Check for 32-bit Content on Your Mac

/ 26 September 2019

As most people who track Apple closely will know, in the coming weeks macOS Catalina will ship to the world. They’re teaser page lists all the flashy new features, breaking up iTunes, iPad apps on the Mac, and so forth. Nowhere on that page do they mention one of the single largest changes that is occuring behind the scenes, and one that is bound to trip up many users who go to update their Macs: All support for 32-bit applications is going away, and this has implications for old media files you may have lying around as well. With September winding to a close in the coming days, and October being the published release timeframe for macOS Catalina, it is time that all Mac users check for any remaining 32-bit apps and media, and look for replacements and convert their media.

Though in macOS Mojave the System Information app has a Legacy Software section, it unfortunately isn’t reliable, so I reccommend using Go64 to check for all 32-bit-only applications. Remember, any application or other executable (which is where media files become important to pay attention to) that is 32-bit only will cease to work in macOS Catallina. It is a solid break into a pure 64-bit world. So only update once all your mission-critical apps are updated or adequate 64-bit replacements are found.

When it comes to converting media files, there are a couple of different things to do, and you’ll need to do these prior to installing macOS Catalina (most of these are links to full articles discussing that specific conversion on a great source of detailed technical Mac information that I trust):

  • For all Final Cut Pro and iMovie libraries use the File > Check Media For Compatibility… function in the respective app
  • Convert still images
  • Convert media embedded in Keynote presentations
  • Convert media elsewhere on your Mac
    • It is worth noting that IINA, which in my view is a better basic video player for the Mac than either QuickTime or VLC, in part because it can handle all the video codecs that VLC can as well as the formats QuickTime handles, but is also a modern-looking Mac app, seems to be able to read some of these incompatible formats without the legacy QuickTime codecs or conversion, but it is still a good idea to convert all your media to macOS-native formats

If you want to live on the edge, there is a way to completely disable 32-bit code execution on your Mac right now, and in so doing see by just using your Mac what no longer works (but I only suggest experienced Mac users dare to do this):

  1. Restart your Mac and hold down Command-R to boot into Recovery Mode
  2. Launch Terminal from the Utilities menu
  3. Enter this command: nvram boot-args=”-no32exec”
  4. Restart your Mac

Once you have macOS Catalina nothing 32-bit will function. If you need something that is 32-bit you will need to either:

  • Have a bootable external drive with macOS Mojave to use
  • Keep macOS Mojave on a secondary Mac in your house
  • Install macOS Mojave in a virtual machine on your macOS Catalina and beyond system

As such, I cannot reccomend enough that all Mac users follow the above advice for checking for 32-bit applications and media, and find new or upgraded software and convert media as needed as soon as possible so that you can have a clean break into the 64-bit future and not risk breaking things that you rely on or losing access to treasured family videos. Or plan on holding off on installing macOS Catalina until you have worked through these steps.