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Mathematica on Mac OS Big Sur

Posted 1 year ago
25 Replies
36 Total Likes

Has anyone tested Mathematica 12.1 on the new Mac OS? Is it safe to upgrade to Mac OS 11 yet?

POSTED BY: Erik Mahieu
25 Replies

There is a FAQ on the Wolfram site that Mathematica 12.1.1 and earlier are not supported on macOS 11.

FAQ for macOS 11

Here's the FAQ:

Will my Wolfram desktop product be compatible with macOS 11 Big Sur?

Wolfram software designed for earlier versions of macOS may not function on macOS 11. Wolfram Research cannot guarantee that any previous versions of our products will be compatible with the released version of macOS 11.

We are committed to ensuring that Wolfram product versions released after macOS 11 will be fully compatible with macOS 11.

To ensure that you will be able to use your Wolfram product, please use a supported operating system.

We will continue to update this page as further information becomes available.

As I recall (and I have been using Mathematica on Macs since version 1.1), this is the first time that there has ever been such a disconnect.


After installing the final release version of macOS 11 (Big Sur), I find no problems at all with Mathematica 12.1.1. I do not have earlier versions installed. The issue noted below only shows up in the Big Sur Betas (and not at all for Mathematica 12.2 beta).

[Obsolete information]

Having said that, I have been testing 12.1.1 and the 12.2 beta under Big Sur. The only issue I have found with 12.1.1 is that Apple has inserted a menu item in the help menu (of all apps, not just Mathematica) : "Send Feedback to Apple". In every other app I have running on Big Sur, this causes no problems at all, but with Mathematica 12.1.1, it messes up the menu, effectively pushing the response 'down one'. So, I you select "Enter Activation Key", you get the dialog for "Why the beep", etc.

The problems that this causes can be worked around. For example, to get the documentation center, I had to enter a function in a notebook, and then use the pop-up menu to get to the documentation center. Once it is opened, it works just fine.

The 12.2 beta fixes this problem. Since I am in the beta test program, I have been using the beta for both Catalina and Big Sur. No real issues to report with the beta, but I have not tested all the new functionality extensively.

I have reported this issue to support and pre-release. Since every other app I have, including large cross platform third-party apps like Finale, do not have this issue, it seems to me that something was missed in moving the front-end from Carbon (32-bit) to Cocoa (64-bit).

[End obsolete information]

As to whether it is safe to upgrade to Big Sur, the answer is, it depends. It is always possible that there are issues with 12.1.1 and macOS 11 that I did not see, but other than the menu issue, I have not seen them. If you can live with the wonkiness of the Help menu, there should be no down side.

For myself, I already have the 12.2 beta, so I will be upgrading my main computer to macOS 11 tomorrow. The new nifties in Big Sur are very nice indeed. I also have Premier service, so I will be getting the release version of 12.2 when it is released "free".

For others who have premier service, upgrading should not be a problem in most cases. However, the lack of support for older versions may be a real problem for people who have to pay for every upgrade, or who need an older version for some reason.

I watched the Apple keynote yesterday, and I will be getting a new Apple Silicon MacBook Pro as soon as the 16 inch replacement is released. I think that a lot of other Mathematica users will be upgrading -- and in a year or so, only Apple Silicon Macs will be sold. This means that anyone using Mathematica older than version 12.2 will be forced to upgrade.

At the Virtual Wolfram Tech conference, they announced that Mathematica 12.2 would (probably) be released in November. The timing could not be a coincidence. It is my guess that Wolfram intended to release 12.2 once macOS 11 is available, which turns out to be tomorrow. For all I know, there may be some special upgrade path that will smooth the transition for most people. Time will tell.

So, To answer your question: If you are adventurous, it should be ok to upgrade to macOS 11. If not, you will need to wait for the release of Mathematica 12.2 before installing macOS 11.

Hi George,

Thanks for the information. Good to know.

I will be getting a new Apple Silicon MacBook Pro as soon as the 16 inch replacement is released

The M1 chip announced yesterday only supports upto 16GB of RAM, and it is on the chip. If the 16" has the same limitation it will not be a compelling upgrade for me. I need a minimum of 32G, preferably 64G.

POSTED BY: Rohit Namjoshi

I saw that. My guess is that the next chips in the "M" series will support more RAM. I use 32 GBytes now, and I won't be making do with less.

Posted 1 year ago

The M1 chip announced yesterday only supports upto 16GB of RAM, and it is on the chip. If the 16" has the same limitation it will not be a compelling upgrade for me. I need a minimum of 32G, preferably 64G.

