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I recently encountered some issues with the ~/Applications folder on my macOS system and need some guidance on how to resolve them. Here's what happened:

  1. I contacted Apple Support, and a technical advisor informed me that it is not possible to change the default location for saving applications, and they will be stored directly on the disk instead of the ~/Applications folder. They mentioned that there's no workaround for this. (In retrospect, I think he misunderstood the issue, or did not know the answer and kept repeating what the docs told him.)

  2. The ~/Applications folder keeps reappearing periodically, even after I delete it. Consequently, some of my applications, like Chrome Apps, were mistakenly downloaded to the ~/Applications folder instead of the designated Applications folder directly on Macintosh HD. This has resulted in a messy situation.

I'm seeking assistance with the following:

  1. How can I safely move all my applications from the Applications folder to the ~/Applications folder? I want to ensure that system applications remain intact, and any new user accounts created have access to the standard system applications. In other words, a fresh boot install. When new users are created right now, all my user-installed apps are contained in the new boot.

  2. Is there a way to diagnose why this ~/Applications folder reappears repeatedly and why applications are being saved in the wrong location sometimes? I'm keen to understand the root cause to prevent it from happening again in the future.

Edit: I would like to consolidate the "Applications" folder into a single location, specifically "~/Applications".

In Question 2, it was assumed that all my applications are already in the "Applications" folder on Macintosh HD. However, certain apps like Chrome Apps are installed in the "~/Applications" folder. My assumption is that Chrome searches for the "Applications" folder in the root directory, and if it's not found there, it instructs the Mac to create one in order to download those apps.

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    I'm a bit confused as to whether you want, or don't want, the ~/Applications folder. Question 1 seems to be about wanting to move stuff to the user folder; and Q. 2 seems to be about stopping that folder from appearing.
    – benwiggy
    Nov 1, 2023 at 19:03
  • Sorry, please see the edit for clarification.
    – Kamil
    Nov 2, 2023 at 9:47
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    You're still asking about moving applications TO the user folder, but also saying "mistakenly downloaded (?) to ~/Applications". (Surely downloads would go to ~/Downloads, and then be installed by moving to one of the Applications folders.
    – benwiggy
    Nov 2, 2023 at 9:50
  • Please see the edit now
    – Kamil
    Nov 2, 2023 at 9:53
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    Root is /, the top level of the file system. Saying 'root of the user' is confusing.
    – benwiggy
    Nov 2, 2023 at 10:28

1 Answer 1

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By default, macOS has an Applications folder at the root level of the file system: /Applications. (see below for more details.)

This is where all third-party apps normally get installed to. Installing them in this location means that they are separate from any given user account, and they are available to all users.

Due to the 'parallel' structure of macOS, several folders in the root level can have 'counterparts' in the user domain: you can create an ~/Applications folder, and the OS will use apps installed there; but of course they will only be available to that user account.

Unless your computer is used by several different people, with different user accounts, who must not have access to the same apps, I would recommend keeping your apps in /Applications, and not in the user account. It makes finding and fixing problems easier, and also makes backup strategies more flexible.

In short: Do not move apps from "Macintosh HD > Applications".

It's possible that an installer might create a user Applications folder, if it is incorrectly programmed, or perhaps if it can't write to /Applications, for some reason.

An admin user should be able to move any app from ~/Applications to /Applications. You may be asked for authorisation to do so.

(Since Big Sur, apps that are part of the OS, like TextEdit, Safari, Mail, etc, are actually at a different location, on a separate system volume, but they are shown as 'merged' with the /Applications folder, in the Finder.)

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