One of the reasons we love macOS is its tight security features. You hardly have to worry about viruses or malware because Apple keeps the operating software so securely locked down. It’s all well and good until you can’t open apps because macOS keeps verifying them.
This is exactly what’s happening to a lot of macOS Catalina users. Often the problem starts shortly after updating to the new operating software.
Let’s take a look at what you can do about it.
- 1 Catalina keeps verifying applications
- 2 What to do if your Mac is verifying applications
- 2.1 1. Update macOS and all your apps
- 2.2 2. Remove and reinstall problematic apps
- 2.3 3. Look at activity monitor
- 2.4 4. Uninstall any antivirus, security, or cleanup software
- 2.5 5. Boot into Safe Mode and repair your disk
- 2.6 6. Disable app verification in macOS
- 2.7 7. Erase your Mac and reinstall macOS
- 3 Failing all else, downgrade to macOS Mojave
- 4 Reader tips
- How-To Open Apps Downloaded From Anywhere, macOS
- Everything You Need to Know About App Notarization in macOS Catalina
- Need to Run 32-Bit Apps on macOS Catalina? Use a Mojave Virtual Machine
Catalina keeps verifying applications
After starting up your Mac and opening an app, a loading bar appears saying macOS is “Verifying [Application]”. Sometimes it takes half an hour or longer before the verification finishes and lets you use the app!
Apparently, macOS Catalina feels the need to verify all kinds of apps. Not just unrecognized ones, but common apps like Xcode, Microsoft Word, and even Apple’s own iWork apps.
This issue doesn’t affect all Catalina users, which suggests that erasing your computer and reinstalling macOS could be a solution.
But first, let’s explore some less time-consuming suggested solutions.
Don’t confuse this issue for Gatekeeper restrictions
Gatekeeper is a macOS security feature that only lets you open Apple-trusted software. If you see a message that “macOS cannot verify that this app is free from malware” then you’re dealing with Gatekeeper.
Generally speaking, you can bypass Gatekeeper restrictions by control-clicking the application and selecting Open from the pop-up menu. A new alert warns you the software is unverified by Apple and may contain malicious software, but you can still choose to Open it anyway.
Take a look at our other articles for more information about Gatekeeper.
What to do if your Mac is verifying applications
There are a lot of reasons your Mac might take a long time verifying applications before you can open them. Try each of the potential solutions below, testing your applications again after each one.
Let us know which solution works for you in the comments!
1. Update macOS and all your apps
A lot of users experienced similar problems to this when Apple released macOS High Sierra in 2017. Eventually, Apple released a patch update to fix this issue. Hopefully the same will happen for macOS Catalina.
Ensure your Mac and all your apps are fully up-to-date:
- From the menu bar on your Mac, go to > Software Update.
- Download and install any available updates to macOS.
- Now open the Mac App Store and select Updates from the sidebar.
- Download and install any available updates to your apps.
- For any apps you downloaded outside of the App Store, visit the developer’s website to download and install the latest updates.
2. Remove and reinstall problematic apps
Apple runs a verification process on each of your apps to ensure it’s notarized and free of potentially damaging malware. After macOS verifies an app, it should add that app to a whitelist so it doesn’t need verification again.
Of course, part of the problem here is that macOS keeps verifying the same apps every time you open them. It refuses to trust the software. Try removing your app entirely, then reinstalling it to see if that helps macOS mark it as verified.
To remove and reinstall apps from your Mac:
- Open Launchpad then click and hold any app.
- Click the X button to uninstall apps you got from the Mac App Store. There are numerous stock Apple apps you can’t uninstall.
- For apps you downloaded elsewhere, visit the developer’s website for uninstall instructions. If they don’t provide any, drag the app to the Trash from your Applications folder.
3. Look at activity monitor
Open the Activity Monitor app in Applications > Utilities.
Look under the Process Name list and check if an app is stuck in XProtectService and review how much CPU that process consumes. If the app or process is unresponsive, macOS marks that with (Not Responding.)
If the app’s progress bar stops moving forward and stays there for a period of time, that app might be stuck in the verifying process.
If you don’t see the verifying app making progress and believe it is stuck, either quit or force quit the process or the app.
To quite or force quit the process, select it and press the “x” button in the upper-left corner of the Activity Monitor.
When you choose to quit. The process quits when it’s safe to do so, just like when you normally quit using File > Quit within the app.
With a force quit, the process quits immediately.
4. Uninstall any antivirus, security, or cleanup software
Most antivirus, security, or cleanup apps designed for macOS are notorious for creating more problems than they solve. Thanks to Gatekeeper and other built-in security features, you don’t typically need to use third-party security or antivirus software in macOS.
