I kind of get the general idea from this question Why do I have to drag my new apps into the application folder? that I've just unpacked an archive I downloaded. but I'm wanting to understand what the alternatives for me are and any benefits of dragging the unpacked application to a different "folder" of my choosing. Is there an advantage to creating separate task oriented folders at all?

Trying to get comfortable with my imac, but I keep forgetting that dragging into "applications" does not actually complete the installation. So why are the web download install experiences not just a one click and you are done activity? (I would use the store, but the app store far too often shows me other unrelated apps above the one I am looking for/ wastes time /distracts me too.) I feel I'm missing some obvious flexible decision point?

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    "dragging into "applications" does not actually complete the installation" … in what cases? If an app has an installer, there's no dragging at all. if it doesn't, then dragging is all that's required. Allowing a web page to fully complete an installation is one security risk too far. Remote control over your computer? No thank you.
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Oct 21, 2020 at 15:44
  • Thanks, well I download the dmg (Pycharm), "I run" or unpack it, then drag it into applications, Apple politely reminds me the app is not from a trusted source, then I have to try to open the app in Finder once , this triggers any application registration. Most apps I download want to do some steps before they will run. I then use Finder to "run" the same app again, at which point the app actually opens. I can then pin the app to the tray thingy. It's this conversion from archive to a .app, to a hotbar icon that I'm learning has to happen.
    – Conrad B
    Commented Oct 21, 2020 at 16:05
  • If I use curl to DL and install something, that's entirely different, granted, and still from an untrusted source in the commandline case. But the Applications folder is private to my profile, so that makes sense now.
    – Conrad B
    Commented Oct 21, 2020 at 16:09
  • I suppose you could consider opening the .dmg as 'running it' but it's more strictly like mounting a disk. If an app isn't from a trusted source, first run you right click & Open. That informs Gatekeeper & acknowledging the dialog removes it from quarantine. [That is the same wherever you copied the app to] That doesn't happen with App Store apps, of course, they're already 'clean'.
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Oct 21, 2020 at 16:19
  • Thanks, unfortunately I'm still unable to upvote on this stack @Tetsujin . That is a helpful analogy on mounting a disc. Makes more sense now.
    – Conrad B
    Commented Oct 21, 2020 at 17:05

1 Answer 1


It's just a convention that adds a layer of security.

Some apps like VirtualBox, for example have an install script that will do this for you, so obviously it can be done. However, if you have to manually do this, there's no way an inadvertent double click will install the App.

Secondly, apps can be installed for both users system wide or for individual users (~/Applications) so this manual step gives you a choice of which Applications folder you wish to install it to.

“Completing the installation” is a misnomer here on macOS. Unlike Program Files on Windows, you don’t have to have a special place to run an app. You can put that app bundle almost anywhere (obviously not protected volumes) and have it work. You're only copying the the app bundle to the Applications folder for convenience.

  • I got that impression, since there are addition security "checks" for non store downloads. I'm new to the ecosystem and find it rather perplexing from a M$Windows background the desktop gives a very rigid impression. Can't easily tweak anything, like the menu is at the top, far away, and text being tiny, so had to drop the display resolution radically. But that's a different question. So it's just a security type step, not me missing a bigger concept, it just installs for my user profile. Sweet.
    – Conrad B
    Commented Oct 21, 2020 at 15:50
  • You're referring to Gatekeeper that sets a quarantine flag on newly downloaded apps until the system validates the developer notarization. It's a totally different architecture on macOS. Windows uses the Registry whereas macOS uses LaunchServices.
    – Allan
    Commented Oct 21, 2020 at 16:17
  • Thank you for the extra clarification, I'm learning more of the language, yes I have encountered the notarization concept.
    – Conrad B
    Commented Oct 21, 2020 at 17:07
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    "This manual step gives you a choice of which Applications folder you wish to install it to." Or a completely different folder. I like to keep games in ~/Games :) Commented Oct 21, 2020 at 17:22

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