How to Run Unverified Apps on MacOS

Apple only wants you to 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 need to bypass it to install third-party apps.

Thankfully, it’s a pretty easy 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, or you could put your Mac at risk, even if you have anti-virus software installed on your Mac.

Allow unverified apps in system preferences

When you first try to open an app from an unverified developer, Apple will block the app, displaying a warning box instead. macOS will always prevent apps it doesn’t recognize from being launched without your consent.

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

Can't open application window
  • If you can’t launch an unverified app (or a verified app not from the App Store), you need to go to System Preferences. You can access this software directly from your Dock or launch it from within Launchpad.
System Preferences icon in Launchpad
  • In System Preferencesclick Security & Privacy > Sharedthen click Lock button to allow you to make changes to your settings. You’ll need to provide your password or use Touch ID to unlock it.

    If your app comes from a verified developer but not from the App Store, in a category called Allow apps to be downloaded fromoption App Store and identified developers.

Allow app downloads from the option under Security and privacy
  • The last app you tried to open will be listed below your App Store security options. To launch the application (or rather, the DMG image file containing your application), click Still open.
Open the Anyway button in Security & Privacy

You’ll need to do this for each unverified app you launch, as Apple removed the option to automatically allow this in earlier versions of macOS. However, you will only need to do this for a specific application once.

If you clicked Still open, the DMG image file containing your unverified application will launch. Most DMG files contain your accompanying application file, as well as a shortcut to your Applications folder.

  • To install this unverified app, drag your app icon and drop it onto the Applications shortcut in your Finder window. This will copy the app from the DMG image file to your macOS installation, allowing it to be accessed from Launchpad or from within the Applications folder in Finder.
Cakebrew icon dragged into 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 to launch, so click Open to do this.
Open button with Don't warn me when opening apps on this disk image checkbox is ticked

Open unverified apps without installing

Among the many things that Finder allows you to do is the ability to view the contents of a DMG image file before you install the application. Instead of dragging your bundled application onto the Applications shortcut (usually provided), you can open the app right from your DMG file, with no installation required.

  • To do that, open your DMG file. To do this, you can either double-click the application icon or right-click the application file in your Finder window and click Open button.
Open in right-click menu
  • An unverified app warning will appear. This will notify you that you are trying to open an application from the internet. Click Open to allow it to launch. You can also choose Don’t warn me when opening the app on this disc image check box to allow all applications in your DMG file to launch without warning.
Check box does not warn me in alert window

Your application should launch at this point. Since it will not be installed on your system, you will need to repeat this process to relaunch it after you close it.

Use Homebrew to run unverified apps on Mac

While Apple wants you to install apps through the App Store, you can completely bypass it with Homebrew. The benefit 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, because while you can install unverified apps, you need to make sure you only install apps and software that you trust.

Homebrew works as a package manager in the same way that APT does on Linux. It allows you to install apps using the macOS terminal, individually, or use it to create a batch installer to install multiple apps at once.

For example, this can be useful for installing many apps to new macOS devices.

  • To install Homebrew, start by opening the MacOS Terminal application window. You can find the Terminal application in Launchers > Other foldersor by searching for Terminal in Spotlight, which you can access by clicking the search icon in the top menu bar.
Terminal window in Launchpad
Install Homebrew in a Terminal window
  • The Homebrew installation will complete automatically. The Terminal window will update the message successful installation Once completed.

    After installing Homebrew, you can search for potential Homebrew apps by typing cook search app namereplace app name with partial or full application name. You can also search for these on the Homebrew website.

search for beer in the terminal window
  • Once you’ve found the right installation package for an app, you can import brew barrel install app namereplace app name with the app. For example, to install Firefox, type brew barrel install firefox will download and install the relevant package for Firefox.
brew bin install firefox command in Terminal

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

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