How to Move & Copy Mac App Store Apps Between Macs

Question:

Kevin writes: I recently purchased iPhoto ’11 from the Mac App Store after upgrading to OS X Mountain Lion. The download is over 1 gigabyte in size, which is very large for my slow internet connection, and I have three Macs I’d like to install it on.

I know that the App Store’s licensing terms allow me to use the app on all of my personal Macs, and I know that I could simply download the app separately on each Mac, but doing so will take a long time.

Is it possible for me to download the app once and then copy it to my other Macs using an external USB drive or network file transfer?

Answer:

Thanks to the simplicity of Mac software packages, moving apps – even those downloaded from the Mac App Store – between Macs is very easy.

Move Mac App Store Apps How To

Once you’ve completed the download on your primary Mac, find the application in you Applications folder, located at /Applications on your Mac’s system drive (don’t confuse this folder with your individual user Application folder, located at [User]/Applications).

Next, copy the application’s “.app” file to an external drive in order to transport it to your other Macs. Alternatively, if you have your computers linked with a network, access each Mac’s system drive over the network and copy the “.app” file directly to the system Application folder on each one.

Mac App Store apps are protected with DRM, so your other Macs will need to be running a version of OS X that can support the App Store (currently OS X 10.6.6 or higher) and you’ll need to log in with the Apple ID account that originally purchased the app. If you’re not logged in when you try to launch the app on another Mac, the App Store will launch and prompt you for your Apple ID and password before it will let you use the app.

Also, beyond the system requirements for the Mac App Store itself, each individual app has its own system requirements. Be sure to verify that all of the Macs you wish to use the app on meet the minimum software and hardware requirements.

Moving apps obtained from locations other than the Mac App Store often works exactly as described above, although without the App Store verification process. However, some developers do not bundle their apps' contents and these applications are therefore not contained in neat and tidy “.app” packages. For these apps, the best method is to locate the original installation disc or file and run the install process on each additional Mac separately.

While the steps described here may work in most cases, there are additional terms and conditions that apply for non-personal commercial use. Macworld’s Jason Snell has a good overview of the Mac App Store’s terms and conditions for those interested in reading further.