Mac Apps Not Opening? Apps Crashing on Launch? Fix Error 173 with OS X App Store Apps
Over the last few weeks, many Mac users have discovered that attempting to launch some apps obtained from the Mac App Store fails, with the apps immediately crashing and thereby failing to open in Mac OS X. Typically you’ll see the app icon appear for a fraction of a second in the Dock, then disappear. For those who dig a bit deeper with Console and system logs, you’ll see a vague reference to error “service exited with abnormal code: 173”. It turns out the culprit behind the Mac App Store app crashing problem is a certificate issue caused by Apple (if that sounds like deja vu, it’s because a similar certificate problem occurred just a few months ago which also prevented app launching).
While this is undeniably annoying and surely should have been prevented by someone other than the end-user, the good news is this app crashing problem is easy to resolve, and you’ll be regaining use and access to your Mac App Store apps again in no time at all.
Fixing Mac App Store Apps Crashing on Launch in Mac OS X
- Quit all open apps that are from the Mac App Store (assuming some opened successfully in the first place)
- Open the “App Store” application by going to the Apple menu and choosing ‘App Store’
- Go to the “Updates” tab, and to fix all apps, choose “Update All” – (You can also individually update specific apps that are crashing on launch by locating them in the list and choosing “Update” on a per app basis)
- Wait for the app updates to install on the Mac via App Store
- When finished updating, relaunch the app(s) which were crashing, they should open fine now and without incident
The Mac apps should be working and opening as usual now. If for some reason they are still crashing on attempting to launch, you’re going to have to delete the apps first, then re-download the same apps that were just deleted again from the Mac App Store.
Mac apps still not opening? Reboot
Sometimes, rebooting is also helpful. So you may want to try that as well. Save any unsaved documents and then go to the APPLE menu and choose “Restart” to do that.
Fun time, right? But in all seriousness, as troubleshooting goes this is not too bad, and it’s good maintenance to update apps to the latest versions available anyway.
For those who care about the nitty gritty, this is what error 173 looks like when found in console, in this case showing with the excellent text editing app TextWrangler:
Undeniably annoying, this certificate problem is well documented by developers and users. Apparently the certificate expired a few weeks ago, but not all users have discovered the issue right away, particularly since not everyone uses the same apps every day. In my case, I went to open an app I use a few times per month only to discover it immediately crashed, and after a few failed launch attempts I finally got this very helpful dialog box to appear:
Perfect! Since reading that dialog text is clear as mud “????????????????????????”, the clue was the App Store icon appearing alongside the error message, and with that in mind the dialog window does vaguely look like an App Store login dialog box. So, off to the App Store I went, updated the apps, and things worked fine. It was then I realized that apps wouldn’t open because of the certificate expiration issue which Apple explains to developers here, but nonetheless this is something the average end-user should not experience.
TLDR: If your Mac apps are crashing instantly on launch and not opening at all, update your Mac apps from the App Store. You might want to reboot your Mac afterwards too.