How to scan your Mac for 32-bit apps

17 April 2018, 10:02

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Much has been written about the up-coming switch to a 64-bit-only macOS (see Apple’s support document here). This also means that apps have to be 64-bit to run in the next version of macOS.

You can see what apps currently running on your system are 32-bit by opening Activity Monitor (you’ll find it in the Utilities folder of the Applications list in Finder), and then ensuring the CPU tab is selected. Then right-click on the column headings and select Kind from the list. A new column will be added at the right of the column listed, but you should now be able to use it to order the list by 32- and 64-bit apps.

But what about finding what 32-but apps lurk on your system? Surely you don’t have to run each and every one to find out which are 32-bit?

No, you don’t. One way to check is to open System Information, which is one of the macOS built-in diagnostic tools. Just hold down the Option key and click the Apple menu at the top left of the screen, then select the app’s entry at top of the menu. In the app window that appears, click the Applications heading under the Software heading at the left, and then select any app you’re interested in within the list at the top right. Look at the heading 64-Bit (Intel) beneath. If this reads No then the app is 32-bit.

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This takes time, though, and it’s not always easy to understand which app is being talked about. A better method would be to scan the system for 32-bit apps and produce a list. For this you can use the latest version of the Etrecheck system information tool. Use it to scan your system and then when it’s finished, in the results window, click Minor Issues at the left, and select the Review button alongside the 32-Bit Apps heading.

System and underlying third-party app components are reported in Etrecheck’s list alongside actual apps, but on my system Apple’s own DVD Player app, and a lot of the Adobe Creative Cloud tools, were reported as being 32-bit. Some very popular apps like the script writing tool Final Draft and the text editor TextWrangler are also reported as being 32-bit.

Curiously, I see a warning when running TextWrangler but not when running Final Draft. My guess would be that Etrecheck is reporting that some components of an app are 32-bit, rather than the entire thing being 32-bit.

(Note that Etrecheck blocks users taking a screenshot so the illustration below is taken with an iPhone camera. Blocking screenshots is a pretty dumb thing for Etrecheck to do, in my humble opinion.)

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