Reinstall App Store apps to switch associated Apple IDs

MacAppStoreIconXThe App Store included in OS X allows you to purchase and download many programs to your system, and while each download is registered to the Apple ID used to purchase it, any user on the system should be able to open the program and use it. However, when it comes to updating the program, only the Apple ID used for purchasing it can be used to download updates.

If your Mac is used primarily by one person (yourself), then this is not an issue since you only have to ensure you are logged into the store to get updates; however, this may be more cumbersome for multi-user systems, or a hand-me-down system where a prior user who purchased an app or two is no longer using the system.

Even though in general it is good practice to format a system when handing it to a new owner, in cases where a system is given to a close family member you might not want to go through the trouble of setting it up freshly, especially if you already have your documents and settings on it.

In these cases, while the apps purchased by another person will still work, you will not be able to update them, even if you have these same programs purchased under your Apple ID. Attempting to do so will require you log into the App Store under the prior user’s Apple ID.

So how do you switch these apps so they can be updated by the current user? In essence, you cannot, since the signature for the app that authorizes its use is embedded in it, and altering this might break the app’s functions. However, there is a workaround you can use, where if you have already purchased (or plan on purchasing) a program under your Apple ID, then you can swap the current installation out for another.

There are two basic ways to do this:

  1. Use the uninstaller command line tool in the Terminal to uninstall the current version of the App. This may only work for some apps and not others, but is a good approach to use if a program supports it. To use this tool, open the Terminal utility (in the Applications > Utilities folder) and type “sudo uninstall file://” followed by dragging the desired application to the Terminal window. When you do this, the full path to the dragged application will be entered, so the command will look something like the following:
    sudo uninstall file:///Applications/

    When this is done, press Enter to execute the command, and supply your password when prompted (note that this command will only run directly within admin user accounts). When it executes, you should see a progress indicator that ends with an indication the uninstallation has completed.

  2. Drag app to the trash. This approach can be used if using the “uninstall” command fails. Simply drag the program to the trash from the Applications folder, followed by deleting it. This is the easiest approach for removing programs from the App Store, but is a little less complete than using the uninstall command.

When finished removing the program, re-visit the App Store, log in with your account, and then go to the Purchases section where you will now be able to download apps under your account, or search for the App Store and purchase a new replacement for the app.

5 thoughts on “Reinstall App Store apps to switch associated Apple IDs

    1. Mike

      The original apple ID that was originally used to purchase the app will be in the email address field (greyed out). You would need to delete the app (either way mentioned above), sign out of the app store and sign back in as the current apple ID and re-download (or purchase with new account).

  1. Gary

    There’s a nice GUI-based alternative to the command line invocation. And it’s easier to do than to describe!

    – Launch “Launchpad”. (On my Magic Trackpad, it’s an easy gesture to pinch four fingers together.)
    – Locate the application which you intend to uninstall. (Type the first two or three letters of the app’s name if you can’t easily locate it visually.)
    – Hold down the Option key (aka “alt”) and the currently displayed apps will jiggle. Those which were purchased from the Mac App Store will have a little “X” in the top left corner and those which came from elsewhere (or are a core part of the OS) won’t.
    – Click the “X” to uninstall.

    At this stage you can either wait a few minutes or simply return to the Finder. The uninstall process will continue in the background.

      1. Topher Kessler Post author

        If you have already purchased it under your desired Apple ID, then you should not have to pay anything. However, if not then you will have to purchase it under your ID, or switch to the ID that it was purchased under in order to install it.

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