Is It Safe To Download Third-Party Mac Apps?

You may want to download third-party (non-Apple) apps for your Mac from time-to-time. When doing so, it is important to keep safety and security in mind. Four rules will help you stay safe when downloading apps: Don't get an app unless you really need it, get it from the Mac App Store if you can, only get an app if you trust it, and only download from the app's official site.
Video Transcript / Captions
Closed captioning for this video is available on YouTube: Is It Safe To Download Third-Party Mac Apps?.

So I was recently asked about downloading third party apps. Is it safe? Should a typical Mac user be getting third party apps? In order to answer the question I made up four rules you could follow when deciding to download a third party app.

The first rule is to ask yourself do you really need the app. Because a lot of people just download apps just to try them out, just to see what they are, just because they're curious. But unfortunately the way computer security is today you really shouldn't be downloading apps unless you're sure that you need it. So ask yourself is this something I could do without. Is this something that I can do with an existing app or some sort of builtin or Apple produced app. If the answer is that you do need this third party app then you can proceed.

The next thing I would do, rule #2, is to look in the Mac App Store. If you can get an app in the Mac App Store, for typical Mac users, this is a lot safer. Apple has registered all the developers that are in the Mac App Store. There's a little bit of, you know, responsibility there in terms of making sure the things in the Mac App Store are safe to download. So look for what you want. So, for instance, say you want an app to do some graphic design and you hear that Pixelmator is good so you look up Pixelmator in the Mac App Store. Sure enough there it is. You can purchase it in the Mac App Store and that's the best place to get it. Even though a lot of times you can get it outside the Mac App Store getting it in the Mac App Store for a typical Mac user is the best bet.

Now rule #3 is to only get apps that you trust. So how do you trust an app? Well, it could be by reputation or maybe you just have to do some research. So you can search for things. Like you can search for Pixelmator reviews or, you know, things like that. Just read about the app that you want. Try to get a good sense. Dig down even past the first page of results on Goggle see what experts say. See what sites that you trust say about this app. You can reach out and ask other Mac users, other experts out there, if you're unsure. Make sure that this is an app that you really want. You know don't even bother with cleaners, you know things that promise to clean your Mac or keep your Mac more secure or all of that. You don't need any of that stuff. You really just want to focus on apps that you need to get work done, to make your Mac more useful to you, or enjoyable in terms of games and things like that. So make sure you trust the app.

Then the fourth point is to think about the way you're downloading the app. Only download from official sites. So let's look at some examples. Here are some apps that we won't find in the Mac App Store. Like Spotify. If you want to use the Spotify network instead of Apple Music you can certainly download the Spotify app for your Mac. If you search for Spotify download notice the first result comes up here at is the first few results here and you can kind of really think about the fact that that's the official site for Spotify.

But if you go and look further you can find other sites where they claim you can download the app. BUT they're not the official site. Don't ever download from some sort of third party software download site. It's not a good idea. Here's another one. Don't download from that. There's no reason to. Go directly to the actual site for that software. Only download from the actual site. Most of the time when I hear people getting in trouble with an app it's because they downloaded it from some site that I've never even heard of and they got the app and maybe something else came with it. Something was bundled with it or, in the worst case scenario is you don't actually get that app. You got something else. A piece of malware because you weren't at the official site. So check to make sure. Ask an expert or do some research if you're not sure.

When in doubt with any of these rules just don't do it. Don't add an app. It's like letting somebody into your house when you install an app on your Mac. If you're not completely sure that the person should be there in your house then you really should just lean towards safety and not let them in your house at all. The same thing for apps. Don't install an app unless you're absolutely sure and you follow these four rules before installing it.

Comments: 3 Responses to “Is It Safe To Download Third-Party Mac Apps?”

    11 months ago

    Thanks for this – useful info. But I have a query about your Rule #4 … I nuderstand there are some weird and dodgy download sites out there but would you also advise against using reputable ones like or Are they really risky?

    11 months ago

    Norman: I would not download from those two sites you have mentioned. One, at least, is now commonly known for adding other software to the downloads. And WHY anyway? Why would you even consider downloading from somewhere other than the actual developer or publisher website? Nothing to gain and everything to lose.

    11 months ago

    Excellent advice Gary. Many other sites also have “red herring” download options for cleaners, antivirus and malware products. Stick the apple if you have an apple.

Comments Closed.