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I would like to know what kind of permissions do applications installed to /Applications get?

Do they get access to system directories?

Is it safer to install applications to your $HOME/SOMEDIR?

I used to install applications only into my home folder thinking that /Applications will grant some kind of elevated permissions to the apps. But with the recent appstore on mac I wonder whether I should start using the Applications folder instead?

Any ideas?

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~/Applications/ is also specifically intended to hold user-specific applications. – Daniel Beck Feb 10 '11 at 20:43
up vote 2 down vote accepted

Applications don't get special permissions based on their installation directory. They inherit your permissions, and can elevate theirs (sometimes permanently AFAIK, see below) with a password prompt, but that's it.

Applications that come with an installer should stay where they are, they might break otherwise (example: FaceTime breaks if moved from /Applications).

The App Store probably installs to /Applications because it is the most well known location. It might also allow other users on your machine to use these applications. Applications from the App Store aren't actually allowed to require elevated permissions, so this is not the reason they're installed in that directory.

Applications without installer, that are installed using drag&drop, can still be placed pretty much where you want. Some of these applications fail if you use FileVault, since they must reside on the boot volume and require elevated permissions, but it's been like this for a long time and especially not related to the App Store (SuperDuper comes to mind, IIRC).

~/Applications/ is designed to hold your personal applications according to Apple (also here).

I install all applications that don't come with an installer in ~/Applications and haven't had any issues (except the aforementioned applications like SuperDuper). I think you can continue to do so yourself, but aside from file organization and not sharing these applications with other user accounts on your machine, there's not strong reason for either option.

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Shameless self-promotion (although only slightly related): Managing Applications on Mac OS X. – Daniel Beck Feb 10 '11 at 20:37
@daniel-beck thanks for the detailed response and with useful links. They were helpful? Do you know what kind of elevated permissions a application can acquire using password prompts? monitory key inputs, access all system files? Also do you know if mac app store scans your ~/Applications/ for installed apps. – Pradeep Feb 11 '11 at 2:31
@Pradeep: If you provide an application with administrator privileges at a password prompt, it can, in theory, do anything. The behavior of App Store isn't completely clear to me -- I'd have thought they check their list of applications you downloaded with it, but some applications seem to get listed in MAS without you having downloaded them with it. I suggest you open a new question specifically related to that. – Daniel Beck Feb 11 '11 at 6:11

If you put your apps into $HOME/SOMEDIR, other users won't have access to these apps, only you will.

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This is wrong on a default Mac OS X configuration. Folders you create yourself in ~ are world-readable, only the default folders are secured. – Daniel Beck Jun 23 '11 at 8:00

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