft Office to 64 bit along with other apps. There is also a chance that your printers or third party keyboard may not work.
We hope that you found this article useful! Please let us know if you have any questions or comments.
Mike is a freelance journalist from San Diego, California.
While he primarily covers Apple and consumer technology, he has past experience writing about public safety, local government, and education for a variety of publications.
He’s worn quite a few hats in the journalism field, including writer, editor, and news designer.