How To Run 32-Bit Apps in macOS Catalina

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Apple’s macOS Catalina came out last week, riddled with bugs and other issues. The removal of iTunes adds up in the list of issues too. Apple has also decided to drop 32-bit application support with macOS Catalina, which is causing problems for users of older apps, extensions and other 32-bit software. In this article, we are going to discuss the problem extensively and provide you with a solution to run 32-bit apps in macOS Catalina.

The Problem

We got to know about the discontinuation with the release of macOS High Sierra, where it started to show warning messages that 32-bit software was incompatible with the OS. Then in WWDC 2019, Apple officially announced that they are ditching 32-bit app support to make macOS lightweight.

Understandably, Apple is making macOS a 64-bit platform to make it more reliable and efficient. However, this has resulted in some severe issues. For example, legacy versions of Microsoft Office and Adobe Suite with 32-bit app plugins will not work with macOS Catalina anymore. Even the newer version of Adobe Creative Cloud apps are having problems with certain tools, plugins, video encoding, ExtendScript Toolkit because of their 32-bit shell. This is going to hurt your work especially if you are a content creator.

Solution

Now there are two ways you can tackle this problem. You can either decide not to upgrade to macOS Catalina or create a dual boot partition to run both older and latest versions of macOS. If you have decided not to upgrade to macOS Catalina, then you can manually disable auto-update by following the steps below:

  1. Head over to Settings.
  2. Click Software Update.
  3. Untick the box next to Automatically keep my Mac up to date.

If you want to try out the macOS Catalina, then you can follow one of the thousand guides on creating a dual boot macOS partition available on the internet. But for a regular user, the procedure is quite tedious and time-consuming. 

However, there is one more solution. You can run macOS Mojave (or older) on a virtual machine, while you can upgrade your primary system to macOS Catalina. With Parallels Desktop, you can easily run your 32-bit apps on an older version of macOS. If you are on Mojave, follow the steps in the guide below.

Running 32-Bit Apps in macOS Catalina using Parallels Desktop

  1. To get started, launch Parallels Desktop on your Mac.
  2. Choose New… from the File menu. A window will appear named Installation Assistant.
  3. Click to highlight Install macOS 10.14.6 Using the Recovery Partition under the Free Systems section. You can also opt for a previous version of macOS in case you have upgraded to Mojave from an older macOS version. Click Continue to proceed to the next page.

    Installation Assistant Window
  4. Click Install. The final build of macOS Mojave 10.14.6 will start downloading from official Apple servers. Make sure you are connected to a stable internet connection.

    macOS 10.14.6 Installer Menu
  5. Parallels will auto-execute the macOS installer and create a new virtual machine. Once it is done, select the language of your choice and continue. You will see the macOS Recovery menu in the VM.

    macOS Recovery Menu
  6. Select Reinstall macOS from the list of options and click Continue. Then click Accept to accept the license agreement.
  7. Now you will be asked to select the disk drive. Click on Macintosh HD. It is a virtual disk partition for the virtual machine. You won’t lose any data on your primary disk drives.

    macOS Installation Setup in Virtual Machine
  8. Click Install to start installing macOS Mojave on the virtual disk partition. It may take half an hour depending on your system specifications.
  9. When the installation finishes, Parallels will redirect you to the first-time setup menu. Follow the on-screen instruction to set up your virtual desktop.

    First-Time Setup in macOS Mojave
  10. Once you are done setting up macOS Mojave, select Actions from your primary macOS top menu. Click Install Parallels Tools.
  11. You will get the option to install Parallels Tools on your virtual macOS machine. Click Install, and then restart the VM.

    Installing Parallels Tools
  12. After the restart, you can start moving your 32-bit apps from your primary system to the virtual machine. Just drag and drop your preferred apps on the virtual desktop.
  13. A warning dialog box will show up when you try to launch an app on the virtual macOS Mojave (or previous versions). Click OK to ignore it.

    The Warning Dialog Box for 32-Bit Apps

You can now close Parallels Desktop, head over to System Preferences > Software Update > Update Now and safely upgrade your primary system to the latest macOS Catalina build. After upgrading to macOS Catalina, you can launch Parallels Desktop and run your 32-bit applications on the virtual macOS machine.

For those who have already upgraded to macOS Catalina, here’s how to set up Parallels Desktop to run 32-bit apps:

  1. Open Safari and paste the following link: https://apps.apple.com/us/app/macos-mojave/id1398502828?mt=12
  2. Click on the cloud icon (☁) to download the macOS Mojave installer. You will find it in your Applications folder once the download is completed.
  3. Launch Parallels Desktop on your Mac. Go to File > New… to open the installation assistant window.
  4. Click Install Windows or another OS from a DVD or image file under the “Create New” section.
  5. Now drag the Mojave installer from the Applications folder and drop it in the Parallels window.
  6. Follow step 4-13 in the previous guide to set up your virtual Mojave machine and transfer your 32-bit applications to it from your primary system.

Wrapping Up

Even though Apple has removed the 32-bit application compatibility layer from macOS Catalina, they have added plenty of new privacy and security features in return. You can go through the detailed guide in this article to run 32-bit apps in macOS Catalina without any hassle. In case you are facing issues when downloading the macOS Mojave installer from the Apple website, try again after some time and make sure you are using a stable internet connection. For any other questions related to this topic, let us know in the comments below.

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