Even if you installed these apps before the verification problems started in macOS, try uninstalling them now. Then restart your Mac to see if it resolves the problem. Visit the developer’s website for each app to find uninstall instructions.
Potentially problematic apps include:
- Dr Cleaner
5. Boot into Safe Mode and repair your disk
Safe Mode runs software checks, limits startup programs, and clears various caches during startup. This is designed to resolve potential problems in macOS.
Restart your Mac and hold Shift while it boots up to launch Safe Mode. You should see red text saying “Safe Boot” from the top-right of the login screen. open various apps to see if the verification problem still persists.
Restart your Mac again to exit Safe Mode.
Then open Disk Utility to repair permissions on your disk:
- Open Disk Utility from the Utilities folder in Applications.
- Select your Macintosh HD from the sidebar.
- Click the First Aid button and agree to Run First Aid.
6. Disable app verification in macOS
Using the right Terminal command, it’s possible to completely disable the verification security feature on your Mac. If your only aim is to open apps quickly, this is an effective solution, but there are serious risks with it.
Apple designed macOS to verify apps before opening them to protect your privacy and keep macOS secure. If you use the instructions below to disable verification, your Mac is at a far greater risk of becoming infected by malware.
You should only use this as a temporary solution, if at all.
Use Terminal to disable verification on your Mac:
- Open Terminal from the Utilities folder in Applications.
- Copy and paste the following command into Terminal, then press Return:
defaults write com.apple.LaunchServices LSQuarantine -bool NO
- When ready to re-enable verification, enter the same code into Terminal replacing
NOat the end with
Try a different Terminal Command
Some users tell us that this Terminal Command no longer works with macOS Catalina 10.15.4 and higher.
Some readers found that using this command instead worked for them:
sudo xattr -dr com.apple.quarantine /Applications/AppName.app
- Add a space between quarantine and /Applications–this is critical!
- You may not need to use sudo at the start of the command, depending on your account privileges
The xattr command should help if your app is stuck in a verifying loop.
You can also drag and drop the app in question into Terminal
- Open a new Terminal app window
- Type in the following: xattr -d com.apple.quarantine
- Make sure you place a space after quarantine
- Take your app and drag & drop it into Terminal
- The command should now read something like: xattr -d com.apple.quarantine /Applications/AppName.app
- Press enter
- Try again to open that app
7. Erase your Mac and reinstall macOS
If nothing else works, or if you don’t want to permanently compromise the security of your Mac, attempt erasing the computer completely. Of course, be sure to make a Time Machine backup of your Mac before you do this, otherwise, you will lose all your data.
This entire process—backing up, erasing, reinstalling macOS, and recovering your backup—can be incredibly time-consuming. Prepare for your Mac to be out-of-action for at least a day while you do it.
Follow these steps to erase your Mac and reinstall macOS:
- Create a new backup of your Mac using Time Machine.
- Hold Command+R while your Mac powers on to boot into Recovery Mode.
- From the macOS Utilities window, open Disk Utility.
- Select your Macintosh HD from the sidebar and click Erase. Fill in a new name for your drive and confirm you want to Erase it.
- Quit Disk Utility and click Reinstall macOS from the Utilities window.
- Follow the on-screen prompts to reinstall macOS Catalina.
- After the software is installed, connect to your Time Machine backup and recover the important information. Don’t recover your entire backup.
Failing all else, downgrade to macOS Mojave
By now, you should be able to open apps in macOS Catalina without waiting 30 minutes for them to finish verifying. If so, let us know which step helped you fix the verification problem in the comments.
Otherwise, follow this guide to downgrade your Mac to macOS Mojave. The instructions refer to macOS High Sierra but are still appropriate for Mojave.
- If the app keeps showing that verifying message each time you open it, it’s likely that macOS is still flagging it. To remove that flag, use Terminal with the command: sudo xattr -dr com.apple.quarantine /Applications/AppName.app
- On the app icon, hold down Option then right-click on it and select Open from the drop-down menu options. You see the same message about the app not being from a verified developer. But macOS allows you to continue anyway and open it. You only need to do this one time. After that once, the app opens normally, just like all other apps
- Sometimes apps don’t launch after that macOS verification process. In that case, perform a force quit and then the app should work. You can force quit an app via the Apple menu > Force Quit, and then select the app and confirm Force Quit
Dan is a freelance writer based in South West England.
He spent two years supervising repairs as a Genius Admin for Apple Retail and uses that knowledge to keep our troubleshooting guides up to date.
Long before that, Dan turned to Apple products from a musical background. Having owned iPods for years, he bought a MacBook to learn sound recording and production. It was using those skills that he gained a first-class Bachelor of Science in Sound Technology.