Can I install apps on my Mac without admin rights?

Whether your IT department locked down your Mac or you grabbed one from eBay that the seller forgot to “clean up”, you may encounter a big problem when trying to install software as a non-admin.

Here’s a possible workaround.

If you’re trying to install software on your Mac the first thing you should do is simply contact your IT department.  They can use login to your computer remotely and installed the software for you.  You may not like having to wait for IT but it’s not you’re computer so you shouldn’t install stuff on it.  Also, you could unwittingly end up installing something that looks benign but is actually nefarious.

That being said, in an emergency there are two possible solutions:

  1. Drag and Drop
  2. Single User Mode

When you see the application installation login window you can either beg for the admin password or try a little workaround that I’m about to show you.

How to instsall software on your Mac without the Admin password

First see if you can just drag the app icon into the Applications folder.

Copy app to application folder

If that fails, you could try Control clicking the app and choosing Open Package Details to see if you can modify the info.plist file or whatevever.

Control Click to Show Package Contents

There was on old hack that worked on older versions of Mac OS X that let you modify a string in info.plist which effectively disabled authentication.  Well I haven’t found a way to get this work in Mac OS X Yosemite so I’m going to assume it doesn’t work anymore.

One other possibility is to boot the Mac to Single User Mode and use the Directory Services Command Line tool to join your non-admin account to the administrator group.

Reboot and hold down Command + s until you see a black screen appear with a bunch of white text.

After a few seconds you’ll at something that resembles a Unix prompt.

First we need to mount the root file system so type

mount -uw /

This mounts the root file system for read-write access.

Then type:

sudo dscl . -append /Groups/admin GroupMembership <usernameToBeGivenRoot>

Replace <usernameToBeGivenRoot> with your non-admin username.

If you need to list the users and groups you can type:

dscl . list /users
dscl . list /groups

Press Enter, type reboot and login with your non-admin account.

Ultimately, you shouldn’t try to “hack around” the password security mechanisms that prevent you from installing software.  These features are here for a reason and unless you really know what you’re doing some of the tutorials out there can leave you with a broken PC and a chagrined look on your face when you call IT and they ask you what happened.



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Posted in Apple, Mac OS X 10.9 Mavericks Tagged with:
  • Owen Ehlen

    you said there was an old hack on older versions by modifying a string in the info.plist, which string do you edit? and what do you edit it to.