Older Mac woes

One of the items on my list of ‘to do’s’ this summer is to update my (almost) perfectly functional 2012 vintage MacBookPro (with added SSD) from Mojave to Catalina. Main thing that’s been holding me back is that I still use MS Office 2011 and the only replacement my employer offers is the subscription-based version, which I’ve been trying to avoid – esp. since I’ll lose access when I retire and I refuse to accept a monthly payment to Microsoft.

But I wonder: Is Apple intending to stop supporting Catalina this fall when the newest MacOS becomes available? Is this update going to prove futile in just a few months?

BTW, I’ve been seeing a ‘Service Battery’ notice for a year or 2. Pandemic-era complications delayed my plans to get a new battery, and now after all this time I’m wondering if that’s worth the trouble or not.

Curious what folks here think.

I use Catalina with a 2012 Mac Mini which can’t be upgraded any further under normal circumstances. If your version of Office needs Mojave, then you could always update and then run VMware Fusion with your Mojave installation for Office under Catalina. The VMware license is free for personal use:

VMware Fusion can use disk images to install the OS so before updating, make an image as well as backup of your Mojave volume for the Fusion installation. That way, you don’t have to start from scratch installing Mojave unless you want to go that route.

Understand the hesitancy. Apple seems have an unwritten policy of supporting the current plus last two releases. When Ventura ships, Catalina then becomes N-3.
If past behavior is any indication then I would think Catalina drops off the end of the world.

Unlike Microsoft, and major Unix vendors, Apple does not publish Software Lifecycle information. However, as mentioned above, their unofficial “policy” seems to be current - 2. At least one major educational institution has announced internal EOS for Catalina based on Apple’s prior history (this is from December, 2021):

Expect Catalina support to end in 2022

With Apple’s expected release of a new macOS version next year, Catalina will be the third oldest version and will cease to be supported next year. When this occurs, SCSCF will stop providing software support for all computers running macOS 10.15 Catalina on November 30, 2022.

I’m shocked that institutional users and developers of Apple products do not demand that Apple publishes a software lifecycle policy. It’s irresponsible not to have one especially in this day and age where people need to know when and if their devices are going to get security updates.

Way past the time for Apple to step up and “put on their big boy pants” and act like a responsible software provider.


Maybe this will help. Microsoft Office, in whole or parts, can be purchased outright. I purchased Excel 2016 for $140. I get the same “health” updates as the subscribers but not the new stuff. No big deal, don’t need it or the rest of the Office programs. I figure my breakeven is 2 yrs 9 months and I’ll then be ahead of the subscription. Maybe get a new version in the 4th year. MS Office suite is at version 20 now.

If $140 is too much, look into the used market. if you do, you must get the associated product key and the seller must not be using it. MS has gotten stricter in managing keys, i.e., 1 key, one device.

If you go the VM route, lack of memory may be an issue. You’ll have two operatring systems vying for it, i.e. memory swapping. You will also have another operating system on your guest vm stored on disk. I use Parallels to host one application on my late 2013 MBP with 16GB memory and 256GB disk. It’s vm contains Windows 10 and that is just short of 21GB.

HTH. Mike

Thanks. Unfortunately I use Word, Excel and Powerpoint fairly regularly. I used to be able to buy the latest MS Office from UVM for around $15; it’s truly annoying that they’ve gone subscription-only. Still not sure if I’m going to even bother to upgrade to Catalina on this Mac, though…

Microsoft’s Office Home & Student 2021 is a standalone license for Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook and OneDrive and has an MSRP of $150. It can only be installed on one computer.

Compared to a subscription for Microsoft 365 Personal (MSRP of $70/yr - one user, any number of computers), the break-even point is slightly longer than two years. If you don’t upgrade very often and you will only install it on one computer, the standalone license might be a good deal.

But if you have multiple computers, not so much so. In my home, I have it installed on four computers and it is used by two people. Four standalone licenses would cost $600. A family subscription (up to 6 users, unlimited computers) costs $100/yr (and can often be purchased at a discount - my last renewal cost $85 for 15 months from Costco). The break-even point here is 6 years at MSRP and almost 9 years if the discount I got from Costco will be available over the entire period.

You could easily make the case that you won’t upgrade to a new version or buy a new computer in less than two years. It’s very hard to make the same argument when you’re talking about 6-9 years.

Of course, you may object to subscriptions for reasons other than pricing. I will make no attempt to argue with someone who has such an objection.


Here’s another thing to keep in mind with perpetual, one-time licenses.
Yes, they do allow you to run the product in perpetuity. You never have to pay another cent or euro or whatever your currency is to run the software.

