How to install an application on your Mac

Every so often someone asks me “How do I install this application on my Mac?” I must admit, I was also a little confused when I switched to Mac, so a little help from a friend was as good as gold.

There are a few ways to install applications on Mac. The most common one is with a dmg file, or the disk image. In an example below, we’ll try to install ImageWell, a nice little application that I use to edit images for this website, including the ones below.

First we download the application. The file is called imagewell3r241.dmg and will be saved onto the desktop. Now double-click the file,  this will mount the disk image in this case called imagewell3. It looks like a little hard drive on your desktop.


You need to double-click this icon in order to view the contents, that’s where all-important application is. Once you double-click, you will see this


That is your application. Now, all you need to do is to click and drag the icon into your Applications folder. There are two ways of doing this;

One is to key Command-N (Apple-N) on your keyboard to open another finder window. Then drag the icon from the window above to the Applications folder in the newly opened one.


The other way is to click on the jelly-bean to expand the existing window.


The window now turns into the normal Finder window where you can finally do your click-and-drag installation.


Once done, you will see your application listed in the Application folder.


To start it, just double-click the icon and the application starts.

If you want to have the application icon in your Dock, you can do it in two ways:

From the Applications folder, click the icon, drag it to the Dock and drop it there. Or you can start the application, the icon will appear in the Dock and you can right-click on it and select Keep in Dock.


Once you close the application, the icon will stay in the Dock.

And one more thing, the disk image on your desktop – it must go. OK, you can leave it there, it won’t do any harm, but it will look like an empty milk bottle on your coffee table. So, let’s get rid of it.

There are three ways of doing this;

  • you select it and then press Command-E on your keyboard,
  • right-click on it and select “Eject”, or
  • click and drag it to your trash can. (trash can will look like an eject button for the moment)


Another way of installing an application is by using the installation package.

The process is somewhat similar to the one described above; you download the file, mount it on the desktop, but when you open the disk image you may see a file with extension .pkg (e.g. msnmsgr.pkg). Double-click this file and the installer will take you through easy-to-follow process.

One thing to keep in mind, and this is the case for both installation methods, if the application needs to modify system files – it will ask you for the administrator username and password. Be careful here, I’d think twice before doing this with some applications of doubtful origin.

[tags] installing, application, program, Mac, OS X [/tags]

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23 thoughts on “How to install an application on your Mac

  1. Tom says:

    I had trouble doing this before but I figured it out quickly enough on my own. I am not new to Mac but new to OS X (was using OS 9 still until a year ago) and little things like that need explaining to new users who have switched from XP or Linux ect. Nice work.

  2. lolo says:

    i found this article somewhat helpful, however i am still having trouble installing “Sim’s 2” to my macbook (it is the latest one). All the other programs i try to run have been successful and easy to figure out, however this one proves to be a problem. Any tips on how to do that would be appreciated. Thanks!

  3. Ali says:

    i’ve got the installing part down – but if you want to uninstall, do you just trash the app directly from the app folder? (a big no-no in windows)

  4. Ajay Shah says:

    Suppose an old version of a package exists. Now suppose I fetch a new .dmg file. Do I merely repeat the steps of installation? Will that automatically remove the old version? If not, what are the steps for deinstallation of a package?

  5. Louise says:

    I found this quite helpful.Everything went according to plan as you outlined until it was in my applications folder.The application wouldn’t open, what can I do?

  6. Wayne Thompson says:

    Thanks for the help! I switched to a mac and couldn’t work out why the programs I had installed the day before had vanished.

    Thanks again.

  7. Barry says:

    Thanks for the tip, I got an imac for Xmas after years and years of using windows, so any advice is very welcome.

    Hope you publish more tips for us mac newbies.

  8. Mica says:

    I downloaded eltima’s swf and flv player application and followed the instructions here, but after I installed it, when I would click on the icon on the dock, the icon just bounces then stops. I can’t open the application at all.

  9. Simian says:

    Thank you for the simple, straightforward explanation.

    Just switched to a Mac after more than 20 years of dealing with Microsoft products. Now feel like I’m back in kindergarten — I know absolutely nothing. Explanations such as yours are appreciated.

  10. duncandisorderly says:

    been using os-x since it was new, & didn’t know the trick with the jelly-bean. I thought it was just there for eye-candy…. damn. I have learned so much from this site. thank you thank you. tomorrow I will sneak in early & ctrl-alt-apple-8 all the final-cut machines….. 🙂


  11. Jon says:

    Found this really useful but on my new MacBook Pro (Dec 2009) after following your instructions when I click on the application (which I added to the dock) the disk image (little hard drive pic) appears back on the desktop! It’s really annoying – any suggestions?
    Thanks in advance 🙂

  12. werrr says:

    Thanks, very clear and straightforward explanation. I bought an old imac for my kid and I am really confused by OSX. It seems there are several ways to do the same things, which is not good, and very little control on the system itself. Maybe I was just expecting too much from it….

  13. Faig says:

    Hi, thanks a lot for the tut. I did as you showed to install skype. But when I go to Applications and double click on Skype to launch it, Skype disk image comes back to Desktop again. How can I get rid of it for ever?
    Thanks in advance

  14. Md. Mehanazuddin Rupom says:

    I tried to install Final Cut Pro 7, however, the installation process stopped as I clicked the installation file again during the installation process. Now, even if I try it to install after restarting my Mac, the installation process stops & shows me the message You may tried to install it again What is the solution?

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