How To Run PowerPC apps on Mac OS X Lion

So, enticed by smooth gestures, full-screen apps and an iOS-like Launchpad, you’ve made the move to Apple’s latest big cat, Lion. The company’s made no secret of the fact that with this release, they’re ditching support for applications in Power PC format. Yet this is a hard hit to take if you use Logic, Photoshop, Dreamweaver or any number of industry-standard applications in their current iterations. Is it possible to claw back control over these apps on your new operating system?

What is the PowerPC format?

Mac apps come in three different flavours: PowerPC, Universal and Intel. As you’d expect, the latter is fine, as all Macs these days run with Intel processors. Universal is similarly problem-free, as it includes both Intel and PowerPC support – the only problem being that this dual support increases the file size of these apps and eats up disk space. PowerPC, though, is where the difficulties are found. The format needs to be translated before Macs can run these applications, and the translation is done using a process called Rosetta.

With Lion, Apple is getting rid of Rosetta, and so making it impossible for Macs to read the untranslated PowerPC code. The theory behind this is that because the translation process makes these apps run slower, it’s best to get rid of them altogether and stick to Intel format. However, there are ways of reintroducing Rosetta and breathing new life into your PowerPC apps.

Run your Mac with dual boot

Although Lion doesn’t include Rosetta support, Snow Leopard runs it without a grumble. One solution to the PowerPC problem, then, is to partition your hard drive and install one OS in either partition.

To do this, launch Disk Utility. Selecting your hard drive, choose ‘Partition’ from the toolbar. Click the ‘+’ icon underneath the graphic representation of the drive (showing how much space is used up). The graphic will now show a split in the hard drive. You can choose to partition the drive into two equal parts (default), or perhaps to make a smaller SL partition – just change the value in the ‘Size’ box.

Once this is done, hit ‘Apply’ – your disk is now partitioned. The first half contains OS X Lion, and it’s your task to install SL in the second half. Do this by inserting the installation CD your Mac (pre-summer 2011) and choosing to install on the newly-made second partition.

When you next boot up your Mac, hold down the Option key when you press the Power button. This will take you to a screen allowing you to choose which OS you want to load – 10.6 or 10.7. The next time you need to run a PowerPC application, boot up in Snow Leopard and you’ll be good to go.

Run PowerPC apps in a virtual environment

If a dual boot setup isn’t your thing, consider, running SL virtually from within your Lion OS. To do this, you’ll need an application that can create a virtual environment, such as VirtualBox (https://www.virtualbox.org/wiki/Downloads). This app guides you through the process well, allowing you to allocated hard drive space and even a specific amount of RAM. Once this is up and running, a Snow Leopard environment with support for Rosetta will be created, and you’ll have an easy way to run PowerPC apps without having to reboot.

Who says you can’t have your cake and eat it? Go ahead and enjoy the new features Lion brings, while knowing that at a moment’s notice, you can create the right environment for your PowerPC apps to come back to life.

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Comments

  1. Jene' Lavigne says

    What if you had a Macintosh HD? I have a MacBook Pro and I THINK it’s a Lion, but your picture is different from mine (as shown below). I’m kind of scared of the next step because I do not know what this will do to my Mac. I’m good with computers, but I’m still wary with what I do with them. Will my applications be alright if I do this? I just want to enjoy my childhood game, StarCraft Brood War, without messing anything up…

  2. Jene' Lavigne says

    What if you had a Macintosh HD? I have a MacBook Pro and I THINK it’s a Lion, but your picture is different from mine (as shown below). I’m kind of scared of the next step because I do not know what this will do to my Mac. I’m good with computers, but I’m still wary with what I do with them. Will my applications be alright if I do this? I just want to enjoy my childhood game, StarCraft Brood War, without messing anything up…

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