How to Run Older Versions of macOS on M1 Mac

The M1 Macs received a warm welcome at launch, with most users praising its powerful CPU. Apple’s M1 Mac machines come pre-installed with macOS Big Sur, so you may be wondering if you can run an older version of macOS on an M1 Mac. Let’s find out in this guide.

Can M1 Macs Run macOS Catalina or other Older macOS?

Well, the answer is no. While Big Sur is able to run on both Intel and M1 chips, none of the previous versions of macOS are compatible with Apple’s new CPU.

The reasons are quite straightforward. Basically, all of the macOS versions before Big Sur were built to work with Intel’s processors (x86 instruction set only). 

Meanwhile, macOS Big Sur is totally different while supporting both the x86 format and RISC (Reduced Instruction Set Computing) architecture on the M1 chip. As a result, Apple’s M1-powered devices can’t go back to other previous operating systems.

How about Using an External Drive to Run Older macOS Versions on M1 Macs?

How to run older versions of macOS on M1 Mac

Using an external drive to run any macOS you want is a great solution for people who prefer the older versions. While this method is still possible on Intel-powered Macs, the M1 Macs simply don’t allow that. Although you can still run macOS from an external drive on your M1 Mac, it can only be macOS Big Sur.

Can M1 Mac Users use Parallels or VMware to run old macOS?

Another common way to run other macOS versions on your M1 device is to use a virtual machine. This software allows users to run both Windows 10 and macOS without resetting your machine. Unfortunately, even the two famous virtual machines like Parallels and VMware Fusion still don’t have the iterations to support the M1 devices.

According to a Parallels report, current versions of Parallels for Mac cannot run virtual machines on the M1 chip. But, the good news is the company has already started to work on a new version for the new M1 Macs.

Meanwhile, the VMware blog says that they can not confirm the release date of its M1-supported VMware version. But, the company is trying to deliver VMware virtual machines on Apple Silicon as soon as possible.

So, it looks like M1 Mac users will be able to use virtual machines to run other macOS on their devices in the future. But, for now, there’s nothing available for that purpose at the moment.

How to Run Older Versions of macOS Right Now?

In case you really need to use an old version of macOS, then the only answer here is using older Macs. The best option here is to use an older Mac model to run an older macOS and switch to the M1 for other tasks. And, of course, this is only possible when you have an old Mac lying around.

If that is not the case, then you should postpone your idea of moving to the M1-powered devices at the moment. We suggest you should wait until the new virtual machine software updates are available with Apple’s M1 chip support. Plus, the upcoming M1X Mac looks very promising and is expected to power the next-generation Mac machines. There is a good chance that the new chip will support running an older version of macOS. Let’s wait and see.

Just let us know in the comments if you have any questions about macOS Big Sur or M1 Macs!

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