As various users and journalists have been noted since release, performance of Apple's M1 chip has been phenomenal. Programmers who were using an iMac Pro for builds are happy as a clam running on a MacBook Air. The processor is fast, and it rarely seems to hit thermal limits that were rampant on every Intel processor. Testers reported difficulty generating sufficient heat to turn on the fans in the M1 Macbook Pro.

The Verge's review of the M1 Mac Mini notes that there is also improved performance in swapping. In short, 16GB on these machines give far more performance than they have on other processors. Apple was clearly very frustrated with the glacial performance increases of Intel processors; they have been internally iterating on this integrated board for many years.

I'm sure performance of M1X chips -- or whatever they're named -- will have more RAM and be even better. Rumors about 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pros are starting to become very specific; I am particularly fond of Rene Ritchie's discussions on YouTube. OTOH, the 16GB version of these machines should be quite competent for many Mathematica users. I can't wait to see the benchmarks when they have a native version.

Posted 1 year ago

Thank you George, I’ll be careful!

POSTED BY: Erik Mahieu

Any predictions on when 12.2 will be coming out?

POSTED BY: John Shonder
Posted 1 year ago

I was too curious to wait for 12.2 and upgraded to macOS Big Sur (11.0.1). I did not have any problem whatsoever with Mathematica 12.1.1. I use a iMac27inch 3.6 GHz Intel core I9. I also do not have the problem mentioned by George Woodrow and do not have the "Send Feedback to Apple" item inserted in the help menu. Maybe this was specific for the beta versions?

POSTED BY: Erik Mahieu

I will be doing the Big Sur upgrade on my main computer, so I will see if the "send feedback" menu item is, indeed, just for the beta. If so, it's good news.

OK -- update down, and no extra menu items. There are sometimes issues updating macOS from the last beta to the release version, but that is apparently sorted out now.

I am not sure why the Wolfram FAQ states that 12.1.1 is not supported -- unless it is actually referring to 12.1.0 and before.

Those of you who just scroll to the bottom of a thread (like me)---please see the updated info in George Woodrow III's original post.

And, thank you George.

POSTED BY: W. Craig Carter

We are in the process of validating the 12.x releases on the Big Sur official release. When that process is finished, the FAQ will be updated.

I encountered several issues during the Big Sur beta period, some quite severe. Those issues seem to be fixed in the release candidates. Hence, I would expect 12.x to run with few to no issues on on Big Sur, but until we finish the formal validation I cannot guarantee that.

As for 12.1.1 "not being supported", that is not a typo. We simply cannot promise that existing versions of Mathematica will run a future versions of any operating system, so until we have done the validation, that combination is "not supported".

POSTED BY: Itai Seggev

Thanks for the more official update. Mathematica is now so complex that it is really difficult to validate new versions, especially when there are major changes to the OS. I'm sure I missed stuff in my beta testing.

I see that the FAQ page has been updated to provide more information about macOS 11 and Mathematica with Intel processors. The previous FAQ, perhaps, could have been more explicit that you (Wolfram) just needed more testing. It seemed, to me at least, that we were to infer that older versions would not be supported -- a bit negative, as things turned out.

As for the Apple Silicon, it would be good for us to know what was going to run 'natively' and what was going to use Rosetta II. My guess is that anything before 12.2 is going to run in emulation -- not terrible, since benchmarks indicate that the emulator is still very fast. I will probably wait to buy new hardware until there is a native version of Mathematica. I see that the most recent beta I have is still Intel, and not universal, but that could change before 12.2 is released. I am already getting Universal apps from third party developers.

Again, thanks for the update.

Certainly 12.0 and 12.1 will be using Rosetta. Again, we've not yet had the chance to run the full test suite with production hardware and software. If there are additional issues in running on Apple Silicon, we will do our best provide workarounds. I'm cautiously optimistic that running under Rosetta will not be significantly different than running on Big Sur Intel, but until we have the final hardware and software in hand to do a validation test, we can't give any assurances at all.

We've been working on a native port for a while now. As you note, Mathematica is a large and complex application, so the porting process is not as simple as just checking a box in Xcode. Because of the nature of the Rosetta technology, while we don't necessarily need to port every single piece at once, we do need to port some large pieces all together (for example, all LibraryLink paclets together with the Kernel). We don't have anything ready to show the outside world. Once we do, we'll release it to pre-release testers.

POSTED BY: Itai Seggev

Hi Itai, sorry for asking during testing process, but I am really extremely curious how do you replace highly optimized Intel libraries (MKL, for example) on Apple Silicon. Is Rosetta 2 able to effectively handle these libraries?

POSTED BY: Michal Kvasnicka

So now that 12.2 is out in the wild, I can be a bit more specific. 12.2.0 is still Intel-only. There just wasn't enough bandwith the finish all the new cross-platform features and put together a polished ARM port. However, if you know where to look (very carefully), it does know whether it is running on Apple Silicon or an Intel CPU. I'll leave that as a little Easter egg for folk to find. As for when the native port will be available, I can't say definitively when, but this will not be like the Cocoa port that took years to finish.

