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App Store Hangs and Installs Phantom App - Solved

Cayenne1

macrumors member
Original poster
Jun 21, 2016
70
76
Knoxville, TN
This write up is about two things;

1. An App Store update hangs, and
2. The installed App Store application becomes a phantom nowhere to be found on the System Disk.

You can skip to the how I fixed it for the short form solution.

---------
I had a problem when updating an App from the App Store. The installed application, "The Unarchiver" had an Update button when looking at Purchased Apps.

So I clicked update and a little icon just spun and spun. A search showed that this is a common problem, but what happened next is not.

I used an app called "App Cleaner Pro" and removed "The Unarchiver" from the applications folder. I returned to the App Store which still showed the program with the "Update" button. Pressing update resulted in the same spinning wheel.

So, off to searches about App Store issues which leads mainly to clearing its cache.

The first try was using instructions from StackExchange on "How to Re-install an App that Shows up in the Appstore as 'Update' Instead of 'Buy App'".

It has steps to "rm" a number of caches, rebuild Spotlight, install the App, and then edit the application to remove a folder called '_MASReceipt"

So I gave it a go and the App Store could then install the app, but here's where it got weird. I could not find "The Unarchiver" in either of the applications folders "~/Applications/" or "/Applications" on the system disk. But it was in Launchpad and a click would run it just fine. It had to be somewhere.

Ok, so into the world of Mac rabbit holes. I did a search of the entire Macintosh HD for "The Unarchiver.app" - nada. I did a System Information search under About this Mac/System Report for Applications. That timed out because the stupid thing searches every attached volume. So I unmounted all the attached drives and ran it again, but "The Unarchiver" was NOT listed in the Applications section. But, it did show up when selecting "Installations" in the report.

I'm getting puzzled now. How can I run an application I can't find on the disk? The Installation report showed a path of "My iMac > Software > Installations > The Unarchiver". But I couldn't find that folder anywhere.

Ok, Reboot. Click on Launchpad, Click on The Unarchiver Icon again, it runs. So, its got to be somewhere!

I'm down in the rabbit hole now and pushing on I found there is a system log file of everything installed on your Mac:

/private/var/log/install.log

Looking in the log I found the section installing "The Unarchiver" and noted this line:

...
2020-02-22 18:13:20-05 Dons-iMac storedownloadd[549]: PackageKit:
Registered bundle file:///Volumes/SG02%20Data/Software/Mac%20Files/Unarchiver/The%20Unarchiver.app/ for uid 501
...

Hey, the App Store installed it on my attached USB drive "SG02 Data", not on the system drive "Macintosh HD/Applications"!!!!!! Where did that come from?

To verify, I type "The Unarchiver.app" in Spotlight, selected it, pressed Command and noted the path at the bottom. It was

SG02 ● Software ● Mac Files ● The Unarchiver ● The Unarchiver.app

And every time I deleted "The Unarchiver" and reinstalled from the App Store, it put it on that external drive!
--------

Now, how I finally fixed it.

1. Made sure Time Machine had done a backup
2. Made sure the App Store was closed
3. I went to Launchpad and long pressed "The Unarchiver" icon and selected the delete "x".
4. In Spotlight, I entered "The Unarchiver.app" and found and deleted all occurrences on all volumes.
5. From an OSXDaily article, I ran this command in Terminal:
open $TMPDIR../C/com.apple.appstore/
Clear Mac App Store Temp Cache to Fix Some Download Issues
6. I moved all contents of the window that opened to a dummy folder
(these are App Store cache files)
7. I opened the App Store and "The Unarchiver" had an "Install" button which I pressed.
8. "The Unarchiver.app" installed normally into the "Macintosh HD ● Applications ● The Unarchiver" folder

Takeaways:
1. Mystery, why did the App Store install on an external volume, but it can?
2. App Store hangups can be cured by cleaning its cache.
 
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