Data Doctors: What to know about the MacOS Catalina upgrade

Q: I upgraded to Catalina on my Mac and now Microsoft Office won’t work. What can I do?

One of the common side effects of tech companies taking their platforms to new levels is older software programs that no longer work.

The most recent version of Apple’s MacOS — known as Catalina — is frustrating users who upgraded without realizing their older 32-bit programs would no longer run properly.

If you have Office 2016, you should be able to upgrade to the 64-bit version, through Microsoft’s standard upgrade process, if it hasn’t already been updated.

But if your version of Microsoft Office is older than Office 2016 v15.35, you’ll have to choose from a variety of costly or time-consuming options.

Option 1: Buy new software

You can get the Office Home & Student 2019 bundle from Microsoft for $149.99 or the Office Home & Business bundle for $249.99. The primary difference between the two is that the business version includes Outlook.

Option 2: Rent Microsoft Office

Microsoft is trying to get users to convert from a single-purchase package that will eventually expire to their subscription ‘SaaS’ (Software as a Service) platform Office 365.

This means you either pay monthly ($6.99 for Home & Student) or annually ($69.99 for Personal or $99 for Business) from now on.

Option 3: Switch to Google’s offerings

If your productivity software needs are more basic, you may find the free options available from Google through a Google Drive account acceptable.

Those options include Docs, Sheets and Slides, which are Google’s less-powerful versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint. Though it’s a web-based tool, there are options for editing your documents offline as well.

Option 4: Revert to Mojave

There is no simple way to go back to the previous MacOS version (Mojave), so this option is very time consuming and complicated — you’ll have to wipe your hard drive and reinstall everything. Depending upon which version of the MacOS your computer shipped with, you may need an external hard drive to complete the reversion.

How to check for 32-bit programs

For those who are considering upgrading to Catalina, a good first step is to see what 32-bit programs you are running and determine whether they are important to you.

To do this, click on the Apple icon in the upper left corner of your screen, then on “About This Mac”, and then on “System Report.” When the report opens up, scroll down to the Software section and click on “Applications.”

An alphabetical list of applications will appear with various details about each one. If you scroll to the far right, you should see a column that says “64-Bit” and the words “Yes” or “No” for each application. To make it easier to see the application name and whether it’s 64-bit, drag the 64-bit header from the far right to the far left so it’s right next to the “Application Name” column.

Go through the list looking for your critical programs to make sure they are 64-bit, or to see whether a 64-bit version is available from the program creator, before upgrading to Catalina.

Ken Colburn is founder and CEO of Data Doctors Computer Services. Ask any tech question on Facebook or Twitter.

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