How to avoid music crashes with macOS Catalina

By | April 6, 2021

The desktop in macOS Catalina

If you use macOS on your music computer and install Catalina now, the risk this time is extra high that plugs, programs or sound cards will stop working. Read our checklist to make your transition smooth.

Apple is expected to release macOS Catalina very soon and it is both easy and tempting to click start the upgrade. But we are already used to the fact that upgrades to macOS can cause problems for some of the music programs or sound cards we use. Manufacturers of music software and hardware usually recommend waiting for an upgrade until their software or drivers have been updated.

This time is no exception. Native Instruments, iZotope, Slate Digital, GForce, IK Multimedia, Universal Audio, Reason Studios, Steinberg and Pro Tools are just some of the established manufacturers that have gone out and urged their users not to upgrade to Catalina yet. Even manufacturers of DJ software that uses songs in iTunes by its so-called xml database announces incompatibility.

This upgrade comes with another big change, as the support for 32-bit apps in macOS is completely abolished – and it can make up for it for those with slightly older software. In addition, drivers are required to follow the new and more secure DriverKit, which involves a major shift in how drivers communicate with the operating system’s kernel. From Catalina onwards, all drivers must be run in the user space and not as kernel extensions (kext), which will mean that the system will be significantly more stable and secure, which will ultimately benefit us who use it. But it happens at the expense of drivers that are no longer being developed will stop working, and thus the sound card they are made for. Unfortunately, Catalina with its 64-bit requirement and DriverKit will mean the end of an entire generation of software and hardware.

Although the transition to 64-bit began many years ago, some third-party apps and drivers have not yet been updated and are still only available in 32-bit.

But I want to drive Catalina
To begin with, macOS Catalina can be installed on the following computers:

  • MacBook 12 inches

  • MacBook Air (mid-2012 or later)

  • MacBook Pro (mid-2012 or later)

  • Mac mini (late 2012 or later)

  • iMac (late 2012 or later)

  • iMac Pro

  • Mac Pro (late 2013 or later)

If you have one of these computers, you can install Catalina. But before you do that, we strongly recommend following our checklist to make your transition as smooth as possible.

  1. Wait to install. Each new version of an operating system comes with several changes that may mean that third-party software needs to be updated to work. In addition, there is a risk that the operating system itself contains bugs that need to be fixed. In general, we can recommend waiting until at least one or two updates of Catalina have been released before upgrading, ie to macOS Catalina version 10.15.1 or 10.15.2.
  2. Make sure you do not have anything in 32 bits. You can see for yourself which 32-bit software is on your computer by clicking on the Apple menu ()> About This Computer> System Report. There you go down to the Software section and click on Programs. The 64-bit column (Intel) on the far right shows Yes if the program is in 64 bits and no if it is in 32 bits. Feel free to click on the column name to sort all programs. Scroll until you see all that are marked with No and you get a good summary of the ones you need to review. Go to the manufacturer’s site or contact their support to hear what options you have. If you have programs or apps with old versions that are no longer maintained with updates, you may need to purchase an upgrade to the latest version. If the app, plug or driver no longer comes in new versions, there is not much else to do but look for a newer and alternative product that is in 64-bit.
  3. Update your software before upgrading. Mainly existing 32-bit apps of course but also other software. This will definitely reduce the risk of problems during or after installation, provided that the manufacturer of your apps has even had time to make their software compatible with Catalina. Be sure to check that the drivers for your sound card support Catalina. This is probably the most important point. Do not proceed with the upgrade until you can beta it here. Load up with some coffee and get started.
  4. Make a backup. Especially if you choose to upgrade now before there are any security updates. It is easy to take the chance to install and skip the backup, but with an upgrade of this kind, we really want to encourage you to have a copy that is easy to return to if something turns out not to work satisfactorily. The easiest is probably to use the built-in Time Machine (see guide here) but other tools such as Acronis True Image 2019, Get Backup Pro, Carbon Copy Cloner or services like Backblaze of course also work.
  5. Run a Disk Check with Disk Utility before upgrading. We recommend that you start your Mac in macOS Recovery by holding down the Command (⌘) -R keys immediately when it starts, and then running Disk Utility from there. Note that you may need to enter the password you use for your Mac if the partition to be checked is encrypted.

A few concluding words
If today you have a music computer with macOS that works well and has what you need, then it may not be necessary to upgrade right now. There is always a risk of upgrading and this time there are more risks than normal that apps, plugs or drivers in a normal music computer stop working. But if you know for sure what you are doing and that your apps and drivers are compatible with the new macOS 10.15, you are well equipped with these steps to take the step to macOS Catalina.

Question: What is the difference between upgrading and updating?

Response: One upgrade is what you do when you go from one major version of a software to the next major version. As with macOS Catalina. With a upgrade It usually comes with several new and important features. An update is usually of lesser dignity and usually mainly contains security fixes.