MacOS Big Sur on Intel CPUs and Apple Silicon


In the summer of 2020, Apple announced plans to move away from Intel based x86/64 bit processors to their own custom designed processors. The new processors are based on ARM technology and are not backwards compatible with previous versions of macOS. Current Intel based software must be recompiled or re-written to run on Apple M1 CPUs. 

  • Big Sur was released as part of that plan in November of 2020.
  • Starting in spring of 2021, new mac computers come with macOS Big Sur pre-installed.
  • Intel Mac computers can upgrade to macOS Big Sur. MacOS Big Sur is backwards compatible with Intel processors.
  • On macs with M1 chips, MacOS Big Sur offers a translation layer called Rosetta 2 that can translate many Intel based applications.
  • Wikipedia List of Apple products that include the M1 chip.

Apple M1 Processor software compatibility

Because the new Apple Processors are based on ARM rather than Intel technology. Apps that ran on previous Mac hardware must be recompiled, rewritten or run on a translation layer in order to run on Apple devices with M1 CPUs.

Rosetta 2

Rosetta 2 is a translation layer that can enable a Mac with Apple M1 processors to run Apps intended for use on an Intel processor. The first time you try to run an Intel built app, the system may ask you to install Rosetta 2. This process only takes a few moments, but it does require administrator privileges.

Rosetta 2 should be able to translate most Intel apps. However, if you experience performance issues or other bugs, you should contact the application developers to see if there is a new version that can natively use Apple M1 processors.

Rosetta 2 cannot fully translate applications that require use of kernel extensions.

Intel Processor software compatibility

For the most part, 64 bit apps that were compatible with macOS Catalina should continue to work on Big Sur on Intel based Macs. 

The one major change is the change from support from Kernel Extensions (Known as KEXTs) to System Extensions. KEXTS are no longer supported even in a legacy mode by Big Sur. Any software or hardware device driver that depends on loading a kernel extension will not function until they are updated by the app developer to use the new System Extension framework.

Reference Links

Apple Silicon or Apple M1 Chip

Big Sur

Rosetta 2


Article ID: 1092
Mon 3/1/21 10:21 AM
Mon 11/1/21 2:33 PM