The latest Apple Silicon Macs are also incompatible with 32-bit games or apps and if you’re trying to run a 32-bit app or game on one, we recommend you skip to the section on 32 bit games and apps on Apple Silicon Macs.
If you try to run a 32 bit-app in Sonoma, Ventura, Monterey, Big Sur, Catalina or an M-series Mac, you’ll get the following “App is not optimized for your Mac and needs to be updated” error message:
However, the problem for some Mac users is there are still some older applications and games that are still 32-bit only.
The most notable program is Microsoft Office 2011 but there are also others like MT4, Adobe CS5 and CS6, Aperture, older versions of iTunes, iBooks, iPhoto and some Steam games which are still 32-bit only.
The same applies to some music production or DJ software for Mac that have lots of 32 bit plugins that will no longer work in the latest versions of macOS or on an M1/M2/M3 Mac.
The main reason Macs don’t support 32-bit apps anymore is because they are inefficient. By making sure that all apps are 64-bit, macOS is less bloated, more secure and faster.
32-bit apps use older code that is simply outdated now and maintaining a legacy code is both time consuming and less secure in any operating system including macOS.
You can read more about Apple’s reasoning for transition to 64-bit here.
How To Tell If An App Is 32 or 64-Bit
Here’s how to check whether the game or app you want to use is 32 or 64-bit compatible.
Go to the Apple logo in the top left of your screen and select About This Mac > System Report
In the left menu bar, scroll down to Software > Applications.
In the last column on the right, you can see whether the game or application is 32 or 64 bit Intel compatible.
You can also check if are any 32-bit apps on your Mac by going to the Apple logo and selecting About This Mac > System Report… > Software > Applications and checking the Kind field in the panel below
How To Play 32-Bit Games on a Mac
The best way to play 32 bit games or run 32 bit apps on macOS Sonoma, Ventura, Monterey, Big Sur, Catalina or M-series Macs is to install a virtual machine on a Mac.
On Intel Macs you can then use a virtual machine to run an older 32 bit compatible version of macOS such as macOS Mojave or run Windows on your Mac (if the app or game you want to play also works on Windows of course).
This enables you to open applications in 32-bit mode on a Mac.
There are various virtual environments you can use to play 32 bit games or apps but not all of them work on macOS Sonoma, Ventura, Monterey, Big Sur Catalina or M1/M2/M3 Macs because some of them (such as Wine) are 32-bit applications themselves and don’t work on the latest versions of macOS.
We therefore recommend the best way to install 32-bit apps on a Mac nowadays is by using Parallels.
Parallels allows you to run Windows and older 32-bit compatible versions of macOS (such as Mojave, Sierra and High Sierra) simultaneously so whenever you need to use a 32 bit app, you can just switch to your Windows or older macOS installation in Parallels.
Due to the complexities of running 32-bit apps in Windows ARM on an M1/M2/M3 Mac, it also may not work with every game or application.
Be aware also that if you want to use a 32-bit plugin such as for a music application, the entire music production suite must be installed in the virtual environment.
You can’t install the 32-bit plugin in Parallels and expect it to work with your music software installed in the latest versions of macOS due to technological limitations.
Parallels has provided full instructions on how to run 32 bit apps on an Intel Mac, using an installation of High Sierra as an example but the same method would apply if you were installing Mojave or Windows instead.
Running 32 bit games and apps in Sonoma, Ventura, Monterey, Catalina and Big Sur on Apple Silicon Macs is more complicated than on Intel Macs.
Older versions of macOS in a virtual environment only work with Intel chips. So only Intel Macs can install older versions of macOS such as Mojave or High Sierra.
And Boot Camp does not work with M-series Macs so you can’t install older versions of macOS using Boot Camp on an Apple Silicon Mac.
So there’s no way to install an older version of macOS on an Apple Silicon Mac to run 32 bit games and apps.
However, M-chip Macs can run a 32 bit version of Windows 10 and Windows 11 using Parallels so if the 32-bit game or application you want to run is available on Windows you can run with Windows version on an Apple Silicon Mac.
Crossover is the best option as it supports the widest ranges of games although because its a commercial product, you do have to pay a subscription of $74 to use (although its well worth it). You can download a free trial of Crossover.