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Today I discovered quite by accident that several applications are now stored in /System/Applications/. I realized this when I was trying to find the bundle ID of a built-in application, and even though it appeared in the Applications folder it was missing entirely from /Applications! I suspect this change might have come when I recently upgraded to macOS Catalina, but perhaps it was even earlier than that.

Which version of macOS introduced the /System/Applications directory? And where is this documented?

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This is part of a larger macOS Catalina feature wherein system files/apps are located on a read-only filesystem and user data is located on a read/write filesystem. This is to further protect the operating system against malicious or inadvertent damage (i.e. to prevent security problems and OOPS! moments).

The read-only and read/write filesystems are stitched together to present as one unified filesystem through some underlying filesystem and logical volume "magic".

Sources:

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  • Okay, so it is new with Catalina! Thanks. – Nic Mar 13 '20 at 17:12

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