Mac 32-bit apps

Mac 32-bit Apps: a reader asks…

I have a 2015 Macbook Pro updated to Mojave 10.14.3. Recently, I have been receiving pop up warnings about incompatibility of my 32-bit apps as apple transitions to 64 bit technology. The notice recommends my contacting each developer. I have never heard of most of these apps except for microsoft word, where most of my documents are. (I recently started writing new documents in Pages). I don’t have a clue what this means and what, if anything, I should do about these. Any thoughts?

I’m focusing first on your statement that you haven’t heard of most of these apps. My guess is you either have someone else who used your Mac and installed them, or you forgot you installed those apps. Either way, if you’re not using those apps you should uninstall them. That’s usually as easy as dragging the app icon from the Applications folder (in Finder) to the trash.


It sounds like you were presented with a list of apps. By all means, you should print or save that list (for future reference). If you are using any of those apps, you should visit the software developer’s website and update/upgrade to the latest version, which will almost certainly be a 64-bit application. But the question is, do you need to do this right away? I think not (read on).

MacOS Mojave is the last version of the Mac operating system that Apple will let use both older 32-bit and newer 64-bit apps. So for now, you don’t have to do anything. But when the next version of macOS comes out, those old 32-bit apps will be incompatible and won’t work. You’ll need to delete those old apps or upgrade them to current versions in order to continue to use them.

Now let’s tackle the MS Office for Mac situation. If you’ve transitioned to Pages (the Mac word processing app), then you need not do anything right now. Even though most of your documents were created in Microsoft Word, you can easily import and convert them to Pages documents.

So the only thing you need to consider is whether to uninstall MS Office for Mac from your computer, or to upgrade the MS Office for Mac to the current version. Almost certainly you are using an older version of Office for Mac. Fyi, Office for Mac includes the Word app.


Microsoft started selling Office for Mac (all MS Office products) by subscription (aka “renting” the software) back in 2011, and has been aggressively pushing folks to purchase their software using that model instead of buying a single version outright. This subscription is called Office 365 and runs $79/year for one computer, or $99/year for up to 5 computers. Compare that with buying the current version of MS Office outright (at $250 one-time cost).


The problem with buying a version of any software these days has to do more with security than new features. All software has bugs and vulnerabilities, and software developers regularly release new versions. Sometimes annually, sometimes more or less often. If you buy a single version, you are either stuck with that version, or have to plunk down more money for the next version when it comes out. It doesn’t make good security sense to continue to use old and outdated (hence, insecure) software any more. The subscription model avoids this problem – as long as your subscription is active, you can always have the latest version.

I haven’t done a cost breakdown but think that you’re going to pay about the same over time either way. So by all means, I encourage using the subscription model for any software that can be sold that way. And I also recommend you look at the work you do on your Mac, and get rid of anything (apps) that you don’t actually use – that’s just good housekeeping.

You don’t say what version of MS Word you’re using now, if you leave a comment about that I can tell you the best way to uninstall it, should you choose that path. Unlike most Mac software, some MS Office versions require more work to correctly uninstall from a macOS computer – more than just dragging the program icon to the trash.

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  1. judy Reinecke

    My husband and I each have I Macs. He had to replace his hard drive and Apple installed Catalina on his computer. Well, wanting to be up to date, I did the same thing. Now we cannot use Window or Excel. Is out only option to purchase Microsoft Outlook 365? These are the only two apps that we use from Office. He has also been using Quicken 2007 which is no longer supported but he does not have access to that any longer.

    • Hi Judy, I’m going to guess that you had an older version of Microsoft Office (you say “Window or Excel” but I think you meant Word or Excel, or maybe also Outlook?). Apple gave lots of advance warning that macOS Catalina would not support any old 32-bit applications, so likely your version of Office is old enough to have been a 32-bit version.

      So yes, your only option is to purchase a more up-to-date version of MS Office. Years ago, Microsoft moved to a subscription model for selling Office (e.g., Office 365). The subscription model means you pay $70-100 per year for the use of all Office products, and can now always use the current version. The old model was sold by version only, so when a new version came out you either stuck with the old version and its security vulnerabilities, or had to pay again to buy the new version.

      Imo, given the current computer and online security threats, you should buy Office 365 as a subscription instead of trying to buy a standalone version of Office for your Macs. $100/year gets you a license for up to 5 computers (Mac or PC). Since there are two of you, that’s what you should do. ($70/year is a single computer license).

      And yes, Quicken 2007 is a very old bit of 32-bit software so won’t work in Catalina.

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