Fix the “App can’t be opened because it is from an unidentified developer” Error in Mac OS X

Jul 27, 2012 - 43 Comments

Since OS X Mountain Lion, the Mac defaults to preventing applications from unidentified developers or sources from being launched. You’ll discover the message in OS X 10.8 when you try to launch a Mac app that didn’t come from a verified source or from the Mac App Store, and you’ll get an alert dialog that says “[App name] can’t be opened because it is from an unidentified developer”.

App Can't be Opened from Unidentified Developer warning

This new security feature is called GateKeeper, and it doesn’t mean you can’t run those unverified apps on the Mac, you just have to either temporarily skirt the security blanket of GateKeeper, or turn off the app limitations entirely.

Temporarily Get Around “App Can’t Be Opened” Gatekeeper Alert Message

This is probably the best option for most users, since it maintains some security:

  1. Right-click (or control-click) the application in question and choose “Open”
  2. Click the “Open” button at the next dialog warning to launch the app anyway

You can do this with any third party app that gives you this warning dialog and open it anyway.

Temporarily get around the App Cant Be Opened message in Mac OS X

If you get tired of constantly right-clicking apps to open them, return to pre-Mountain Lion levels of app security by turning off Gatekeepers app verification completely.

Disable GateKeeper’s Unidentified App Developer Prevention Completely

This is generally best for advanced users who know what apps to trust and not to trust:

  1. Launch System Preferences from the Apple  menu
  2. Choose “Security & Privacy” and then click the “General” tab, followed by clicking the lock icon in the corner to unlock the settings
  3. Look for “Allow applications downloaded from:” and choose “Anywhere”
  4. Accept the security warning and allow
  5. You can now launch any app from any location or developer

Disable Gatekeeper blocking unidentified apps in OS X Mountain Lion

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Posted by: Paul Horowitz in Mac OS X, Tips & Tricks, Troubleshooting

43 Comments

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  1. TD says:

    This kind of “security” is stupid and is not really security at all. At best it is a tiresome annoyance. I really hate the MS method of blocking files downloaded until I purposely unblock them. It is a pity that Apple has adopted the same boneheaded approach. If I downloaded the app or file I very well intend to use it. A warning the first time the file is opened is fine, after that it is simply gratuitous aggravation.

    • Buck says:

      Apple’s Gatekeeper only shows you the message the first time. And while you may certainly want to open a file that you purposely downloaded. However, if a malignant website downloaded a file (i.e. Malware) without your knowledge wouldn’t you like to know about it rather than have it silently install itself???

      • Jason says:

        I am an aerospace engineer. I am technically ept. It makes me very, very angry when I cannot work on my computer because of restrictions that help keep idiots safe.

        • Dominic says:

          Well aren’t you special, mr. aerospace guy. Not all Mac users are as technically brilliant as you clearly are, so Apple needs to appeal to the masses. Don’t like it? Use Linux, so you can look down your nose at most all other people sitting in front of a keyboard.

          I’ve been a systems admin for over 15 years. I used to work at an aerospace firm. I left as soon as I could since every user there (yes, you are just users) thought they could do every job in Info Systems, even though they were clueless when it came to the most basic of networking/computing protocols. During the time I was there I never tried to build an aircraft. Just because you know a few keyboard shortcuts doesn’t mean you know jack about computing fundamentals.

          Know your role, snob. You give Mac users a bad name.

        • Mark says:

          1. Non-technical users should generally not be referred to as “idiots.” They might not be as computer savvy or be able to do aerospace engineering, but they probably have other skills that you don’t, which would make you the idiot from their perspective.
          2. Just because you know something about aerospace engineering doesn’t mean you really know anything about computer security. As an IT professional in the field for nearly 30 years, I find that self-proclaimed user experts usually really aren’t as great as they think.
          3. If you’re so smart, why don’t you just disable this feature so you don’t have to deal with it? And if it is so easily disabled, then why does it bother you so much?
          4. This is probably the safest way for a computer manufacturer to configure this capability. Somebody who is computer savvy will quickly identify what they need to do to circumvent this system, even if it means searching the internet and finding a thread like this. Non-technical users have the safest setting for their level of expertise.

          • AT says:

            > As an IT professional in the field for nearly 30 years, I find > that self-proclaimed user experts usually really aren’t as
            > great as they think.

            Funny … I’d say the same thing about IT professionals.

  2. Well, if I fix that one, who will fix the rest?

  3. I don’t think is a good idea to disable when you can easily add the exception with Ctrl+Clic.

  4. William Scott says:

    Unfortunately, this is yet another attack on those who distribute free software. In essence, Apple is requiring anyone who wants to do so to pay to become a member of their Developer club. If you are selling software, you can adjust the price to reflect this tax. If you are distributing free software, you are being asked to absorb this gratuitous tax so Apple can project a false sense of security.

    • Andy says:

      How’s life under a tin foil hat?

