How to launch any macOS app, even those not notarized by Apple


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Attempts to run old software on a Mac could fail because they haven’t been notarized by Apple. Here’s how to run downloaded apps without being blocked by macOS Gatekeeper.

Downloading applications from the Internet can be a hazardous task, with the high potential for software to become a problem. Acquiring a download could, in a worst-case scenario, lead to the installation of malware that could wipe data or hold it at ransom.

Downloading apps from the Mac App Store is also a solid plan for ensuring the Mac runs only safe software. This isn’t always possible, though. Sometimes, an app isn’t available from the Mac App Store, so you have to look elsewhere.

Savvy Internet users will have their ways of knowing whether a download is safe or not, such as by ensuring it’s downloaded from an official source like the developer’s website. Again, nothing is foolproof, so as an extra safety net, macOS includes systems to protect users, but even this can interfere with what you want to do.

I am the Gatekeeper

Gatekeeper is the system Apple uses in macOS that tries to protect the Mac from malware by limiting what can run. Rather than allowing anything to run, Gatekeeper acts as a digital bouncer, verifying the app before executing it.

In essence, Gatekeeper verifies a downloaded app before running it for the first time. As part of this, it ensures the app has either been sourced from the Mac App Store or, if acquired from the wider Internet, that it has been signed by a valid Developer ID and notarized by Apple.

Gatekeeper will step in if you try running a potentially unsafe app.

The Developer ID certificate is issued by Apple and provided to a developer as an indicator that they are a trusted party and the creator of an app. However, that’s not all an app needs to pass the Gatekeeper.

Since macOS 10.15, all software distributed with a Developer ID must be notarized. The developer must provide the app to Apple’s automated notary service that scans the software and performs other checks to ensure it’s safe…