Approving kernel extensions in macOS Big Sur

A few popular software options used on campus use what are called kernel extensions in order to function.

In previous versions of macOS, CIT had the ability to "whitelist" these kernel extensions in order to simplify the software installation for you. With macOS Big Sur, however, you will need to manually approve the kernel extension in order for some software to function correctly.

This article outlines that approval process. Please note that this only applies for new software installs; if you upgraded to Big Sur from a previous version of macOS, any pre-approved kernel extensions will continue to function without requiring this manual approval.

Before You Start

In this guide, we are installing Google Drive for Desktop, CIT's recommended cloud storage solution for the campus, which uses a kernel extension. There are, of course, other software offerings that use kernel extensions, but this tutorial using Google Drive File Stream properly illustrates the approval process for kernel extensions for other software offerings, as well.


  1. Install the software, either manually via a web browser download and install, or via the CIT Self Service application if you're using a campus-managed Mac

  2. After the installation completes, open the software from the Applications folder in Finder

  3. You will be prompted to approve the kernel extension automatically (macOS will refer to it as a "system extension"); click Open Security Preferences to be taken to the correct location in System Preferences (which is System Preferences → Security & Privacy)

  4. Click the lock in the lower left-hand corner and enter your password to unlock the preference pane, then click Allow

  5. In order for macOS to complete installation of the kernel extension, your computer will need to be restarted. Close all other open applications, then click Restart at the prompt

  6. Once the system has rebooted and you are logged back in, your software should now run as intended


This guide also applies regardless of whether the software was installed manually from the Internet, or via the CIT Self Service application on campus-managed Macs. For more, visit Managing your Apple computer with the CIT Self Service application.

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