The fine print:

  • The software doesn’t get new functionality with a perpetual license. May or may not make any difference, except if Microsoft wants to support some really useful new macOS feature.
  • The software has an end of support date. Right now Office 2021 has a end of support date of October 2026. No more bug fixes or security updates after that date. You can continue to run it. but if anything happens or a security issue pops up, you’re out of luck.
  • I would also be concerned that once a new Office release appears, Microsoft will stop proliferating support of the older Office version on macOS versions that are released after the new Office version. Which means a locked-in configuration unless you upgrade Office.

Just something to be aware of - your situation will decide if a perpetual license is appropriate for your needs.

I’ll likely end up settling for the $150 version at some point, but it’s frustrating since I used to be able to get it at the university store for $15!

Stacksocial sometimes has a sale of MS Office 2021. Now $70, but was cheaper earlier.

Is there a catch?

I just looked. At this moment, they are offering the “Home & Business” edition (primary difference being that it is licensed for commercial use) for $50 (vs. MSRP of $250, even though StackSocial claims MSRP is $350).

I don’t know what “the catch” is. Assuming it is legitimate, then they are probably getting a bulk-purchase discount from Microsoft (much like large retailers do) and are choosing to pass along most or all of the savings.

I have used Microsoft Office, mainly Excell for many years. Two years ago I tried to move over to Numbers and it went well. I receive some Word docx files now and then. Most will open nicely in Pages, or you can try LibreOffice or Google Docs.

Sounds like you were taking advantage of a site license, and that’s still available to current students, faculty, and staff at UVM. For free, so cheaper than before. :-)


Of course, if you’re not current at UVM, that site license isn’t available, but that’s presumably just because UVM is choosing not to pay for such folks.

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I concur. $15 is effectively a “media charge” to pay for the cost of a CD and packaging.

I suspect that if you’d read the fine print on the license terms for that distribution, it would say something about only being legal if you’re currently student, faculty or staff at the site. But with a standalone license, there would be no way for MS to revoke the license after you leave the organization.

With a subscription that’s tied to the university’s site license, you will be given a Microsoft ID tied to the university (probably a UVM e-mail address), and that ID will become invalid once you leave the university, as a part of closing out your university account.

At least this is how it worked for my daughter when she was in college, and how my employer’s site license for Office Enterprise currently works (using my corporate e-mail as the Microsoft ID for that license).

Yes, I’m aware of all this. Just not sure how much longer I’ll be teaching there, which is why I want to have a version I can retain access to. I know switching to Apple’s office suite is always an option, and that Google docs. are often best for collaborations, but my personal practice is to avoid being logged in to Google as much as possible.

Curious if Adam has a thought re: whether updating to Catalina is worth the trouble at this time (last MacOS that’s compatible with my 2012 vintage MBPro).

I suppose it comes down to: How important is it that you not pay for the suite you’re using? If it is important, then there are several options that will work (with varying levels of compatibility with Microsoft documents), including Apple’s apps, Google’s web-apps, LibreOffice and others.

If, however you feel that using the actual Microsoft suite is important, I think the pricing is pretty reasonable, even though it won’t come close to your university’s pricing.

And one nice thing is that if you install Microsoft 365 via your university (using the university’s Microsoft ID) and you later want to switch to a personal/family subscription, you don’t need to reinstall anything. Activate your subscription, then sign out from your university ID and sign in to your personal ID and it will just continue working.

Are you doing anything where you think it might matter? And what version of macOS is it currently running?

I never had any problems with Catalina, but in my case it came pre-loaded on a 2018 Mac mini. The biggest potential concern for you is that Catalina drops support for 32-bit apps. If you have any you need to run, you’ll need to upgrade them. In my case, the ones I had to pay to upgrade were Photoshop Elements and FileMaker. Everything else I could either upgrade for free or just abandoned (but didn’t delete in case I decide to set up a VM to run them on).

Another possible concern might be moving from iTunes to the decentralized suite of Music, Books and Podcasts, with sync running via the Finder. For me, there weren’t any major problems (aside from a one-time glitch during system migration), but you should note that Music doesn’t support Internet Radio the way iTunes did. If you use that feature, you’ll need to get a different app.

(I don’t know if an upgrade will force you to migrate over or if you can keep using a pre-installed iTunes. I suspect it will depend on whether iTunes is/was 32- or 64-bit. In my case, it was migrating to a new system, so I didn’t have that option.)

If you were making bootable backups with Carbon Copy Cloner, you can continue to do so with Catalina, but the boot system did change to separate system/data volumes, so your backups will be different. I would recommend wiping your clones and starting fresh (or get new drives if you want to keep your older backups). The issues that make it difficult to produce a bootable Big Sur (and later) backup shouldn’t affect Catalina.


The OP can still use iTunes in Catalina by using the Retroactive app to install as has been discussed in other threads. Works great for me and others have indicated as well.

I’m not sure there’s a big win for you in that. A 2012 MacBook Pro is probably nearing the end of its effective lifespan, so it might be just as easy to stick with what you have until it’s time to buy a new M-based Mac.

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