A Mac application can fail to launch for various reasons, but on OS X Yosemite or earlier, the most likely cause is a permissions or application settings error.

The information here applies primarily to OS X Yosemite (version 10.10, 2014) and earlier.

If these elements fail, they can prevent the application from working properly. This may result in a bouncing Dock icon and an application that never finishes launching. In other cases, despite starting normally, the application does not work properly.

Permissions are flags set for each element in the file system. They determine if an element can be read, written and/or executed. Permissions are initially set when you install an application such as Safari.

Regardless of the reason, these tips will help you solve the problem.

Fix app file permissions issues: OS X Yosemite and earlier

Disk Utility in macOS Mojave

As mentioned above, a common problem in older versions of OS X is that file permissions are not set correctly. This can happen whenever you install or update an app, or update OS X. All it takes is a wrong installer installer, and app permissions might not be set correctly. It does not have to be the same application that is being updated. For example, installing a new photo editing app might accidentally set the permissions on a folder shared by another app incorrectly.

The first thing to try in this situation is to restore disk permissions. Luckily, you don’t need to know what permissions should be; your Mac keeps a database of default permissions for most of the apps you install. Just launch Disk Utility and run option Repair disk permissions .

Also check the permissions associated with your account. User account file settings usually do not affect applications that are stored in folder / Applications . However, some applications are hosted in a user folder, so your user folder may also contain the settings files used by the application.

Detailed information about fixing user account permissions can be found in the » Mac Troubleshooting: A Guide to Reset User Account Permissions .

Illustration of a frustrated person trying to launch Safari on a Mac
Lifewire / Derek Abella

Fix Application File Permissions Issues: OS X El Capitan and Later

AT OS X El Capitan Apple has blocked system permissions to access files, including in folder /Application s. As a result, file permission issues should no longer create the same issues. It’s a good news; The bad news is that now you will have to dig deeper to find out the cause of the problem.

One step is to visit the app developer’s website and look for any compatibility issues with your version of OS X or other applications or services that you use.

In many cases, updating the affected application can resolve the issue.

Fixing preferences files (any version of OS X)

Another common reason for a non-working application is a corrupted file. In many cases, the most likely candidate for a corrupted file is an application settings file, also known as a plist. Plist files can become corrupted when your Mac unexpectedly shuts down or restarts, or the application freezes or crashes.

Luckily, you can delete the wrong settings file and the app will automatically create a new plist file containing all the app’s default settings. You will need to reconfigure the application settings, but deleting the settings file will probably solve the problem.

Most applications store their plist files in ~/Library/Preferences . The tilde character (~) in the path specifies your home folder, so if you look in your home folder you would expect to see a folder named Library . However, Apple default hides folder » Library ”, so you can’t accidentally make changes to it. look, how to show hidden files in OS X, if you don’t see the files mentioned below.

  1. Go to ~/Library/Settings . It contains all plist files for applications installed on your Mac. The name of the settings file has the following format: com.developer_name.app_name.plist . For example, settings file for Safari should be com.apple.safari.plist . There must be no other name after the list. For example, you may also see files with the following names:

    • com.apple.safari.plist.lockfile
    • com.apple.safari.plist.1yX3ABt

    If you don’t see settings in his home folder, click Command-Shift-G in Finder then enter ~/Library/Preferences.

    Settings folder in macOS
  2. Once you have found the correct plist file, close the corresponding application if it is running.

  3. Drag the application’s plist file to the desktop; this saves the settings file in case you need to restore it later.

  4. Restart the application.

The application should now run without problems, although all its settings will be in the default state. You will need to reconfigure the application to suit your needs, as you did originally.

If this does not solve the problem, you can restore the original plist file by making sure the application in question is not running and then dragging the original plist file saved to your desktop back to folder » Preferences «.

Safe mode

Another tactic: start your Mac in safe mode . This special launch environment restricts most startup items and limits the use of the operating system to the underlying OS kernel only. If you can start your Mac in safe mode, and then use this application without problems, the likely cause is not permission files or settings files, but a conflict with another application or startup item.

What to do if nothing works?

As mentioned, file permissions and corrupted preference files are the most common issues that prevent an application from working correctly. If you’ve tried both methods, restarted in safe mode, and are still having issues, try contacting the app’s developer for help. Most developers have support sections on their websites where you can request help.

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