Installing Macintosh Applications
on Macintosh Media

Summary: Installation of Macintosh applications on HFS CD-ROMs or other Macintosh media. Technical aspects involved in the process. Links to several examples of using Macintosh applications downloaded from the Internet.


There are several ways to get a Macintosh application (a Macintosh program) and to put it on a Macintosh medium (physical disk managed by MacDisk, hybrid CD-ROM project or virtual partition managed by MacImage):
You can get the Macintosh application from several sources:
- from a real Macintosh disk (HFS or HFS+ disk),
- from a "Macintosh-like" medium (NTFS server, MS-DOS disk, ISO CD-ROM), or
- from an Internet server.
We also publish on this site a specific page on how to produce a CD-ROM containing a Web Site.

Copy from a real Macintosh medium

Open the Macintosh medium with MacDisk. Select the file to be copied. Switch to the MacBinary copy mode: Open the 'Options' menu. Check the last item to display the 'Expert' menu. In the newly displayed 'Expert' menu, select the Copy mode item, select 'MacBinary' and validate. Copy the file to the PC hard disk. Please note that using this special copy mode is necessary to keep together both forks of the Macintosh file.
One of the characteristics of the MacBinary standard is that it can manage both forks, and some other information, in a single file (so-called container).

Copy from a "Macintosh-like" medium

This binary copy is also necessary if the files are stored on a NTFS volume (Macintosh share managed by SFM), on a MS-DOS volume storing Macintosh files, or on an ISO 9660 CD-ROM burnt on a Macintosh with Apple Extensions. Such volumes, when displayed by MacDisk, show certain elements which are not visible from other application, in Windows Explorer, for instance.
The copy method is the same as above (copy to a MacBinary container with MacDisk).
If you don't proceed this way, you will only get the data fork from the Macintosh file. In the case of applications (programs), the file you get is not usable (error -39 when trying to launch the program).

Download the Application from the Internet

Macintosh applications store contents in both the data fork and the resource fork. To keep both forks together, two main standards are used: the MacBinary Format and the BinHex Format.
When downloading from a Macintosh computer, the decompression is often done on the fly while downloading.

Downloading from a PC

When you download Macintosh applications from a PC, you don't want any decompression.
You should check that your favorite browser doesn't try to be too smart with such files. Some of them try to uncompress the files on the fly, which is not what we want. Others try to display their raw contents. You'll probably have to do some tests in your precise configuration.

Using Internet Protocols

If the original file is not prepared as a MacBinary or Binhex container, all Internet protocols (http, ftp, and so one) will only get you the data fork. In the case of an application, you'll get the dreaded -39 error while clicking on the file on a Macintosh. This error is "unexpected end of file". Namely, the Finder tries to load the application and finds that the resource fork is empty.

Only Download Real Apps!

The last problem is the new fashion of installing applications on line. Several programs (e.g., QuickTime 4) only allow you to download a mini-installer, which manages thereafter the on-line downloading. This is clearly a bad solution if you want to install a reader on a CD-ROM to access data files you created.

Other Sources

On the other hand, for very heavy applications, it is often possible to find the installer on CD-ROMs, distributed freely with some magazines or available for a nominal fee from the publisher. Such a solution cures all downloading problems, of course.

Producing Flash Projectors on the PC

Flash, by Macromedia, can produce the Macintosh executable on the PC. This file is a Binhex container. This binhex file can be unpacked by MacDisk or MacImage, which puts a portion of the container in the data fork, another portion in the resource fork of the physical or virtual target volume. See our page on Flash for more details on the process.
On the other hand, with Director, you have to compile your project on both platforms.

Installing the Application on the Macintosh Medium

After downloading the file (be it a MacBinary file or a BinHex file), you only have to copy it onto the Macintosh medium (physical medium managed by MacDisk, hybrid CD-ROM project or virtual partition managed by MacImage). The latest version of our programs automatically detects the MacBinary and BinHex files and manage them accordingly, after asking the user whether s/he wants to "unpack" the container.

Testing the Application

Downloading an application, in particular if the file is huge (several megabytes) and if the server is busy (like Microsoft or Netscape servers), is a difficult process. A single glitch can make a file unusable.
In front of this, we can't recommend enough to test the application after installing it on the Macintosh medium. This is particularly important in the case of a professional job.
There is no other solution than to execute the file on a Macintosh. The dangerous part of the process is the downloading, not the installation on the medium. If a test finds a positive issue, you can consider that the file stored on your PC is validated and can be used freely.


We made tests with several widely used applications. Please find below some links to pages showing how to download those Macintosh applications from the Internet. We intend to develop those pages with the time.

If you have comments on those pages, or if you need more details, don't hesitate to contact us and we'll try to test the precise problem and to publish a practical solution.

Pierre Duhem (ex-Logiciels & Services Duhem)
3, rue Pierre Haret - F-75009 Paris (France) - Tel. (+33) [0]149 700 455