    • Chloe says:

      I have already bypassed this to get Handbrake….I just don’t see the point in this feature

    • How in the world is this remotely related to free software? It’s nothing more than a precautionary measure taken to protect n00bs from nuking their own system. OS X in no way restricts the use of software developed for the system, it simply identifies software which does not have an Apple Developer ID. I fail to see your nearsighted perspective.

  5. Wade says:

    Is there a command line to do this?

  6. shane says:

    Its very simple Ctrl click is the same as right click so just right click and open and then it remembers it on that app forever so its not that much of a pain.

  7. blasster says:

    Thanks a lot =)

  8. Vale says:

    Does anyone know how to reverse this procedure? Meaning: “I’d like to remove an app from Gatekeeper’s exception list”.
    Thanks.

    • John says:

      System Policy Control. Check out “man spctl” You can add and remove individual apps, or globally enable/disable Gatekeeper also.

      • Gerard says:

        Thanks John, really good advice to use System Policy Control. This allows to to keep the protection level high and easily apply fine-grained security control.
        I downloaded and installed Eclipse Juno and got the GateKeeper alert. So I installed Eclipse in /Library/Eclipse/eclipse then in Terminal used the following:
        $ spctl –status
        assessments enabled
        $ spctl –add –label “Eclipse” /Library/Eclipse/eclipse/Eclipse.app/
        $ spctl –assess -v /Library/Eclipse/eclipse/Eclipse.app/
        /Library/Eclipse/eclipse/Eclipse.app/: accepted
        source=Eclipse

  9. Anna T says:

    Thanks for this simple yet informative tutorial! I am a mac beginner and really need to know stuff like this. And just to let you know, this website was first on the list when searching for how to remove this security feature! Keep up the good work!

  10. Wayne says:

    You don’t see the point eh?… The point is, if you don’t know any better you get the apple safety net.

    If you do, then sure go disable it… thats your choice and one that isn’t hard and would only need to be done once, its not a huge deal so get over it.

    The truth is its not expensive to be an apple developer and it sure keeps a lot of the crap away from people that don’t know any better.

    I don’t want my mac to become a totally closed system like the iphone however I completely support protecting the noobs yet allowing freedom to other users, a sort of “advanced mode” if you will.

  11. Craig says:

    FYI – Didn’t work for me with app LaunchpadCleaner in Mountain Lion 10.8.1. It installed without complaint, but wouldn’t let me run the program. So I deleted it from Applications and re-installed it the normal way (enabling any apps to be installed in the Security settings).

  12. Technically speaking, this isn’t an “error”, it is an alert. Errors are the result of negligence by either the user or the developer, alerts (are meant to) provide important information regarding the app or system.

  13. Edward says:

    Helped me out. Thanks a lot!

  14. Jim says:

    I downloaded an app under Snow Leopard and created files with it. Now, even if I have turned Gatekeeper off, it still won’t let me open files created with that app without warning me and forcing me to click “Open.” Any suggestions for turning this off permanently?

  15. Bill says:

    I stopped using Apple bc of nonsense just like this. Back to Linux on PC’s for me. Lot’s less sillyness to deal with.

  16. Kathleen says:

    I just wanted to say THANK YOU for this helpful post!! I appreciate it.

  17. siddharth says:

    Thanks I got my solution completely and used desire software.

  18. ashwinv says:

    thanks a lot! everything works as described..

  19. Gunnar Forsgren says:

    Thanks Gerard, the spctl examples really helped. I now got a favorite app added to the approved ones.
    /gunnar

  20. Leo T M says:

    Thanks! Problem solved.

  21. Terry says:

    Thanks!

    I was originally looking for something like this for the Mac

  22. Spex says:

    In Mavericks, even with my administrator account, I am unable to select “Anywhere.” I click the radio button, it blinks, but then forces the selection back to “Mac App Store and identified developers.” Any ideas?

  23. Al says:

    Great ! This helped a lot, thank you !!! =)

  24. thomas maccartee says:

    Please excuse me for not being abled to get your product down-loaded as suggested by your instructions. IIsm 69 years old and I love music. I’ve been fighting Parkinson’s Disease for15 years and I am out of the “Tech” arena big time. I can follow live phone instructions where I can ask & answer questions. My # is 619-587-9179 If you can help me I would appreciate a call-back phone #, Thanks, tdm

  25. Robert Doyle says:

    Thank you. Your suggestion worked perfectly.

  26. Yvette Masullo says:

    Thanks from me also. Trying to open an app for doing a chemistry demonstration for my students…you did it!

  27. Miranda says:

    THANK YOU SO MUCH I CAN’T EVEN.

  28. Angela says:

    Thank you so much, such an easy and brilliant explanation.

  29. Alexis says:

    Would anyone know how to get to security and privacy if it’s been blocked? I need to do this to run 7zip, but blocks keep popping up. My files need to be recovered, and I can’t find any programs to do so.

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