How To Open Mac Apps From Unidentified Developers Safely

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Facing an “unidentified developer” alert on your Mac can be perplexing. When venturing beyond the Mac App Store’s bounds, macOS displays this warning as a protective measure to flag apps that haven’t gone through Apple’s app review process.

This article provides essential insights into making informed decisions about which apps to trust and how to keep your Mac secure.

What triggers the unidentified developer alert on macOS?

When you attempt to install and open an application obtained outside the Mac App Store, macOS might present an “unidentified developer” alert. This warning is Apple’s way of indicating that the app you’re trying to open doesn’t come from a developer recognized by Apple and hasn’t been checked for malicious software.

This unidentified developer alert is triggered as part of Apple’s Gatekeeper security feature, which is designed to prevent malware from infecting your Mac. The alert serves as a precautionary measure rather than a definitive statement about the software’s reliability.

However, this conservative approach can sometimes intercept applications from developers who are genuine but haven’t gone through Apple’s verification process. It serves as a checkpoint for users, encouraging them to think twice before installing software that might potentially harm their device.

The role of Gatekeeper in app security

By requiring apps to be notarized or reviewed by Apple before they can run, Gatekeeper provides users the confidence that the software they use has been checked for known security issues. When an app is from an unidentified developer, it means that it hasn’t gone through this review process, triggering the alert.

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The strictness of Gatekeeper has been noticeably enhanced with recent macOS versions, starting with macOS Catalina.

This added layer of security checks apps every time they’re opened, not just at the initial point of installation. The aim is to ensure ongoing protection against malware, even if the app was previously deemed safe.

Despite Gatekeeper’s stringent measures, Apple has provided mechanisms to override this security feature to allow the installation of software from unidentified developers. Users can do this through the system preferences by allowing apps downloaded from identified and unidentified developers.

Steps to safely open apps from unidentified developers

Opening apps from unidentified developers on your Mac can be necessary, especially if you require software that is not available on the Apple store. However, doing so safely is paramount to protect your device and personal information from potential harm.

It’s always wise to first research the application if you are unfamiliar with its developer and search for reviews and opinions. Once you are reasonably certain the application is safe, follow these steps.

Finding and right-clicking the app in Finder

The first step in opening an app from an unidentified developer involves locating it in the Finder. Once you have found the app:

  1. Control-click the app’s icon.
  2. Select Open from the context menu. This prompts macOS to present you with a warning dialog.
  3. Choose Open in the dialog. By performing this action, you confirm your intention to open the app despite its origins.

This process tells your Mac that you trust the app, and it will no longer prompt you with a warning for this particular application in the future.

Adjusting your Privacy and Security settings

Your Mac’s privacy and security settings are designed to protect you, but they can be adjusted to accommodate the installation of trusted apps from unidentified developers. To do this:

  1. Open System Settings on your Mac.
  2. Navigate to Privacy and Security. Scroll down until you find the Open Anyway option, which becomes available after you attempt to open an app that macOS has blocked.
  3. Click Open Anyway to confirm your decision. This will prompt you once more before allowing the app to open.

These adjustments make an exception for the app in question, ensuring that you can open it in the future without security warnings, provided you’re confident in its safety and reliability.

Is it safe to download software from unidentified developers?

Apple implements a verification process for developers to safeguard users from potential malware. However, this does not imply that software from an unidentified developer is inherently unsafe.

The lack of a certification from Apple simply means the user must exercise caution and due diligence. Determining the safety of such software requires a careful approach, considering the absence of Apple’s formal endorsement.

Evaluating the risks of non-App Store downloads

Downloading applications outside of the Apple App Store introduces a level of risk, primarily because such applications have not passed Apple’s review process. This includes a risk of malware which could compromise your system’s security.

However, many legitimate apps may not be available on the App Store due to various reasons, such as the developer’s choice or the app’s nature. It’s crucial to be aware of the risks and take responsible actions to mitigate them.

