I prefer to have all applications installed per-user, to ~/Applications/ rather than globally. The default location for apps installed from the Mac App Store is the global applications folder located at /Applications/.

Is there a defaults write com.apple.AppStore command I can run in the terminal, or perhaps a .plist file I can edit manually, to change this default preference?

  • Knowing why you do not prefer /Applications might generate some more creative answers … Aug 2, 2011 at 11:26
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    I offered the bounty because on our shared Mac at home I want the apps I download to only be available for my User. I want to install the apps in ~/Applications.
    – Nate Bird
    Aug 2, 2011 at 11:48
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    I also want apps bought with my Apple ID only available to my user. Others who have accounts on a shared computer will fill /Applications with their apps and I'll fill it with mine, it's a pain to deal with one huge pile of apps. I like the separation.
    – Bryson
    Aug 2, 2011 at 19:12
  • Plus this would/should/could allow people to use the App Store without System Administrator permissions: apple.stackexchange.com/questions/6065/…
    – Thilo
    Aug 3, 2011 at 10:13
  • I am searching for solutions to install large apps such as games to an SD card I have permanently inserted to my MacBook since the internal SSD is only 120GB; sadly I attempted to 'upgrade' the SSD with an NVMe replacement but it failed with kernel panics, so I have no choice but to do this...
    – androidguy
    Mar 25, 2020 at 1:05

4 Answers 4


Regarding Mac OS X File System Overview, it seems Apple enforcing the standard compliance for developer to follow their rules on application folder which are within /Applications or ~/Applications. The concern is to comply the way Mac App Store deliver the updates.

if you not comfort enough to use default folder, yes you are still able to move the application which you had download from Mac App Store to another folder with two caveats:

  1. You will be required to enter an administrative password to move the app from the /Applications folder.
  2. If an update appears in the MAS for an installed app that has been moved you will get an error message about having apps installed from another account. To update the app you will have to Delete the app entirely and then install the updated app or Move the app back to the /Applications folder
  • I was hoping there was a solution for this but you've provided the best explanation and the annoyances of executing this customization. +50
    – Nate Bird
    Aug 5, 2011 at 12:04

At this point there is no details on this (But I am sure there is a property or .plist) but in the meantime you can create a simple Automator "Folder Actions" workflow, that moves the apps to the folder of your choice. This is simple and mostly happens in the background.

One problem I see with this is how Updates work.


Here is an option, while it is not exactly what you asked for, it will accomplish most of your goals:

  1. Create a new folder at the root of your boot drive and name it PubApplications, duplicate the permissions of the Applications Folder.
  2. Copy (Option Drag) Don't Move all applications that you want publicly accessible to that folder.
  3. Copy Don't Move the apps you want in your ~/Applications folder to that folder.
  4. Rename /Applications to /Applications.bak or /.Applications.bak if you want it hidden.
  5. Create a symlink in your root folder named Applications, pointing to the Applications folder in your home directory.

    ln -s /Users/your_name/Applications /Applications

I am not sure who uses the computer besides you, and I am also not sure exactly what you are trying to accomplish, whether it is to streamline backups, or keep your apps private from others, or if this is simply where you like to install apps.

Note - the above above method will break things for other users if they exist. You could use:

ln -s ~/Applications /Applications

instead of the previous symlink command, although I have had issues with that and you would need to ensure each user had a ~/Applications folder.


I usually move all my applications acquired from the MAS in a subfolder, e.g. Applications/Games or Applications/Utilities or whatever suits better.
As wongacid said, you will be required an administrative password to perform the move.
I have already had several updates to my apps, so it seems updating moved applications works flawlessly, at least for programs kept within the Applications folder. I can not be sure about other locations, though.

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