12/27/229:00 am Why Do Macs Have Multiple Applications Folders? On a Mac you have a main Applications folder, but also a folder for each user account. If you look at the main Applications folder carefully, you'll also notice that some of the app are actually not located there, but in another Applications folder. Check out Why Do Macs Have Multiple Applications Folders? at YouTube for closed captioning and more options. Video Transcript: Hi, this is Gary with MacMost.com. Let's look at why you've got multiple application folders on your Mac. MacMost is brought to you thanks to a great group of more than 1000 supporters. Go to MacMost.com/patreon. There you can read more about the Patreon Campaign. Join us and get exclusive content and course discounts. So this is a common question that I hear, why are there multiple application folders. There's the Main application folder which seems to hold all of your apps. But there is also a separate applications folder in your Home folder and those apps that are in the main applications folder, some of them aren't really there. They are in another Application folder. Let's take a look at all of these and learn what they are used for. In the Finder if you use the Go Menu and go to Applications then you'll get to your main Applications folder. I'm going to Command Click up here and you could see that this is at the top level of the drive. There's my hard drive. There's a folder named Applications. In fact if I do Go and then to Computer and then go to my hard drive there's the Applications folder and I'm here at the same place. This seems to hold all of my Applications. Indeed, for most Mac users every app that you have will be in this one Applications folder. It's the only one you need to really know about. But you may have already noticed a second Applications folder. I'm going to create a new Finder window here and I'm going to go to my Home Folder. So my Home folder is my User Account folder. It has folders in it like movies, music, pictures, and so on. If you're not using iCloud Drive, Desktop and Documents will be in here as well. But another folder you may or may not see in here is Applications. This Applications folder is usually empty. In fact, you may not find this at all. You may have deleted it at some point in the past and since it has not been used by anything deleting it is fine. Now the Home folder Applications folder is different from the main Applications folder in that the main Application folder is for all users on your Mac. So say you and your spouse both have user accounts on your Mac. Or say you're like me and you've got one for work, one for other purposes. Each of those accounts will have its own Application folder in its own Home folder. Any applications installed in there will only be of available when you're logged in as that user. Any application in the Main Applications folder at the top level will be available to all users on the Mac. This is handy because you can purchase just an app, say in the App Store, install it for you and then your spouse or whoever else that has an account on your Mac can use that app as well. However, sometimes you may want to install an app just for one user. When installing a third party app sometimes you're asked whether or not you want the app installed for all users on the Mac or just the current user. If you select just the current user in that case this Home application folder is exactly where the app would go and it would only be available to that user. But you could also move applications here if you like. If I wanted to move an application and make it only available for one user I could select that app, like for instance let's use this app from the App Store, and I can move it to this Application folder. Notice how the cursor changes to a little curved arrow there. That means it is going to create a link to the app. Not move the app itself. That's not what I want here. So I want hold down the Command Key. Then I'm going to be prompted because this isn't something that should be done lightly. Then the application moves. Now Compressor can only be used by this one user. Another user on this Mac wouldn't even see that the app is installed and couldn't use it. You could bring this back to the system level by dragging it back here and dropping it in and now I've moved it back there. Although if a third party app has the option to install for System or for User you should use that instead. Dragging and Dropping may not work for those apps because they are maybe other components involved. Now there's a third Applications folder and you may never actually even see it unless you look closely. Let's go and take a look here at an app that was installed by the App Store. If I do Command i, for get info, you can see its location is Macintosh HD Applications. That is exactly where it is. But what happens if I selected this app. This app is one that's part of macOS. It comes when you install macOS and you can't uninstall it. If I get info on that one the location is my hard drive System Applications. But this is hard drive Applications. So it is showing a different location under Where and Info than what we're actually seeing here. Now if we go up to the computer level again and then we go into the hard drive, there's that Application folder we were just looking at, and we look in System we can see that there is Applications folder in there as well. A third Applications Folder. In this one you're going to find just the apps that are part of macOS. So you've got Apps here you can't uninstall and they don't update through the App Store. You update them by updating macOS. So these are things like the Photos App, Music, TextEdit, Stickies, you know Contacts, Clock. Anything that is built into the Operating System. Most of these actually tie into the Operating System in some way, although