The world of Mac evolves rapidly bringing new features as well as leaving some of them behind. The time Apple released Catalina OS, users had to accept the drop of support for 32-bit apps. The same trend continued with Mac devices based on the latest Big Sur and M1 Processors. Although this change is part of technological development and meant to boost future system performance, a trace of frustration is felt by some of the users. With this update, some old applications and games can no longer be used in newer versions. Users are faced with a message saying “The developer of this apps needs to update it to work with this version of macOS” or “The App is not optimized for your Mac and needs to be updated”. The most popular 32-bit programs still preferred by some users are Microsoft Office 2011, MetaTrader, Adobe CS5/CS6, Aperture. The same issue impacted some plugins for music production software which are 32-bit only. Also, if you attempt to launch an old game from the Steam library, you will be said that your current macOS is unable to run 32-bit games. There are not many options to solve this problem, however, if you are stubborn enough, you can revive 32-bit apps and games on later versions of Mac. Explore some of the methods in the article below.

run 32-bit apps and games on Mac OS Big Sur and M1 Macs

1. Create a Virtual Machine

Virtual machines extend the borders of native capabilities that limit our horizons. This technology is widely applicable in launching Windows apps on Mac, or vice-versa. The same thing works for 32-bit programs that are no longer compatible with the latest macOS versions starting from Catalina. At this moment, there are two most popular programs helping to do so – Parallels Desktop and VMware Fusion. There is a trial period allowing users to try out both apps for free (14-30 days). If you find one of these useful and demanded to use regularly, you will have to pay for the full version. Below, we will show how to try them out in action.

Parallels Desktop:

parallels windows on mac

The process of setting up a virtual machine requires patience and time. The idea is to install Mojave or older versions that support the 32-bit format. This can be done with the Parallels Desktop. Firstly, you should download it and then proceed to the steps listed below. Note that these steps fit users who are running Catalina or Big Sur as a main operating system. Those willing to prepare the soil before migrating to Catalina or Big Sur from Mojave can jump over these steps to further instructions.

Download Parallels Desktop
  1. First, you have to download the file of Mojave from the official App Store.
  2. Do not execute the downloaded file, instead, open Parallels Desktop, navigate to File > New, and choose Installation Assistant.
  3. In the appeared window, click “Install Windows or other OS from a DVD or image file” and “Continue”.
  4. If Parallels did not detect Mojave installers by itself on the next screen, you should click the Choose Manually button and drag the installation file into the window yourself.
  5. Follow the on-screen prompts until you end up on the disk selection. Choose your hard disk (Macintosh HD) and install the OS.
  6. Once Parallels finished the installation of Mojave, set up the system as you normally do (language, etc).
  7. Then, on the actual Catalina or Big Sur screen (not within a virtual machine), choose Actions in the top menu line and Install Parallels Tools.
  8. Complete the on-screen instructions and restart the Virtual Machine.
  9. Finally, you can simply select and drag 32-bit apps from Catalina or Big Sur to Mojave in the virtual machine. Most of the time, you will see the same message claiming that 32-bit is no longer compatible. Just ignore it and use the applications you want.

As mentioned, the process of virtualizing your OS on Mojave itself is almost the same. You will need to adjust some steps from above.

  1. Open Parallels Desktop, navigate to File > New, and choose Installation Assistant, as we did before.
  2. Then, under Free Systems, move to the right and choose Install macOS 10.14.6 Using the Recovery Partition. Does not matter whether your version number is different. Just choose the one you want.
  3. In the next window appeared, click install and choose the language you want (if asked).
  4. Then, in the macOS Utilities tab, choose Reinstall macOS and agree with the license prompts.
  5. After this is done, you should repeat the 5-9 steps listed above in the previous method.
  6. Once finished, you can update to Catalina or Bug Sur and use Parallels to run 32-bit apps.

Useful note: You can check which apps are based on 32-bit right on your desktop. For this,

  1. Click the Apple logo in the top left corner of your screen.
  2. Navigate to About this Mac > System Report.
  3. Then, scroll down the list of sections on the left bar and go to Software > Applications.
  4. Choose the application you want and see if it is 32-bit or 64-bit in the description at the bottom.

Virtual machines make it possible to have 2 systems running at the same time. The main advantage of virtual machines is that they are easy and flexible to use along with the original system. You can use your main system as usual, but also engage the virtual system, when needed.

VMware Fusion:

vmware fusion windows on mac

VMware Fusion is an alternative program to previously discussed Parallels. It provides the same feature giving newer versions the ability to run 32-bit apps. In fact, there is no huge difference between both of these apps. The only thing drawing the line of difference may be in price tags, but this is a thing to put on the scales yourself. The setup process of VMware Fusion is more-less the same, so we will not give detailed instructions on that. You can find them on the web. In addition to that, it is also worth noting that both Parallels and VMware Fusion are developing the same features for Windows and Linux as well. So if you ever stumble with compatibility problems on other systems apart from Mac, you have a crutch to lean on.

Download VMware Fusion

2. Dual-boot your Mac

The second and also effective method to solve compatibility issues like being unable to run 32-bit apps is splitting your hard drive for two different macOS versions. You can keep your Big Sur or Catalina, but add Mojave or older into the mix. You will have to create a new volume on your disk by installing another version on it. Since you are looking for a solution on Big Sur or Catalina operating system, we are going to create an APFS volume that will store your second version. The reason we say this is because older versions prior to High Sierra used the already aged HFS+ file system, which made dual-boot way more complicated. Now, APFS has Space Sharing, which enabled the entire disk to share spaces between two volumes. With that said, let’s jump into step-by-step instructions to install another Mac version in addition to the existing one.

At first, we will have to create an APFS volume:

  1. Just in case, create a backup of Mac (using Time Machine).
  2. Press Command + Space at the same time and type Disk Utility to open it up.
  3. Click on the View button in the left top screen to call the drop-down menu and choose Show All Devices. This makes sure you see the volumes within your disk. You will probably have one called Home or Macintosh HD.
  4. Choose the Home volume and click on the + button to create a new volume.
  5. After this, you will see a window asking to name your new volume. Do it and click Add eventually.

Note: Because you are going to install a new version of macOS, you want to make sure there is enough space to successfully store it. This is why we advise you to check it and clean up unnecessary files/apps to free up some gigabytes if needed. Once done, go through the steps to start the installation of another operating system right below.

  1. Download the installer for macOS you want to set up. You can use the one we used for Mojave above or find another in the Apple store.
  2. When downloaded, initiate the installer and choose the name of the volume you have just created.
  3. Follow the on-screen instructions and wait until the new OS gets installed on the volume.
  4. After this process gets to a close, your Mac will be booted with the just-installed OS.
  5. In order to switch between two operating systems, restart your Mac and hold the Alt/Option key until you face the screen to choose the necessary volume.
  6. Choose the one you need and use your Mac as usual.

Summary

We have finally approached the end of this guide. We hope this list of full-blown instructions eventually helps you to get over the hump and use 32-bit applications in spite of the limits. We have already discussed Virtual Machines in other articles on our website. Besides solving the 32-bit problem, they are also quite helpful at running Windows apps that do not exist on macOS. In this article, we also decided to cover the Dual Boot option. Although it requires some resources to contain 2 operating systems on one computer, Dual Boot will be extremely useful for people able to sacrifice some space from memory storage. Whatever your situation is, it is great that there are a couple of methods to choose from.

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