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How to install the MacOS apps Apple doesn't want you to

Apple recently hid the option to install some types of software. Here's how to bring it back.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

Apple is big on protecting you from malware and viruses, but it's taken a rather nannying approach in its latest MacOS software, going so far as to remove the option to install software from anywhere you like. Fortunately, there are two easy workarounds to reclaim control of your Mac.

On previous versions of Apple's Mac operating system, you were able to easily install applications from multiple sources. You did this by going to System Preferences > Security & Privacy > General, where there were three checkboxes to allow app installs from either just the official Mac App Store, from "identified developers," or -- for the truly adventurous -- from anywhere, which means from software makers not officially recognized by Apple.

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This third option is now missing by default from the latest version of MacOS.

Screenshot by Joseph Kaminski/CNET

This last option, "anywhere," is now hidden under the current version of MacOS Sierra, due to a security feature Apple calls Gatekeeper. Gatekeeper helps protect Macs from applications that could adversely affect system stability. It does this by verifying downloaded applications before allowing them to run. By default, if you're trying to install an application not recognized by Gatekeeper, it won't install.

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This the the warning you see when trying to install apps from unidentified developers.

Screenshot by Joseph Kaminski/CNET

Most of the time, this isn't a problem. But if you do have a need to install an application that doesn't originate from Apple's identified developer list, or isn't in the App Store, it can be a pain. Fortunately, we have two workarounds.

Just note that CNET is not responsible for any rogue applications you install by following this advice. With that said, here we go:

Method 1: One app at a time

  • Locate the downloaded .dmg file (that's the installer package for the software you've downloaded) in the MacOS Finder.
  • Hold down the Control key while left-clicking on the install file you want to run.
  • From the dropdown menu click on Open.
  • The application is now saved as an exception in your security settings and can be opened like any other registered app.

Method 2: Bring back the 'anywhere' checkbox

  • First make sure the System Preferences menu is closed for now.
  • Open the Terminal app either by using Spotlight search and typing terminal, or by going to the Applications/Utilities/ folder.
  • Enter the following command syntax (or just cut and paste this one): sudo spctl --master-disable
  • Hit the Enter/Return key.
  • Authenticate your choice by entering the admin password (see screenshot below), then hit enter. (Note: this password entry can be a little funky, as the characters may not show up as you type -- just go with it.)
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  • Now, when you return to System Preferences > Security & Privacy > General, the "anywhere" checkbox option will be back where it was in OS X.
  • To change it back, repeat the steps and type sudo spctl --master-enable

Don't let all this newfound freedom go to your head. Only install software application from trusted sources. Remember, with great power comes great responsibility.