How to identify PowerPC applications on Mac OS X

PowerPC chip became the primary CPU used in Mac in the nineties. Apple began its transition from PowerPC to Intel Mac with the first generation Mac in Jan 2006.

Apple remove the support of PowerPC apps starting with the release of Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard on Aug 2009. However running PowerPC apps is still possible under Mac OS X Snow Leopard by installing the optional Rosetta system software. With Mac OS X 10.7 Lion, the transition from PowerPC to Intel architecture is completed as Apple removes all support of running PowerPC apps.

Older applications such as Appleworks, Office 2004, Quicken 2007 and Photoshop CS4 are build for PowerPC processor only thus are not able to run under Mac OS X Lion. With the impending release of Mac OS X Lion later this month, it helps to identify if any of your apps are PowerPC apps before you start the upgrading.

To find out which are the PowerPC apps on your Mac, run the System Profiler utility under Applications->Utilities folder. Before running System Profiler, lets look at the four kind of applications under Mac OS X:

  • Classic: These are applications build for 68k processor, the predecessor of PowerPC.
  • Intel: These are Intel CPU native applications.
  • Universal: These are applications build for both PowerPC and Intel processor.
  • PowerPC:  These are applications build for PowerPC only.

We are looking for applications of “PowerPC” kind. Start the System Profiler utility app. On the left pane, click to select Software->Applications. System Profiler will now search for all applications in your Mac and list down the info for each app. It might take awhile for System Profiler to complete this task.


The application kind is listed under the column “Kind”. Look for “PowerPC”. You might want to click on the “Kind” column title to sort the display by kind type. Select the app to display the app details such as its location. Check if any of the essential apps you use are PowerPC apps before you plunge into the Lion upgrade.

Intel and Universal apps most likely will run fine under Mac OS X Lion. As with each major OS upgrade, it pays to check if your essential apps are compatible with Mac OS X Lion.