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Ask Max: OS 9 Emulation on an Intel Mac

Asked on 01/26/2006:

You said in your article "Apple Tries to Create Tranquility Out of 'Universal' Confusion" that the only option for running a PowerPC application is in emulation. By PowerPC application, do you mean an application running in OS X? What about Classic programs, will they run in emulation on an Intel machine? I ask because I have a Classic program that will not be updated ever to run in OS X. I am wondering if I will have to keep an older machine to run this application.


This is a common question, particularly among PowerMax customers. PowerMax is one of the only places anyone can buy an OS 9 booting Apple computer that have warranties, so we get people in your position calling every day. The bad news is that Intel Macs will not run classic applications at all. OS 9 is officially unsupported from Apple on Intel systems. The reason for this has to do with how the two emulators work. Classic was a component of OS X and not a stand-alone application. Rosetta is the same kind of OS component as Classic. In order for OS 9 applications to have worked on Intel Macs, a user would have to run Classic as part of OS X for the Power PC inside of OS X for Intel, which just isn't realistic. The other option would have been for Apple to create a different emulator for Classic altogether, but they are no longer willing to support that level of older software.

The lack of Classic is going to be a problem for you and many others, so you're not alone. The solution I have for you is basically what you suggested. What I would recommend is using two computers. Buy the best computer that you can find that will boot into OS 9. Install only your "Must Have" applications on it and keep that old system in the best working order possible. Then do everything else on your newer systems. Living a split digital life will not be overly convenient, but it's going to be the best solution apart from finding a new program to replace your old one.

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