Despite Apple’s long abandonment, it’s still possible to launch – and run – apps without 64-bit support like Aperture and older versions of iTunes on macOS Big Sur and Catalina. Here’s how to do it.
First of all. If your workflow really relies on Apple’s old image organizing tool, Aperture, you should be looking to replace it rather than resurrect it. But Aperture, as much as it had its fans, was discontinued five years ago, so you’ve surely moved your work to a new system now.
In this case, don’t see it as a replacement or a resurrection, but rather something to be savored. Where others have found workarounds to recover your old Aperture data, developer and IT consultant Tyshawn Cormier has created a system for you to reinstall and run the app itself.
You must have the app, but if it’s still not hidden on a drive somewhere, Cormier’s Retroactive app will prompt you to download it again from your previous purchases in the App Store.
What Retroactive does is bypass Apple’s macOS systems that first prevent installation and then run them. Cormier wrote what he calls a deep analysis of how it works and, in particular, the many, many steps he had to go through to get everything working for macOS Catalina.
He’s now made it work for macOS Big Sur as well, but the fact that he had to rework Retroactive for the new OS should be a warning. The same goes for the fact that only very specific old apps can run – and not all of them can make it to Big Sur.
What you can use and where
For macOS Catalina and macOS Big Sur, the Retroactive app will let you install and run Aperture, iPhoto, and several different versions of iTunes. But that’s all.
If you have access to a Mac running macOS Mojave or macOS High Sierra, you can get more. Macs running these systems can also install Final Cut Pro 7, Logic Pro 9, and iWork ’09.
Again, you must own the original apps. It’s a way to keep your apps running a little longer – and to have access to your old data if you haven’t exported it yet.
How to run Aperture and others on Catalina and Big Sur
- Download Retroactive from GitHub
- Run the app and choose Aperture, iPhoto, or iTunes
- Follow the instructions to authenticate the app with your login password
- Wait a few minutes
- Run your chosen application
Once this process is complete, you can run the app you want at any time by simply double-clicking on it. You do not need to run Retroactive again.
However, you can run it again in order to work with and use all of the other applications. There are, however, a few small differences in the process when you do this.
Aperture and iPhoto are both displayed with a To open button, while iTunes has Install. This is because Retroactive is able to grab older versions of iTunes and install them on its own, whereas you have to get Aperture and iPhoto from the App Store.
When you choose iTunes, you get more options than with the other two apps. There are different old versions to choose from and rather than a list of specs, Retroactive shows you a key feature of each to help you choose.
So you can choose to say that CoverFlow is what you really miss, and you’ll get iTunes version 10.7. Choose only the classic look and you will get iTunes 11.4, for example.
With all versions of iTunes available, the installation can take significantly longer than Aperture. In our testing, it only lasted a few more minutes, but Cormier warns it can take up to an hour.
It’s not a virtual Mac
Retroactive is not an emulator, such as the one that lets you run all of classic Mac OS 8 in macOS Catalina.
Instead, what it really does is find all the 32-bit frameworks that it relied on before, and find a way to replace them with modern 64-bit frameworks. So when your app tries to use a particular feature of macOS, it finds an equivalent. Or he tries to do it.
Even though you can install and run Aperture, iPhoto, and iTunes, on macOS Catalina and Big Sur, you can’t quite get all the features you had before. Specifically, Aperture and iPhoto don’t have the ability to play videos, use Photo Stream, or sign in to iCloud Photo Sharing.
There are other small issues, but overall it’s like stepping back in time to use these apps.
Retroactive is remarkable work. Maybe you’ll use it because you really need those old apps, but it will definitely give you a nostalgic surge.