How to verify the authenticity of downloaded apps

Verifying the authenticity of an app involves several steps to ensure its safety and legitimacy:

  1. Research the app developer: Look up their official website and any available background information. This could give you an understanding of their reputation and the quality of their apps.
  2. Seek out reviews: Look for user reviews and feedback on the app. While reviews can be manipulated, a consistent pattern of positive or negative feedback can offer insights.
  3. Check app permissions: Before installing, review the permissions the app requests. If an app asks for more access than it needs for its functionality, it might be unsafe.
  4. Scan for malware: Use reliable security software to scan the app before installation.
  5. Look for alternative sources: If unsure about the app’s source, look for an alternative app with similar functionality or reputable sites where the same app is available.

By following these steps, Mac users can significantly lower the risk associated with installing apps from unidentified developers and ensure that their Apple devices remain secure and perform optimally.

Using SpyHunter to ensure your downloads are safe

Despite the extensive measures Apple takes to safeguard its operating system, the craftiness of malware creators should never be underestimated. SpyHunter provides an invaluable toolset for detecting and removing malicious software hidden within apps. Here is how SpyHunter accomplishes this:

  • Comprehensive malware detection: SpyHunter is engineered to identify a wide range of threats, from trojans and ransomware to potentially unwanted programs (PUPs).
  • Real-time protection: By monitoring your system in real time, SpyHunter can alert you the moment it detects suspicious activities or malware attempts to execute.
  • Simplified quarantine and removal: Should a harmful app somehow slip through, SpyHunter makes it easy to quarantine and remove the threat. Its user-friendly interface allows for straightforward management of any detected malware, minimizing the potential damage that could be inflicted.

While macOS goes to great lengths to protect users with its Gatekeeper technology and notarization checks, SpyHunter provides an additional, valuable line of defense.

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Download SpyHunter and follow the on-screen installation instructions to finish the process. You can then launch SpyHunter and use it to scan any application that Gatekeeper blocks before allowing it to run.

If you are set on opening an app that your macOS blocks, scanning it with an anti-malware tool like SpyHunter before opening it can give you that much-needed level of comfort and security.

Keeping your Mac safe

Ensuring your Mac remains secure while allowing you the flexibility to install the apps you need involves a delicate balance. Apple’s macOS is renowned for its strong security features, designed to protect you from malware and other threats.

The cornerstone of this security model is Gatekeeper, which checks that any app you want to install comes from a trusted source or has been notarized by Apple, verifying it’s free from known malicious software.

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However, Apple’s protective measures don’t stop you from installing apps from outside the App Store — it just adds steps to verify the software’s safety. Understanding the importance of these security practices is crucial in keeping your Mac safe from potential harm.

Creating a Secure Environment for Unidentified Apps

Installing apps from unidentified developers on your Mac can be done securely with a few precautions. Firstly, ensure the app comes from a reliable source and that you trust the developer’s intent.

To allow apps from outside the App Store, you may need to adjust your system settings.

Go to System Settings, then click on Privacy & Security, and under Allow apps downloaded from, select App Store and identified developers.

This allows your system to install and use apps that are not only sourced from the Apple store but also from any entity that is an identified developer under Apple’s policies.

Even with these adjustments, macOS may still prompt you for approval before opening an app for the first time. This feature acts as a final check, ensuring you are aware of the software’s origin before it runs on your Mac.

Following these steps allows you to create a secure yet flexible environment for installing a broader range of applications.


Running apps from unidentified developers on a Mac requires careful consideration. Users should weigh the potential risks, such as security vulnerabilities and data breaches, against the app’s benefits.

Ensuring safety involves research, checking for user reviews, and verifying developer credibility. Utilizing macOS security features, like Gatekeeper, adds a layer of protection.

By making informed decisions and prioritizing security, users can balance functionality with safety, minimizing the risk of compromising their system’s integrity. Always proceed with caution and stay informed to protect your Mac from potential threats.

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