In Snow Leopard, Finder treated .app files like any other application. You could drag an application between any two folders at will, and the application would be move.

At some point since then (I think in Lion), Apple changed this. Now, dragging a .app out of the applications folder and into some other directory creates an alias instead of moving the actual file. You can hold down "option" to make it copy, but this is incredibly annoying and has been bothering for years.

Is there any way to change the default behavior of Finder to stop doing this? Perhaps with a "defaults write" terminal command. Thanks!

  • Mojave has made this even more annoying. I still use an Applications folder placed on the Dock in place of Launchpad (as God intended!). If I drag an application from a DMG into the Applications folder, macOS makes an alias to the DMG. I forget to hold down Cmd every time. – Wowfunhappy Dec 3 '18 at 1:00

You can hold Cmd while dragging to move the .app file in El Capitan.

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