How to run unverified apps on MacOS

Apple would prefer that you only download approved apps from the App Store, but that’s not always possible. If you find a suitable app online that hasn’t been approved for installation, macOS will block it from launching. This security feature is well-intentioned, but you’ll have to ignore it to install third-party apps.

Thankfully, it’s a fairly simple process to run unverified apps on a Mac. Before you begin, remember that this security measure exists for a reason. Only consider installing apps from sources you trust, otherwise you could be putting your Mac at risk, even with Mac antivirus software installed.

Allow unverified apps in System Preferences

When you first try to open an app from an unverified developer, Apple will block it, displaying a warning window instead. macOS will always prevent apps it doesn’t recognize from starting without your approval.

It’s also possible that macOS security settings prevent apps from launching that aren’t from the App Store. This includes apps from verified developers that have been downloaded directly from the internet.

Unable to open app window
  • If you can’t launch an unverified app (or a verified app that isn’t from the App Store), you’ll need to go to System Preferences. You can access it directly from the Dock or launch it from Launchpad.
System Preferences icon in Launchpad
  • In System Preferencesclick Security and privacy > Generalthen click Lock button to allow you to make changes to your settings. You will need to provide your password or use Touch ID to unlock it.

    If your app is from a verified developer but not the App Store, in the category named Allow apps downloaded fromTo select App Store and developers identified.

Allow downloading of apps from the option in Security and privacy
  • The last app you attempted to open will be listed under the App Store security options. To launch the app (or rather, the DMG image file containing your app), click Open anyway.
Open anyway button in Security and privacy

You’ll need to do this for every unverified app you launch, as Apple removed the option to automatically allow it in an older version of macOS. However, you will only need to do this once for a particular app.

If you clicked Open anyway, the DMG image file containing the unverified app will be launched. Most DMG files contain the attached application file as well as a link to the Applications folder.

  • To install this unverified app, drag the app icon and drop it onto the Applications link in the Finder window. This will copy the app from your DMG image file upon macOS installation, allowing it to be accessed from Launchpad or the Applications folder in the Finder.
Cakebrew icon dragged to Applications folder
  • Once installed, if you haven’t opened the app before, macOS will warn you that you’re trying to open an app from the internet. You’ll need to approve it for launch, so click To open button to do it.
Open button with checkbox Do not warn me when opening applications on this highlighted disk image

Open unverified apps without installation

Among the many things Finder allows you to do is the ability to view the contents of a DMG image file before installing an app. Instead of dragging the app included in the application link (usually provided), you can open the app directly from the DMG file without installing it.

  • To do this, open your DMG file. To do this, you can double-click the application icon or right-click the application file in the Finder window and click To open button.
Open in the context menu
  • You will see a warning about the unverified app. This will inform you that you are trying to open an app from the internet. Click To open to allow its launch. You can also select the Don’t warn me when opening applications on this disk image checkbox to allow all apps in the DMG file to start without warning.
Check box Do not warn me in the warning window

Your app will launch at this point. As it will not install on your system, you will need to repeat this process to start it again once it is closed.

Using Homebrew to run unverified apps on Mac

While Apple would prefer you to install apps via the App Store, you can completely ignore it with Homebrew. The advantage of using Homebrew to install macOS apps is that it bypasses the security mechanisms Apple uses to “protect you” from unverified apps.

This is a double-edged sword, as while you will be able to install unverified apps, you will need to make sure you only install apps and software that you trust.

Homebrew acts as a package manager in the same way as APT on Linux. It allows you to install apps using the macOS terminal, either individually or by using it to create a bulk installer to install multiple apps at the same time.

This could be useful for installing more apps on new macOS devices, for example.

  • To install Homebrew, start by opening a macOS Terminal app window. You can find the Terminal app in Springboard > Other folderor by searching for Terminal in Spotlight, which you can access by clicking the search icon in the top menu bar.
Terminal window in Launchpad
Homebrew installation in the terminal window
  • The Homebrew installation process should complete automatically. The Terminal window will update with the message installation was successful upon completion.

    Once Homebrew is installed, you can then search for potential Homebrew apps by typing app name search beerreplacing application name with a partial or full app name. You can also search for them on the Homebrew website.

brew looks in the terminal window
  • Once you’ve found a suitable installation package for an app, you can type brew bar install appnamereplacing application name with the app. For example, to install Firefox, by typing barrel of beer install firefox will download and install the relevant package for Firefox.
brew cask installs the firefox command in the terminal

Once the installation process is complete, your app will be available to launch from the Launchpad or Applications folder in the Finder, along with your other Mac apps.

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