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Remove “Safari cannot be opened because of a problem” error on Mac

This entry highlights the cause for the ‘Safari cannot be opened because of a problem’ error messages on Mac and provides an easy fix for this issue.

The error report on Mac that says, “Safari cannot be opened because of a problem” is an example of how things may go wrong with software updates. Numerous users have been complaining of being unable to launch and use the Safari web browser since last week, with the above alert accompanying every such futile attempt. These predicaments co-occurred with the release of a new iTunes version (12.8.1) by Apple, which supports operating system builds from OS X Yosemite through macOS High Sierra. A little bit of closer analysis has revealed that this overlapping timeframe wasn’t a coincidence. While delivering a few minor improvements, the update prevents Safari 10.1.2 from opening. At the time of this writing, it’s not entirely clear thus far whether later editions of this Mac-native browser are affected.

‘Safari cannot be opened because of a problem’ error report on Mac

The error report sounds fairly scary as it suggests some sort of an incompatibility of the browser with the current OS version. Some users have even started thinking they have to install a new macOS build to sort things out, no matter how tedious this workflow may end up. Here’s what the alert says specifically:

Safari cannot be opened because of a problem.

Check with the developer to make sure Safari works with this version of OS X. You may need to reinstall the application. Be sure to install any available updates for the application and OS X.

Naturally, lots of those affected are at their wit’s end figuring out how an iTunes upgrade could have possibly impacted Safari in such a disruptive fashion. It turns out that the most likely cause for this malfunction is that the release of iTunes 12.8.1 has modified the entity called MobileDevice.framework. It is located in the following path: /System/Library/PrivateFrameworks. The new version of this object may be incompatible with the users’ edition of Safari, hence the problem report and failed attempts to open the browser. At least, this is the most plausible explanation at this point. Most of the affected Mac users have been able to fix the issue by either restoring the MobileDevice.framework item to its pre-update state via the Time Machine backup feature, or by simply dragging it to the Trash altogether.

There can be one more reason for the “Safari cannot be opened because of a problem” alerts, though. They may ensue from malware activity on Mac. The culprit can be a malicious Safari extension or plugin that doesn’t work as intended and cripples the browser instead of displaying ads or redirecting the web traffic. It’s also quite likely that the victim could have tried to disable the infection but didn’t go all the way, so its leftovers have broken the browser and continue to cause the irritating errors. No matter which scenario you have encountered – whether it’s the buggy update or the shenanigans of a virus – the steps below will help address the “Safari cannot be opened because of a problem” issue.

“Safari cannot be opened because of a problem” error manual removal for Mac

The steps listed below will walk you through the troubleshooting. Be sure to follow the instructions in the order specified.

  1. Open the Time Machine utility and follow its prompts to find the MobileDevice.framework object and restore it to a state preceding the iTunes update to version 12.8.1

    Mac ‘Time Machine’ app

  2. In case you don’t have a relevant backup or the Time Machine app wasn’t enabled, the only workaround is to delete the current version of the malfunctioning entity. So, spot MobileDevice.framework in the following location: /System/Library/PrivateFrameworks/MobileDevice.framework.

    MobileDevice.framework object

  3. Once you find the MobileDevice.framework item, go ahead and move it to the Trash
  4. Restart Safari and check if it works the way it should. If it does, you should now be good to go. If the “Safari cannot be opened because of a problem” error report is still popping up, proceed to the next section of this guide.

Browser-specific fix for the “Safari cannot be opened because of a problem” popups

In case it’s a virus that’s causing Safari to get out of hand, you will need to restore the browser settings to their default values. The overview of steps for this procedure is as follows:

Reset Safari

  • Open the browser and go to Safari menu. Select Preferences in the drop-down list

    Go to Preferences in Safari

  • Once the Preferences screen appears, hit the Privacy tab at the top. Find the option that says Remove All Website Data and click on it

    Remove All Website Data option under Privacy

  • The system will display a confirmation dialog that also includes a brief description of what the reset does. Specifically, you may be logged out of some services and encounter other changes of website behavior after the procedure. If you’re okay with that, go ahead and click the Remove Now button

    Confirmation dialog

  • In order to selectively clear data generated by certain websites only, not all of them, hit the Details button under the Privacy section of Safari Preferences

    Clear data for specific websites in Safari

  • This feature will list all websites that have stored potentially sensitive data, including cache and cookies. Select the one, or ones, that might be causing trouble and click the appropriate button at the bottom (Remove or Remove All). Click the Done button to exit.

Remove the “Safari cannot be opened because of a problem” error using Combo Cleaner utility

The Mac maintenance and security app called Combo Cleaner is a one-stop tool to detect and remove “Safari cannot be opened because of a problem” error virus. This technique has substantial benefits over manual cleanup, because the utility gets hourly virus definition updates and can accurately spot even the newest Mac infections.

Furthermore, the automatic solution will find the core files of the malware deep down the system structure, which might otherwise be a challenge to locate. Here’s a walkthrough to sort out the “Safari cannot be opened because of a problem” error issue using Combo Cleaner:

  1. Download Combo Cleaner installer. When done, double-click the combocleaner.dmg file and follow the prompts to install the tool onto your Mac.

    Download Combo Cleaner

    By downloading any applications recommended on this website you agree to our Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy. The free scanner checks whether your Mac is infected. To get rid of malware, you need to purchase the Premium version of Combo Cleaner.

  2. Open the app from your Launchpad and let it run an update of the malware signature database to make sure it can identify the latest threats.
  3. Click the Start Combo Scan button to check your Mac for malicious activity as well as performance issues.

    Combo Cleaner Mac scan progress

  4. Examine the scan results. If the report says “No Threats”, then you are on the right track with the manual cleaning and can safely proceed to tidy up the web browser that may continue to act up due to the after-effects of the malware attack (see instructions above).

    Combo Cleaner scan report – no threats found

  5. In case Combo Cleaner has detected malicious code, click the Remove Selected Items button and have the utility remove “Safari cannot be opened because of a problem” error threat along with any other viruses, PUPs (potentially unwanted programs), or junk files that don’t belong on your Mac.

    Combo Cleaner – threats found

  6. Once you have made doubly sure that the malicious app is uninstalled, the browser-level troubleshooting might still be on your to-do list. If your preferred browser is affected, resort to the previous section of this tutorial to revert to hassle-free web surfing.

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