Using unsigned apps in terminal on macOS

MacOS’s notarisation process requires programs to be checked by Apple before they’re allowed to run on you computer. Unfortunately, this requires a yearly payment to be made, which is not always feasible for developers to do. Therefore, you may have difficulties when trying to run programs downloaded from the internet that aren’t notarised, and see some kind of error message:


This is a security feature of the Gatekeeper software on macOS, and this issue is known to occur for programs such as Ecoacoustics Metadata Utility, or AnalysisPrograms. These programs run in the terminal. Luckily, we can circumnavigate this issue by changing a setting. Start by opening:

System Preferences > Security and Privacy > Privacy

Then select Developer Tools on the left hand side menu. Click the unlock button, and then tick Terminal:


Now the terminal will be able to run programs that do not meet the security policy.

Help! I can’t see that setting #

If you’re using an older version of macOS, such as High Sierra, this option may not be visible. That’s ok, because we will also present some methods to disable the protection by using a command in our terminal. These methods will also work on recent versions, such as Monterey. For a more detailed summary on disabling Gatekeeper, please also see this help page.

Allow a single program #

The first method will allow a single program to run, without having to disable Gatekeeper. Open a terminal and run the following command:

> xattr -dr <your-path-here>

Replace <your-path-here> with the location of the executable file you would like to allow. For example, the following code will allow the emu executable to run, which in this example is located in ~/emu/:

xattr -dr ~/emu/emu

The program should now run successfully, and there is no need to repeat this step in the future (for the same program).

Disable Gatekeeper system wide #

The second method involves disabling the Gatekeeper software entirely.

Warning: This change is potentially dangerous. It will disable Gatekeeper system wide, not just for terminal apps. This is not an ideal solution. Once you have successfully opened your target program and allowed it to run, you should then run the code to re-enable Gatekeeper. You will still be able to run that program in the future without disabling Gatekeeper again.

Inside a terminal, run the following command to disable Gatekeeper:

> sudo spctl --master-disable

The sudo command lets you run commands with elevated privileges, so you will be prompted to input your password. After successfully running the command above, you will be able to open unsigned programs using the terminal. Once you have confirmed that your program or programs run successfully, you should re-enable the protection. To do this, run the following command:

> sudo spctl --master-enable

Remember that once you have successfully opened and run an unsigned program after disabling the protection, that program will continue to be available, even after you re-enable the protection.

Warning: We know these programs are safe to run in the terminal. But you should always be cautious when downloading and running programs from the internet, and make sure they have been created by developers you can trust.