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How to run Aperture, iPhoto, and iTunes on macOS Big Sur and macOS Catalina

After updating to macOS Big Sur or macOS Catalina, Aperture and iPhoto no longer runs, and iTunes is replaced by Music, TV, and Podcasts. If you still need to run Aperture, iPhoto or iTunes on macOS Big Sur or macOS Catalina, the Retroactive app makes it easy. Just follow these 6 simple steps.

Step 1: Download the Retroactive app.

The Retroactive app can modify Aperture, iPhoto, or iTunes to run on macOS Big Sur and macOS Catalina. Download the Retroactive app here.

Step 2: Open Retroactive.

After downloading Retroactive, double click to open it. macOS may prompt you “Retroactive cannot be opened because it is from an unidentified developer.” This is completely normal and expected.

To open Retroactive, right-click on the Retroactive app in Finder, and click “Open” as shown below.

If you right-clicked when opening Retroactive for the first time, you need to right-click for a second time. If Retroactive still can’t be opened, check your GateKeeper settings under the General tab in System Preferences > Security & Privacy. Click “Open Anyway” to open Retroactive.

Retroactive will not harm your Mac. This alert only shows up because Retroactive is not notarized. Retroactive is open source, so you can always examine its source code to make sure it’s safe.

Step 3. Pick an app.

Pick the app you want to run on macOS Big Sur or macOS Catalina. If you want to run multiple apps from here, pick any one of them. You will always be able to get back to this screen later.

I’ll use Aperture as the example, but the same process also works for iPhoto and iTunes.

Step 4. Locate the app, or choose a version to install.

Retroactive will automatically scan your Mac to locate an existing Aperture or iPhoto install. If Retroactive has already located the app you would like to run, skip to Step 5.

If Retroactive can’t locate an existing install, you’ll be asked to download it from the Purchased list in App Store. You can also find the app on another Mac you own, then AirDrop it to this Mac, or restore the app from a Time Machine backup.

If you chose iTunes, Retroactive will ask you which version to install, then automatically download and install it for you.

  • iTunes 12.9.5 supports Dark Mode and most DJ apps.
  • iTunes 12.6.5 supports Ringtones and iTunes U.
  • iTunes 11.4 has a classic look.
  • iTunes 10.7 supports CoverFlow.

If you don’t know which version to install, keep the default setting and click “Continue”.

Step 5. Authenticate.

To install or modify the app you chose, you need to authenticate with your login password first. Click “Authenticate”, and enter your login password.

Your password is never stored or sent anywhere. To verify this, you can view Retroactive’s source code.

Step 6. Wait for Retroactive to modify the app.

Retroactive will install or modify the app you chose. Modifying Aperture and iPhoto to run on macOS Big Sur or macOS Catalina should only take about 2 minutes.

If you chose to install iTunes, this process takes longer. Depending on the version you chose, it can take between 10 minutes to an hour. It is completely normal for the fans to spin up during the process.

If Retroactive asks for your login password again, enter it again. If iTunes 12.9.5 can’t be installed, try to install iTunes 12.6.5.

After installing iTunes, Retroactive will ask you about iPod syncing. If you need to sync with iPod devices, click “Enable Full Disk Access”, and follow on-screen instructions provided by Retroactive.

Cue the confetti. You can use the app now.

After successfully modifying or installing the app, you can play with it to your heart’s content.

  • All Aperture features should be available except for playing videos, exporting slideshows, Photo Stream, and iCloud Photo Sharing.
  • If your RAW photos show up as “Unsupported Image Format”, open the “Photos” menu, click on “Reprocess original…”, and reprocess all photos. After reprocessing your RAW photos, you will be able to preview and adjust them as before.

💡 Tip:

  • If some RAW photos still show up as “Unsupported Image Format” after reprocessing, repeat the process above to reprocess all photos again. In other words, you may need to reprocess all photos twice.
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  • All iPhoto features should be available except for playing videos, exporting slideshows, Photo Stream, and iCloud Photo Sharing.
  • All features should work for iTunes 12.9.5.
  • Movies and TV Shows downloaded from the iTunes Store may be unable to play in iTunes. Download or play them in the TV app instead.
  • Some dialogs in iTunes may display a crossed-out iTunes icon. This is purely cosmetic and has no functional impact.

Syncing with a device

If you connect an Apple device to your Mac, and either see nothing in iTunes, or “The device is in use by another user on this computer”:

  • Disconnect the device from your Mac, but keep iTunes open.
  • Click on the Spotlight icon (magnifying glass) on the menu bar.
  • Type “Terminal” and press return to open the Terminal app.
  • Enter killall AMPDevicesAgent in the Terminal window, and press return.
  • Connect the Apple device back to your Mac.

If you connect an Apple device to your Mac, and see “iTunes cannot read the contents of the device. Go to the Summary tab in device preferences and click Restore to restore this device to factory settings”:

  • You may have installed iTunes with Retroactive 1.4 or earlier.
  • Once you reinstall iTunes using the latest version of Retroactive, iTunes should be able to read the contents of your device as expected.
  • At the end of the installation process, Retroactive will ask you about iPod syncing. If you need to sync with iPod devices, click “Enable Full Disk Access”.

Last Words

Written by

Independent IT consultant from Watford City, North Dakota.

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