Catalina broke my Adobe stuff into 32 bits, now what?
February 9, 2020 10:18 PM   Subscribe

I have an iMac using El Capitan, and I have a new MacBook Pro 16" using Catalina. What is the best way to move old El Capitan to the new MacBook?

I can't use Time Machine. (as that external HD is firewire800 which doesn't play well with the MacBook USB-C ports, and adapters aren't readily available).

Can Migration Assistant move the entire OS between the two macs? (ethernet with a usb-c adapter dongle). Or does Migration just do documents? I need the entire OS and docs.

FYI, I'll wipe the MacBook before doing any transfer. Later I'll upgrade El Cap to Mojave.

Thanks for your advice!
posted by artdrectr to Computers & Internet (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
If this chart is correct (and I'm pretty sure it is), Catalina is the earliest version of the OS that you can run on a 16" MBP. Those came out too recently for there to have ever been a version of Mojave that ran on it. The only supported versions are the one that came with the machine or a newer version.

It's possible to jump through a whole set of hoops to downgrade a compatible machine to Mojave, like an older 2019 Macbook Pro, but no version of Mojave will have the drivers for the 16" model, and any attempt to create some sort of hybrid version is unlikely to be a good idea.

You could install Mojave as a virtual machine in Parallels or VMWare Fusion.
posted by zachlipton at 11:20 PM on February 9 [3 favorites]

As zachlipton says, you can’t. Older versions of OSX won’t have the hardware support for a brand new piece of Apple hardware - Apple doesn’t backport such support to older releases of OSX when they start selling new hardware.

(Here, "you can’t" stands in for: sure, anything is possible with sufficient time & effort.You almost certainly cannot justify the amount of time & effort involved, even if it was legally permissible, which it might not be.)

Sadly the Catalina release has been managed badly by Apple - when John Gruber is calling Apple out for being crap then you know it must be bad.

Your choices appear to be: 1) Sign up to the Adobe subscription service in order to use their tools on your new MacBook or 2) Buy a laptop that supports Mojave (and get to play keyboard roulette as a side-bonus, because all those laptops have unreliable keyboards). or 3) See if Mojave will install in a virtual machine on your new MacBook & run your Adobe tools in there. If you rely on GPU-support then this may or may not work reliably or at full performance. 1&3 both require finding a replacement for Time Machine, which I’m told doesn’t work well on Catalina anyway.

(Oh, or 4: do what lots of people have done and go: "F. this for a game of soldiers" and bought a PC so that they can run their old versions of Photoshop etc. Do Mac licences of Photoshop also apply to the equivalent PC releases?)

Sorry :(
posted by pharm at 4:44 AM on February 10 [2 favorites]

The only way I can think of you might be able to do it would be to create media from the installer and try to do a clean install on the MacBook Pro.

However, I think zachlipton is correct in that older macOS releases are probably not going to be compatible with newer hardware. Unlike Microsoft, Apple doesn't really worry about users who need older versions of macOS buying newer hardware - they just expect everybody to stay in lockstep with their updates and throw old hardware and devices out the door when they stop issuing updates or break compatibility.

If you have older apps that you can run in a VM that is probably your best way forward. Also, pretty sure that El Capitan is no longer getting any sort of security updates, so if you do manage to wrestle it onto a MBP, be very wary about connecting it to open networks, etc.
posted by jzb at 4:46 AM on February 10

From your post I'm unclear exactly why you're trying to move El Capitan to newer hardware (if it's actually something to do with Adobe there's almost certainly a better way), but if you like fiddling with computers as much or more than being productive, the hackintosh community has a number of tools that among other things (such as running OSX on non-mac hardware) allow moving drivers among OSes and dual-booting mac OSes.

TonyMac and the hackintosh subreddit are fertile zones for inquiry, if that's the direction you want to take.
posted by aspersioncast at 5:35 AM on February 10

Do Mac licences of Photoshop also apply to the equivalent PC releases?

Later I'll upgrade El Cap to Mojave.
If you are doing this to run CS 6 it doesnt run properly on anything newer than 10.12 Sierra.

The easiest route to getting this to work will be buying second hand mac hardware, but that will still be unsupported so really it is now time to choose between paying the Adobe tax or finding some alternative software.
posted by Lanark at 7:49 AM on February 10


Each of you have provided crucial info I didn't know before buying.

aspersioncast: yes, I'm trying to hold on to my Adobe CS5/6 and MS Office.

Not interested in VMWare Fusion or Parallels, too much for me to deal with constantly.

Good news: I can still return the MBP 16".

There appears to be 2019 15.4" MBPs available.
However it ships with Mojave, which sounds like it also will not work with my apps.

Can you advise then would be the latest (and largest screen) MacBook Pro that will work with my apps?
posted by artdrectr at 10:07 AM on February 10

This may not be a popular answer, but you're kinda standing against the tide here. My meta-advice would be to ensure you really, really, really need to stay on 32-bit apps before you embark on a plan to thwart this particular tide. It could be that the additional work required to stay on 32-bit is more of a hassle than just accepting the 64-bit world.
posted by uberchet at 10:53 AM on February 10

To answer my own q, using zachlipton's compatibilty link, it looks like finding a 15" Touch Mid 2017 MBP would work.

But I tend to agree with you uberchet.
At this point, I'll probably use my old iMac with 32bit apps (scanning sw, Photoshop, Quicken, etc), and take the leap with my new 16" MBP and pay for a few subscriptions (Office, Acrobat, etc).

Baby steps.
posted by artdrectr at 11:02 AM on February 10

I've been putting off upgrading until I buy a new machine for this same reason. I know that my CS6 will break once I am on the new OS. The thing is, at some point we all have to either move to Adobe CC or chose a different software to use. It's been out there that this was coming for years, sorry if this is your first warning. I plan to pay the Adobe tax when the new 13" MBP comes out, kicking and screaming.
posted by Bunglegirl at 2:31 PM on February 10

In my dreams Apple will just take over Adobe, reduce the prices to something sensible and then we will all be able to go out and buy new Macs. The entire Market Cap. of Adobe is equal to about 8 months of Apple's revenue so they could do it if they wanted to.
posted by Lanark at 2:49 PM on February 10

If it makes decision making any easier, I run CS5 on High Sierra with very little problem. That said, I pretty much only use Photoshop, InDesign and Illustrator and none of the extraneous applications, so ymmv.

The only bug I've encountered is all three applications crash on quit, which, whatever.)
posted by General Malaise at 3:23 PM on February 10

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