We are running the full QA validation suite on a real M1 Mac as I write this. Thus far, the only issue we've found is with Metal. If you use transparency in Graphics3D, bad things will happen. Workarounds include turning off antialiasing, as well as going into the options inspector changing 3DRenderingEngine to OpenGL instead of Metal.

And about MKL specifically, it runs quite will on the M1 Mac. Rosetta does not emulate certain newer instructions (AVX, AVX2, and AVX512), but it emulates a slightly older Intel CPU well enough that MKL can't tell the difference and gives good performance.

POSTED BY: Itai Seggev

Itai, thanks for update. Could you post here Mathematica benchmark results for all three Apple M1 machines? This information is crucial for all Mathematica users which are planning to buy Apple M1 HW during near future.

POSTED BY: Michal Kvasnicka

good to know. As Arnoud suggested at Stephen's talk yesterday, I asked to be part of the beta test -- if my new computer ever arrives.

I think I am not alone in wishing that future versions of Mathematica will not just run natively on Apple Silicon, but will take full advantage of all the hardware nifties available. I have read reviews (and opinion pieces) that the new silicon is a game changer, and I think that Mathematica could, more than most other programs, really shine on it.

It would probably mean code custom to Apple, but I think that the payoff, for Wolfram Research as well as users, will be worth it.

I just received my new MacBook Air M1 (16GB of RAM) to replace my old 2011 MacBook Air. I just installed Mathematica 12.2 and this is the result:

Machine Name:   macbook-air
System: Mac OS X x86 (64-bit)
Date:   December 17, 2020
Wolfram Language Version:   12.2.0
Benchmark Result:   2.59


POSTED BY: Gustavo Delfino

An M1 Mac Mini (16 GB) does somewhat better at 2.95. We don't yet have an M1 MacBook Pro to compare with.

POSTED BY: Itai Seggev
Posted 1 year ago

I just repeated it but this time with the power adapter connected and got a result of 3.07

POSTED BY: Updating Name

There should be no significant difference between these machines which use the same CPU. There is some normal variability between runs of the benchmark code, but once warmed up, expect most of the results to be around 3.00, plus or minus a percent or so.

For sustained loads I would avoid the fanless one which is likely to throttle first, otherwise pick your favorite form factor.

POSTED BY: Ilian Gachevski

I know Mathematica is not yet supported on Apple Silicon. But I am asking anyway : I have a minor issue not blocking at all and I am curious if anybody may have an idea of the problem.

I am playing with VideoGenerator. I am getting the message :

General::sysffmpeg: Using a limited version of FFmpeg. Install FFmpeg to get more complete codec support.

But I have installed FFmpeg with Homebrew.

It is installed in /opt/homebrew/bin/ffmpeg

I have a symbolic link from /usr/local/bin/ffmpeg

And the version displayed by FFmpeg is :

ffmpeg version 4.3.1 Copyright (c) 2000-2020 the FFmpeg developers built with Apple clang version 12.0.0 (clang-1200.0.32.28)

Any idea ? Should I create a separate thread ?

Issues strictly specific to your personal set up should be resolved by contacting Customer Support directly. The correct place to report these issues is directly through Contact Support Form:

POSTED BY: Moderation Team

According to the FAQ,

Mathematica 12.0 and later are supported on Apple Silicon and Intel on macOS 11 (Big Sur). This has been my experience.

The problem you are seeing with ffmpeg is not related. There is a support article about this somewhere, or, as suggested, you could contact support.

FindExternalEvaluators[] appears to crash the Mathematica kernel (OS 12.0 Beta 21A5506j, Mathematica, Apple Silicon).

POSTED BY: Vareck Bostrom

Since upgrading to Big Sur, I experience "random" restarts of my iMac when I run Mathematica (it appears to happen only with Mathematica) after anywhere between 20 minutes and 2 hours. There is no apparent cause, other than seemingly the Big Sur version upgrade (Big Sur to Big Sur).

My system is:

iMac (27" 2020 10 Core)
MacOS Big Sur 11.6 

The crash report refers to (a selection):

mdworker (process)

Exception Type:        EXC_BAD_ACCESS (SIGSEGV)
Exception Codes:       KERN_INVALID_ADDRESS at 0x0000000000000010
Exception Note:        EXC_CORPSE_NOTIFY

Termination Signal:    Segmentation fault: 11
Termination Reason:    Namespace SIGNAL, Code 0xb
Terminating Process:   exc handler [2226]

Any insights to what fix is required or similar experiences?

NB: cross posted in

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