Apple now will warn you if your Mac has old, 32-bit apps

The company's computer operating system has been moving to more advanced technology, though MacOS High Sierra and at least the next version of Apple's software will still support older apps.

Shara Tibken Former managing editor
Shara Tibken was a managing editor at CNET News, overseeing a team covering tech policy, EU tech, mobile and the digital divide. She previously covered mobile as a senior reporter at CNET and also wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal. Shara is a native Midwesterner who still prefers "pop" over "soda."
Shara Tibken
3 min read

Apple on Thursday will start alerting you if you have old Mac apps hanging around.

If you have the latest version of Apple's MacOS software downloaded, you'll get a warning when you open older apps that run on 32-bit technology. 

Apple has been pushing developers to update their apps to 64-bit technology. That enables faster apps that can juggle large amounts of data more efficiently than the 32-bit processors common in older computers and mobile devices. Apple's modern, underlying technology for its computers -- such as its Metal graphics tool -- work only with 64-bit apps, and the processors in its Macs have been 64-bit for years. 

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Apple will notify you if you're running an old app on your MacOS High Sierra-powered Mac. 


Apple started the move to 64-bit over a decade ago, and at its developer conference last year, it warned software makers that MacOS High Sierra, released in September, would be the last version of the operating system "to run 32-bit apps without compromise." The next version of Apple's MacOS software will still run 32-bit apps, but they won't necessarily work as the developers intended. 

As part of that move, those of you who've downloaded MacOS High Sierra 10.13.4 -- which was released two weeks ago -- will start seeing a pop-up on Thursday whenever you open a 32-bit app. The alert, which you'll see only once, will tell you that the app "is not optimized for your Mac" and that it "needs to be updated by its developer to improve compatibility." You'll be directed to an Apple support page to learn more. 

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You can still use the apps, but they won't work as well as they used to. They also won't hurt your data or your Mac.

'State-of-the-art' tech

Apple already has made the full transition to 64-bit apps on the iPhone and iPad. The A7 chip, found in 2013's iPhone 5S, was the first 64-bit mobile processor on the market and signaled a big step forward for Apple and the entire mobile industry. 

Over the next four years, Apple pushed mobile app makers to move to 64-bit. iOS 11, which Apple released in September, can only run 64-bit apps. Users who still have older, 32-bit apps get a notice when they tap on an older app's icon, saying it needs to be updated. "This app needs to be updated by the developer to work on this version of iOS," it says, and it then gives you the option to delete it or keep it -- even though you can't use it. 

The Mac alert doesn't work quite the same way. You'll still be able to use your 32-bit apps -- at least for now. And you don't actually have to do anything. The alert is simply to let you know that you have old software, which won't work on your Mac sometime in the future. 

Apple MacBook Pro (15-inch, 2017)

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It's unclear when those old, 32-bit apps will stop working entirely, though. Apple hasn't yet said when it will completely phase out 32-bit app support on Macs. It has told developers that 32-bit apps will still run on High Sierra's successor, which it will unveil at its Worldwide Developer Conference in early June

"State-of-the-art technology is what makes a Mac a Mac," Apple said on its support page. "To ensure that the apps you purchase are as advanced as the Mac you run them on, all future Mac software will eventually be required to be 64-bit."

The company encouraged its users to contact software developers to see if they've made 64-bit versions of their apps. 

As of January, all new apps submitted to Apple's Mac App Store have to be 64-bit, and all submitted app updates have to be 64-bit by June. 

Apple itself hasn't moved all of its apps to 64-bit. According to MacStrategy, some older versions of Apple's software -- such as DVD Player v5.8 and QuickTime Player 7 -- are still 32 bit. 

If you want to see what apps on your Mac are 32-bit, you can click the Apple icon (the Apple Menu) at the top right of your toolbar, select "About This Mac" and then click the "System Report" button. Scroll down to "Software" and then choose "Applications." Once you click on that, you can see all of the apps on your Mac. One of the columns, "64-Bit (Intel)" will say "No" if your app is still 32-bit. 

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