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macOS 11.3 code causes panic that some Apple M1 MacBooks could lose one of their best features

Apple MacBook Pro 13-inch (M1, 2020)
(Image credit: Future)

M1-powered Macs could have Rosetta 2 removed in a future update for macOS in certain regions, or at least this is the latest nugget from the rumor mill.

This one comes from MacRumors, courtesy of a contributor, Steve Moser, who was delving into the code of the latest macOS 11.3 beta (the third one) and found some interesting mentions of Rosetta 2. The latter is the translation technology that ARM-based M1 Macs use to run traditional x86 software (in other words, apps written for Intel-powered Macs).

macOS 11 Rosetta Code

(Image credit: Steve Moser)

Specifically, there are messages to indicate that “Rosetta will be removed upon installing this update” and that “Rosetta is no longer available in this region. Applications requiring Rosetta will no longer run.”

Naturally, this has caused a fair degree of consternation among some users who fear that somehow Rosetta 2 support could be removed from their Mac in the near future – but what we shouldn’t do is get carried away straight into panic mode here.

For starters, the suggestion here is that support could be removed but only for certain regions, and it certainly isn’t clear what those regions might be (but the likelihood would seem that it wouldn’t be any major markets... hopefully).

Moreover, it’s far from certain that this means anything at all, because the presence of a bit of code in a macOS beta doesn’t mean it will ever actively be used; it could be some kind of a placeholder or just-in-case addition.

Backing that idea up, there are already existing reports of Mac owners seeing similar messages to this, such as a post on Apple’s own support forum dating back to December, where a user reports seeing a message that says: “Rosetta is not currently available in your country or region.”

That error resolved itself after a reboot, but it shows that these kind of messages have already been in macOS code – and indeed have presented themselves to users – before.

That said, references to not being ‘currently’ available are obviously very different to being ‘no longer’ available, and Rosetta being removed after installing an update.

So, it’s easy enough to see where the concerns stem from, and there are certainly folks clamoring to know what regions might be referred to in this beta code.

Big leap

Drawing the conclusion that the installation of the macOS 11.3 update on an M1 machine could lead to a Rosetta-less experience in certain regions is a big leap to make, so keep plenty of caution to hand on this one for the time being.

As Moser points out in his tweet, this could perhaps be happening because in certain regions of the world, Apple is anticipating some potential legal issues, and as MacRumors observes, there might be the possibility of copyright problems on the horizon.

There’s only one real way to get to the bottom of this, of course, and so we’ve contacted Apple to try and get a response on the matter. If we hear back from the company, we’ll update this story with its response.

Part of the reason that this has caused such a stir is that even the prospect of the removal of Rosetta 2 technology in any region is somewhat concerning, when it’s still very much needed to ensure compatibility across all apps in the early days of M1 Macs.

Darren is a freelancer writing news and features for TechRadar (and occasionally T3) across a broad range of computing topics including CPUs, GPUs, various other hardware, VPNs, antivirus and more. He has written about tech for the best part of three decades, and writes books in his spare time (his debut novel - 'I Know What You Did Last Supper' - was published by Hachette UK in 2013).