macOS 10.15 Catalina Release Advice

Hi friends and family! It’s me, your friendly Mac tech expert with an update on the latest version of macOS, Catalina. Read this before you upgrade.

Hi friends and family! It’s me, your friendly Mac tech expert with an update. Apple is rolling out macOS 10.15 Catalina today, a major new update to the operating system. The usual caveats apply to a major version, which I’ll get into below, but Catalina also has one big important change you need to be aware of.

If you run old software that is 32-bit only, it will no longer open under Catalina, which now requires all apps to be 64-bit. Developers have had several years to prepare for this, so in theory the apps you use on your Mac will transition just fine. Some don’t carry over, though. On my system, for example, the ScanSnap software for my ScanSnap S1300 scanner was not updated; the company released a new version for newer scanners, but mine is too old to fall under that umbrella (and yet it works just fine). For the time being, I’m planning to use the excellent VueScan utility to take over the scanning duties instead of buying a brand new scanner.

To determine if any of your regular apps are 32-bit, do this:

  1. Go to your Applications > Utilities folder and open the Activity Monitor utility.
  2. Click the CPU tab at the top of the window, if it’s not already active.
  3. Choose View > Columns > Kind to make the Kind column visible.
  4. Click the Kind column heading to sort the list by Kind. Click it again to sort in descending order, so 32-bit apps show up at the top.

Catalina activity 32bit shadow

Those are the apps you need to update or replace before upgrading to Catalina. Or, ignore them and know they won’t launch after the upgrade.

If there are applications you use that are still 32-bit, such as an old but functional version of Quicken, one option is to continue to run them in a virtual machine in Parallels Desktop or VMware Fusion. See this article, “Moving to Catalina: Keep Your 32-Bit Mac Apps Running with Parallels” by Glenn Fleishman for more information.

Some apps may not run at all, even if they’re 64-bit. If you’re still holding on to Apple’s Aperture for photo editing and organization, this is the end of the line—it won’t open under Catalina. Your options are to move to Photos or another application such as Lightroom; stay on macOS Mojave as long as you can; or run it in a virtual machine.

Ok, here are the usual macOS upgrade caveats:

  • Make sure you have good backups before you update. In addition to Apple’s Time Machine feature, I recommend using SuperDuper or CarbonCopyCloner to create a separate bootable duplicate that you can start up your computer with if something goes sideways.
  • Go to the Mac App Store and apply any app updates before upgrading to Catalina. Also check any utilities that launch at startup, such as Default Folder or LaunchBar, and make sure they’re updated.
  • It’s usually a good idea to wait for the first maintenance update after a big “.0” (dot-zero) release, which fixes bugs that get shaken out by the first big release. But if you can’t wait, or don’t want to, make that’s fine as long as you have a backup.
  • Buy a copy of Take Control of Upgrading to Catalina, by Joe Kissell. And a copy of Take Control of Catalina by Scholle McFarland.
  • [Updated] Read this article at TidBITS that offers some cautions against upgrading just yet: macOS 10.15 Catalina ships, Upgrade with Caution.

I haven’t run into any show stopping problems with Catalina in my work so far, though I’ve only been testing it on the side while busy with other things. If you’re hesitant, it’s fine to wait and see how the update shakes out.

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