not all of them. For instance the Chess App, how does that really tie in except as the prime example of using Game Center. But all of these apps are actually located here inside the System folder. Since macOS Catalina the System folder is protected. It's Read Only. The only time things in there change is when you do a System Update. This is a security feature. These Applications, since they are under System, are part of that Read Only section of your drive. Now backup at the top level of the Applications Folder you're going to see these Apps there. That's done through a little Finder magic. The Finder has a special code in it to say, hey in the Applications Folder show what is in the Applications folder. Also show what is in the System Applications' folder. You don't have two copies of these apps. The actual location is in the System Applications' folder. But they are just shown here so you don't have to look in two separate places. Realistically, you never have to look in the System Applications' folder at all. Just look in the Applications folder to find any apps that you need. Or better yet use the Dock or Launchpad or Spotlight to launch an app. Now there is actually a fourth Applications folder. That's even harder to find. You'll find that at the top level in System and then the Library folder in System which is different than the Library folder at the top level. Then in there there's a folder called Core Services and in Core Services there's an Applications folder. As a matter of fact, Core Services itself holds a lot of applications. These are small services and other things that you may use while you're using macOS. For instance, here's Archive Utility and that will launch automatically, say, if you double click a Zip File. Here's About This Mac. You don't launch that normally as a regular app but you go to the Apple Menu and choose About This Mac. Of course if you have multiple users each user has their own Applications Folder in their own Home Folder. But the main one, and really the only one that most Mac users need to deal with, is your Main Applications folder. I hope you found this useful. Thanks for watching. Related Subjects: Finder (271 videos) Related Video Tutorials: Using Terminal to Find Large Files and Folders ― Why Are File Sizes Different On Macs Than Windows and Other Places? ― How To Merge Two Folders On a Mac ― Productivity Series: Files and Folders Comments: 6 Responses to “Why Do Macs Have Multiple Applications Folders?” Bill Wisse 5 months ago Interesting. I checked my Home folder and found the application folder and to my surprise, I see all Windows 11 applications there. Apparently Parallels is using that. About 10 months ago I downloaded Parallels but decided not to go ahead and uninstalled it but look what was left behind. roger 5 months ago thank you for help and support Gary Rosenzweig 5 months ago Bill: Are you sure those aren't just links to launch that app in Parallels? It wouldn't make sense for Parallels to store the actual application files there. But I think you can opt to have links so you can launch those apps from there. nick 5 months ago Gary, I have an open source app (very safe, widely used research app) in the Application folder. This app contains a number of sub-folders for various tools, plugins etc. however they don't show up by default in Finder. I have to select Show Package Contents in the context menu, then the folders show up. Is there a setting for showing these sub-folders by default? thx Gary Rosenzweig 5 months ago nick: No. Usually if something is inside a package it is not meant to be accessed directly by a user. What is the reason you need to go in there? Isn't there a way to access all of it from inside the app? nick 5 months ago There are various folders for Java scripts, macros etc, some things can be installed through the app's menu, but others are installed by dragging files into a specific folder. I know these folders are meant to be accessed by users, I was thinking it might have had something to do with my Mac's security settings or finder options. Leave a New Comment Related to "Why Do Macs Have Multiple Applications Folders?" Name (required): Email (will not be published) (required): Comment (Keep comment concise and on-topic.): 0/500 (500 character limit -- please state your comment succinctly and do not try to get around this limit by posting two comments) Δ
Interesting. I checked my Home folder and found the application folder and to my surprise, I see all Windows 11 applications there. Apparently Parallels is using that. About 10 months ago I downloaded Parallels but decided not to go ahead and uninstalled it but look what was left behind.
thank you for help and support
Bill: Are you sure those aren't just links to launch that app in Parallels? It wouldn't make sense for Parallels to store the actual application files there. But I think you can opt to have links so you can launch those apps from there.
Gary, I have an open source app (very safe, widely used research app) in the Application folder. This app contains a number of sub-folders for various tools, plugins etc. however they don't show up by default in Finder. I have to select Show Package Contents in the context menu, then the folders show up. Is there a setting for showing these sub-folders by default? thx
nick: No. Usually if something is inside a package it is not meant to be accessed directly by a user. What is the reason you need to go in there? Isn't there a way to access all of it from inside the app?
There are various folders for Java scripts, macros etc, some things can be installed through the app's menu, but others are installed by dragging files into a specific folder. I know these folders are meant to be accessed by users, I was thinking it might have had something to do with my Mac's security settings or finder options.