How to check which apps are running on Apple M1

Unsure if Apple Silicon is natively powering the app you’re using? It’s pretty easy on Apple Silicon-powered Macs to find out which CPU architecture, Apple or Intel, an app is running on.

If you’re using a Mac with the Apple M1 chip and you want to know if a particular app is running on Apple M1 natively, here’s how you can find that out.

It’s safe to say at this point that Apple’s move to its own chips, Apple M1, has been going remarkably well. While there are still small issues that are yet to be ironed out, for the most part, people have been loving the first generation of Apple Silicon processors. And it shows on nearly all the reviews people have published so far.

One of the things that I constantly kept looking for when testing the performance of apps on my new MacBook Pro with M1 was whether or not new apps I installed were running on Intel or Apple Silicon. Thankfully, Apple has made it really easy to check. Let’s find out how to check which apps are running on Intel and Apple M1 in a matter of seconds.

How to check if an app is running on Intel or M1

All you really need to do is fire up the “Activity Monitor” tool on your Mac. You can open the Activity Monitor in a few different ways.

Via the Spotlight Search:

  1. Press CMD and Space.
  2. Type “Activity Monitor”
  3. Press Enter.

Via the Launchpad:

  1. Click the Launchpad icon on your dock.
  2. Click Other.
  3. Click Activity Monitor.
Searching for Activity Monitor via Launchpad.

You can also search by typing “Activity Monitor” after clicking the Launchpad icon on your dock.

Via Finder:

  1. Click on Finder to open a new window.
  2. Navigate to Applications from the sidebar.
  3. Go inside “Utilities”.
  4. Double-click on “Activity Monitor”.

Once the Activity Monitor is open, navigate to the “CPU” tab if you aren’t there already. And you will see a new column called Architecture. This is the column that will show you if an app is running natively on Apple Silicon, or M1, or on Intel.

Activity Monitor open with the CPU tab in focus. The Architecture column shows if an app is running on Apple Silicon or Intel.
The 6th column from the left shows which CPU architecture an app is running on.

Apps that are running natively on Apple Silicon will have the word Apple on the Architecture column. If it’s being translated, it’ll say Intel.

You can also use the search function near the top right of the Activity Monitor window to locate a specific app that you’re looking for.

Firefox on Apple M1 showing up on Activity Monitor.

In this example, I’ve searched for Firefox and it shows that Firefox is already running natively on Apple M1.

How does an app run on Intel on M1 Macs?

You probably already know how apps that were developed for an Intel processor run on a Mac that doesn’t even have an Intel processor.

But in case you are wondering, Apple installs a software called “Rosetta 2” when you first install an Intel-based software on a Mac running Apple Silicon chips.

A prompt asking to install Rosetta when installing 1Password on Apple M1 MacBook Pro.
I installed 1Password first on my brand new M1 MacBook Pro. Since it was an Intel-based app, that’s when it prompted me to download and install Rosetta, which would then translate the app to run on Apple Silicon.

The job of Rosetta 2 is to translate the Intel-based apps you are running so that they can work flawlessly – or as flawlessly as possible – even on an Apple Silicon chip, in this case, the M1. That’s how apps made for Intel can run without an Intel chip inside.

In my testing so far, no Intel-based apps have given me any trouble. It’s one of the primary reasons the three new Macs equipped with the Apple Silicon chips — Mac Mini, MacBook Air, and the 13-inch MacBook Pro — have received remarkable praises from the majority of the reviewers and end-users alike.

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