If your Mac shows application icons with a crossed-out icon, macOS cannot run the application. While there could be multiple causes, the most likely thing is that you recently upgraded macOS and it no longer supports 32-bit applications. Here̵
First, the other reasons why an app won’t run
Basically, a crossed-out application icon means that something is preventing the application from running through macOS. This could be for a variety of reasons, including the app package being corrupted or invalid, the app written for a different architecture (e.g. a PowerPC app on an Intel Mac), or the app being untrusted and not given permission is still running.
In these cases, the best thing to do is to make sure that you are running the latest version of the app (check the developer’s website for updates) and possibly try reinstalling the app from a clean source if it got corrupted. However, these are usually rare cases.
The current problem: Apple no longer supports 32-bit Mac software
Starting with macOS 10.15 Catalina (released October 2019), macOS no longer supports running 32-bit apps. If you have a 32-bit application on your Mac in Catalina or later, you’ll see a crossed-out icon over the icon in Finder, Launchpad, and Dock.
If you try to run any of these crossed-out apps, you’ll see a message stating that it needs to be updated.
But why? And what does “32-bit application” actually mean?
It is difficult to summarize the meaning of the terms “32-bit app” or “64-bit app” without writing a technical research paper. However, when you put it together, both terms refer to how much memory (RAM) and processing power an application can use. A 64-bit application can use significantly more memory (which allows larger files to be loaded) and theoretically perform much more complex tasks than a 32-bit application.
Because Macs have supported 64-bit applications for over a decade, Apple considers 32-bit applications to be legacy software that should be updated to take full advantage of the latest computer hardware. In Catalina, Apple decided to force the problem by banning 32-bit software entirely.
Can I ever use my strikethrough Mac apps again?
With Apple looking to advance the technology, it’s unlikely you’ll ever be able to run 32-bit Mac software natively on new versions of macOS again. So if you are faced with strikethrough apps, here are some strategies to deal with them.
- Check for a 64-bit app update: If you have a preferred 32-bit app that has stopped working, visit the developer website to see if a 64-bit version of the app is available. Alternatively, you can check for a newer version in the Mac App Store.
- Search and alternative application: If a 32-bit app hasn’t been updated by the developer, you can try finding a newer app that does the same. A good place to start is the Mac App Store.
- Are you using an older Mac: If you have an older replacement Mac that was running a version of macOS prior to Catalina, you can use that computer to run older 32-bit apps and never update macOS. However, this poses certain security risks. At some point, security holes in older apps or operating systems are no longer fixed, making the computer a ripe target for malware in the future.
- Are you running an older version of macOS in a virtual machine: Thanks to virtualization software such as Parallels Lite, it is possible to run an older version of macOS virtually in the latest version of macOS. That way, you can keep using your old 32-bit apps in the future – as long as you have a virtual machine that supports them.
- Downgrade to macOS 10.14 Mojave: As a last resort, if you absolutely rely on your 32-bit apps to get your job done, you can reinstall a previous version of macOS like Mojave, the last version to support 32-bit apps, and no other Mac have. It’s a risky process, however, so back up your Mac first.
Even so, it’s best to upgrade or continue
Just as we said goodbye to 16-bit applications a long time ago, time is moving on and leaving certain technologies behind. This is actually a good thing as newer apps can take advantage of more powerful computers and better development techniques. Also, for security reasons, you should continuously update your software whenever possible. Good luck!