I noticed that all of the default applications (Finder, Preview, etc.) each appear in /Applications, but also again in /System/Applications. Given that these applications are combined just under one GB, duplicating them all seems a massive waste of space. Neither version has an alias symbol indicating a symbolic link, but in each version (the /Applications and /System/Applications) have Last Opened dates in sync. Are the applications really duplicated in memory, or are they somehow referencing the same locations on disk from different filenames without any evidence of a symbolic link? I have heard that directories (which the applications themselves are) cannot be hardlinked so what could be going on here?

1 Answer 1


Those applications are not duplicated - nor are they symbolic links, hard links or firm links.

Instead what happens is that you're using Finder to view the folder - and Finder chooses to show you a mix of apps found in /Applications and /System/Applications.

For example, open Finder and navigate to /Applications, then try right-clicking Photos.app and select Get Info. You'll see under Where that Photos.app is really located in /System/Applications.

It is thus entirely a feature of Finder that these apps are shown together. It is not how the files are organized in the file system - so if you use other programs to list the folders (that do not implement the same special case logic as Finder), then you wouldn't find them to be duplicated.

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    So this is a Finder feature, not a filesystem feature. Finder is just hardcoded to show the contents of /System/Applications in /Applications. This can be further demonstrated by running ls -la /Applications and none of the system applications show up. Feb 8 at 21:44
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    – jksoegaard
    Feb 8 at 21:44
  • This is another example of how Finder sometimes 'lies.' The others being not showing .DS_Store, not showing /dev, not showing any special inodes, etc. Feb 8 at 21:48
  • They are called "firmlinks". This is relevant: superuser.com/questions/1490834/how-to-find-firmlinks
    – Gilby
    Feb 8 at 21:56
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    @Gilby The /System/Applications folder is not a firmlink, no. /Applications is obviously a firmlink - but it is not a firmlink that involves /System/Applications so it has no relevance to this question.
    – jksoegaard
    Feb 8 at 22:12

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