Running Mac Applications In Windows – With the release of MacOS 10.15 Catalina in October 2019, we’re approaching the 32-bit era. The new version of macOS marks the end of older 32-bit applications whose software code was never updated to support 64-bit CPUs. In June 2018, Apple confirmed the end of 32-bit apps, noting that 10.14 Mojave would be the last operating system to allow them to run (see “MacOS 10.14 Mojave Last to Support 32-bit Apps Operating system will be”, 2018 12 Jun). That time is now.
Apple began installing 64-bit processors on Macs around 2006, and moved toward greater operating system support for 64-bit applications with 10.6 Snow Leopard a decade ago. However, updating many apps to 64-bit support is not worth the time or money for developers.
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Fortunately, thanks to virtualization, you can still upgrade to Catalina without losing access to old apps. All you need to do is run Mojave in a virtual machine for the older software to work. You may want to use Mojave instead of an older macOS release because Mojave receives security updates for a longer period of time than older versions of the operating system.
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Currently, I recommend using Parallels Desktop 15 for Mac for Catalina-compatible virtualization. VMware Fusion was not compatible with Catalina when this article was first published, but the now released version 11.5 may work – see “VMware Fusion 11.5”, September 23, 2019). Open-source VirtualBox is also an option, but it’s best suited for people who are interested in reading forum posts and technical questions.
I tried installing Mojave from scratch in Parallels Desktop and copied some apps that I still depend on and will still be available after upgrading to Catalina.
Parallels Desktop is a cheaper solution than using an older Mac and has been in constant development for years. The current version of Parallels Desktop 15 for Mac is priced at $79.99 per year for home and student use and $99.99 per year for the Pro and Business editions.
Key upgrades are included in the annual fee for Parallels Desktop Pro and Business editions. Home/Student Edition users must pay an upgrade fee every time Parallels releases a major update, which is probably an annual event that happens with each newly named version of macOS. Parallels charges $49.99 to upgrade to a previous version of Parallels Desktop 15 compatible with Parallels Catalina.
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Home/Student Edition is sufficient for average users. It limits virtualized RAM to 8 GB and supports four virtual CPUs. Not only Mojave, but also Windows 10, Linux versions, and older macOS versions can be installed. (Parallel has a full list of release differences.)
Parallels offers a 14-day free trial, which I recommend following the steps below before deploying to Catalina so you’re fully prepared if you ultimately decide to go that route. This is partly because older macOS installers become more difficult to obtain after Apple updates to the next release. By installing Parallels Desktop and Mojave, you can decide later if you want to pay after the trial period ends.
Parallels Desktop supports installing Mojave directly, relying entirely on the recovery partition included with macOS. After installing Parallels Desktop, in the Setup Assistant, scroll right through the operating system settings and click “Install MacOS 10.14.6 using the recovery partition.” Follow the various macOS instructions to enable various system-level controls, such as enabling kernel extensions and enabling access for Parallels Desktop in the Security and Privacy preferences panel.
Parallels Desktop will then open a virtual machine window showing macOS Recovery where you can choose to reinstall macOS. Installing Mojave in its virtual window is like any hardware device. During my testing, I didn’t need to take care of it, I just let it run for a while. I then proceeded to configure macOS as usual in the Virtual Machine window.
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When you’re done, you’ll have a version of Mojave that you can install or copy apps to. You may need to find the installer and original serial number for some apps. For others, you can simply drag them into the Mojave Virtual Machine window. (Be sure to install Parallels Tools after Mojave finishes booting – click the triangular yellow warning icon in the upper-right corner of the window – as it allows direct drag-and-drop copying.) Both apps So try to install and copy, transfer. settings and other related files for which you may need to study the documentation or ask for help in an online help forum. This may prevent you from re-entering the license code or resetting the settings.
There’s one important thing you should be aware of about virtual machines: cloud backup software like Backblaze and CrashPlan don’t archive virtual machine files by default. Publisher Adam Angst wrote about this situation when CrashPlan began excluding VMs from its backups earlier this year, and in his book “Backing Up VM Images to Internet Backup Services” (May 15, 2019). Provides comprehensive advice on how to deliver a virtual reset. In case of machine drive failure.
If you want to delay installing Parallels Desktop now, be sure to download a copy of the Mojave installer before the Catalina shipment. macOS Recovery always brings up the latest version of macOS that a given Mac can run, so you won’t be able to force-install Mojave after Catalina is released. (Technically, you can use macOS Recovery to install the latest version or the version that came with your Mac.)
To download the Mojave installer, click the Get macOS Mojave listing in the Mac App Store. This will open the Mojave Software Update options pane and prompt you to download the installer instead of searching for updates. After that, you can install Parallels Desktop, which offers a simple process of installing macOS directly from the installer.
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If you still regularly run 32-bit applications, you’ll know. After every reboot, Mojave will warn you the first time you launch an app that isn’t 64-bit compatible. “This app is not optimized for Mac and needs to be updated,” the message said.
There are three different ways you can get a complete list of which of your apps will no longer work.
John Goto of St. Clair Software has released a free Go64 utility that goes beyond system information in some important ways. Go64:
Howard Oakley has written some free apps that identify 32-bit code: 32-bit Check and Architect. 32-bit Check is similar to Go64, but not as fast and has a more useful interface. However, you may find ArchiChect useful because it allows you to check a specific application by hovering over the ArchiChect icon. Do not treat the above checkboxes as user controls, they identify the application as 32-bit or 64-bit.
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ArchiChect identifies a 32-bit application (top), a 64-bit application with 32-bit components (middle), and a fully 64-bit application (bottom).
For most older apps, developers will never release an update. If they ever intended to do this, they would have done it years ago. In other cases, there may be updates, but you may not want to use them because of changes in the feature set.
However, there may still be delays at the last minute. Fetch developer Jim Matthews decided to move the application interface part to a 64-bit framework and release a full 64-bit version of Fetch (see “Fetch turns 30”, September 6, 2019). Fetch 5.8 is currently in beta testing with most features, and there are plans to release a free update when almost all features from the 32-bit version are migrated to the new release.
Personally, I rely on three 32-bit applications: Mailsmith for email, Labels and Addresses for creating package labels for shipping, and Quicken 2007 for accounting. Rich Siegel’s text-only email client continued as a free side project for several years, and Intuit continued to do so with a macOS update in 2007, based on a modern version of Quicken (now owned by Quicken Inc. Proprietary. Still missing – see “Quicken bought Intuit by H.I.G.”, March 4, 2016). BeeLight Software has decided not to update tags and titles, but to move some of its functionality to Swift Publisher.
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I was able to drag and drop these three apps onto my Mojave VM, copy the settings and launch them successfully. Includes immediate priorities.
Despite the limitations of the Home/Student edition of Parallels Desktop, these apps run almost as fast inside the VM as they currently do on my 2018 iMac with 32GB of RAM.
I will continue to use Quicken and Labels and Addresses on the VM. The writing is on the wall with Mailsmith, but until I switch to a new email client, I want easy access to find archived emails.
At the end of the day, I’m as big a fan of moving forward as the next guy, but if you can’t find a favorite tool instead, why give it up? As much as Parallels Desktop enables it, it doesn’t have to be expensive. You can also use it.
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