I was wondering what will happen if I copy the content of an application in the applications folder, compress it and move it to another hard drive. Will it work if I put it in the Application's folder again, uncompressed? Will it work in other macs?

EDIT: Ok. Now I understand there are at least two kind of applications; One kind uses an installer and the other simply a copy mechanism.

The second kind can be backed up my copy the Application.App. But, for the former one, how can I get a backup for Photoshop and stuff like that?

  • I think you need to specify the requirement here. Copying the app from /Applications will backup that application, but it won't backup your specific use/instance of that application (ie. including preferences, licenses, etc). You should reword the question to include your specific use case. – Alex Sep 5 '13 at 18:45
  • Getting a backup of Photoshop that you can run on another Mac is not possible, as far as I know. If I recall correctly, Adobe's installer generates an encrypted key based on your Mac's hardware. So, for example, if Apple replaces a broken motherboard for you, your install of Creative Suite breaks because your hardware identifiers will have changed. I had to deal with this once. I don't think you can make a complete, licensed backup of PS that will work on other hardware. You have to enter your license key and have it generate a new encrypted key paired to that specific hardware. ...IIRC ;) – iynque Sep 6 '13 at 3:54

Generally, yes, since most applications are installed through copying the application from a DMG file into your Applications folder. However, this is not always the case, since applications can also be installed through the use of OS X Installer or a 3rd party installer.

As a rule of thumb, if an application was installed through an installer, copying the .app from the Applications folder won't be enough.

If you wish to backup an application that came from an installer, you will usually require that installer. If you have a valid license for the software (e.g. Photoshop) you can redownload the installer from Adobe's website and use that to install it.

When you entered your key into the application, it will have created a hardware-linked key that ensures the software cannot be copied to a new computer without re-entering the software key. The easiest way is just to use the installer itself to reinstall the software.

In addition, don't forget about the additional files that may be created when you run the application. For example, files in the Application Support folder. You can use an complete app remover such as AppCleaner to list the files that may be related to the app.


In this case, there was a .plist preference file in ~/Library/Preferences that holds DaisyDisk's user preferences. Copying this file to a different computer in the same place should keep the preferences.

On the other hand, cache files such as those in ~/Caches are not usually necessary to be backed-up/copied.


It could work, but not in all cases. Some applications store data like preferences or license keys on another location. Especially applications that were installed using a installer rather than drag and drop.

So for some apps you lose preferences for the application when you copy it that way and run it on another computer, so it's like you open the application for the first time. And some applications won't work at all on another computer, because essential data is missing.

A better way to create backups that will definitely work is by using Time Machine.


You need to copy the content of both the applications and application support folders. This can be done by drag and drop or via terminal command prompt. Check video at https://youtu.be/vUlJi5Qzmbs

  • How does this improve on the other answers. Also an answer should be useful standaalone and not just a link – mmmmmm Mar 20 '18 at 18:07
  • You have to copy 2 application support folders, not just one, One is inside the Library Folder and the other inside the Hidden Library folder. This is not mentioned here. The answer is meant to help others, no need for the downvote – Hussein Mar 21 '18 at 20:09
  • I downvoted because it does not say what the applications and application support folders are and the answer should be stabndalone ie it is an answer without the link. ALso gregarsides answer does mention all the directories and there are more than you have mentioned – mmmmmm Mar 22 '18 at 12:56

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