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macOS X 10.15 Catalina is here: this is what musicians and producers need to know

macOS Catalina
(Image credit: Apple)

Apple has confirmed that macOS X Catalina, the latest version of its desktop operating system, is now available. As always, this is a free update for Mac users with compatible hardware.

Like many people, musicians may be tempted to upgrade straight away, but there are plenty of reasons to hold off doing so for a while, not least the ‘general’ and sometimes unpredictable teething problems that often reveal themselves when a new OS is released.

More specifically, Catalina brings in new software verification processes and ends support for 32-bit apps, so there’s a pretty good chance that some of your music software - be it your DAW, plugins, or both - won’t initially be compatible.

In fact, both Native Instruments and Ableton have said that their software isn’t currently supported in Catalina, and have advised users not to upgrade until it is. On the plus side, Apple’s own Logic Pro will be compatible.

DJs should also be wary: with the demise of iTunes, your music library may no longer sync with your DJing software, as the new Music app that replaces it doesn’t have XML file export support.

What if I do want to upgrade to Catalina?

If you really must upgrade to Catalina on day one, your first job should be to check if there are any 32-bit applications installed on your machine that you rely on. You can do this by selecting About This Mac from the Apple menu, then clicking System Report and scrolling down to Applications. You’ll then be able to see which applications are 64-bit compatible (and will continue to run in Catalina) and which aren’t.

It’s also worth noting that, if you do start installing Catalina, you’ll be presented with a dialog that shows your recently used 32-bit-only apps. If any of these is essential to you, you can back out of the installation at this point.

We’ll say again, though: the best advice is to check that all of your music software and hardware is officially supported before upgrading. Otherwise, you do so at your own risk.

Ben Rogerson

I’m the Group Content Manager for MusicRadar, specialising in all things tech. I’ve been playing the piano, gigging in bands and failing to finish tracks at home for more than 30 years, 20 of which I’ve also spent writing about music technology. 

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