Open apps from unidentified developers on Mac OS X

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Starting with Mac OS X Lion, Apple added a security feature called Gatekeeper that only lets us install apps from the Mac App Store. Obviously, the same feature doesn’t let you open apps from unidentified developers on Mac OS X.

While apps available in the Mac App Store adhere to Apple’s security standards and have also been thoroughly verified, the operating system sees them as safe, which is not the case for apps from third-party sources.

How to open apps from unidentified developers on Mac OS X

There are numerous greats apps that are not present in the Mac App Store but installing a third-party app also brings the risk of bringing malware into your computer. Now that you’ve been warned, and assuming you’re sure the software you’re trying to install is safe, here’s how you can open apps from unidentified developers on Mac.

open apps from unidentified developers on Mac OS X

The first way to do it is by customizing Gatekeeper. Navigate to System Preferences -> Security & Privacy.

Select the “General” tab and you’ll see there are several options available in the “Allow apps downloaded from:” section. To change these settings you’ll first need to click on the lock icon in the lower left corner of the window and enter your admin password.

Then you can choose between:

  • Mac App Store – this option will only let you install apps from the Mac App Store and security-wise is the safest one but it won’t solve your problem if you’re trying to install a third-party app from an alternative source.
  • Mac App Store and identified developers – this option will also allow you to install app from “identified developers”. These are developers that have received a unique Developer ID from Apple who has digitally signed their apps so it’s still quite a safe option.
  • Anywhere – the third and final option is quite straightforward. Select it and you’d be able to install any app you want. Gatekeeper won’t block unidentified apps anymore but keep in mind this is the least safe option since sometimes such apps can also include malicious code.

We recommend you use the second option – Mac App Store and identified developers -, and when it comes to apps that don’t have a Developer ID you can manually approve those you consider safe (keep reading to learn how to do that).

Manually trust individual apps

how to install third-party apps on Mac OS XIf you chose the “Mac App Store and identified developers” option, every time you attempt to open an app that doesn’t have a Developer ID you will get the warning message “[App] can’t be opened because it is from an unidentified developer” as shown above.

To manually “trust” the app here’s what you need to do:

Hit the “OK” button on the warning prompt to close it and navigate to System Preferences -> Security & Privacy.

In the “General” tab, under the “Allow apps downloaded from” options, you’ll see the app that was blocked by Gatekeeper when you tried to open it. Click “Open Anyway” and the app will launch.

You can do this for each unidentified app you want to open assuming you know it’s safe, of course.

Nevertheless, there’s an even quicker way to do it.

In Finder, Control + Click on the app and select “Open”. A warning will be displayed in a popup right away asking if you’re sure you want to open it. Click “Open” and the app will launch.

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