Pacifist, file extraction and system forensics tool

When I reviewed Pacifist for the first time, now some five or six years ago, it was pretty much a one-trick app. No more. Pacifist is a must-have for extracting files from installers and zip files, as well as for system forensics/troubleshooting. In that area, Pacifist is just as indispensable as DiskWarrior.

Pacifist was developed to open and extract files from OS X install packages when OS X itself was still in its infancy. It worked well, but it was fairly limited in that it did one thing well, but only that one thing.

Today I’m reviewing Pacifist 3.x and the developer has added features to the app that make it more broadly useful. It’s not better than it was so many years ago. Better would mean it was open to improvement back then. There was nothing to improve upon, as it was excellent at what you purchased it for.

Pacifist file extraction software overview

But it has been made more feature-rich and suitable for system troubleshooting. So, in addition to opening install packages and DMGs, and being able to extract files from such files, Pacifist 3 can now also open compressed files, look into systems folders, compare installers with installed items, etc.

Pacifist’s extraction tricks now work, regardless of where the file resides. That can be on your local Mac or on the Web. A URL entry field allows you to enter the URL of a package or zip file that’s not password protected and open it while still on the web server.

Pacifist file extraction software URL field

This allows you to download the exact file you need from an entire zip archive, thus saving on download time and bandwidth. Pacifist can also load .pkg installer packages over HTTP, although extracting from the package contents will require longer downloads than .zip and .xar archives. Extracting .pkg files from a DVD may take a long time too, depending on the size of the file. I tested with an old 3.5GB Final Cut Pro 6 Audio Content disc (compressed) and it took well over 15 minutes to get all the files from the DVD on my desktop.

You can also search for installation receipts on your Mac, and open (and extract from) OS X system installers. In fact, Pacifist 3 can read pkg, mpkg, zip, dmg, tar, tar.gz, tar.bz2, cpio, cpio.gz, cpio.bz2, and xar archives. For some of its tricks, Pacifist does need you to have administrator’s privileges. There’s a menu item for that in the app.

Pacifist file extraction software installer comparison tool

But these features on their own would perhaps still not justify buying the app. It’s the two next features that do. Pacifist can examine an installer package and scan your hard disk to see if all the files in the package are installed. It will list those files from the package that are on the disk, but that doesn’t always mean the application hasn’t been installed correctly.

Pacifist file extraction software kernel extension report

However, if the app you’re examining is playing up, Pacifist may well offer you a forensic trace (so to speak) as to what is wrong with it, especially as it will also list files of which the checksums or permissions do not match with what is specified in the package.

Finally, Pacifist can scan the contents of your /System/Library/Extensions folder to determine which kernel extensions were installed by the operating system, and which may have been put there by a third-party application. Again, this is an essential tool for troubleshooting. For example, in the Finder and from looking at the name you can’t see the USB Mass Storage extension dumped in the extensions folder by CodeMeter is actually not Apple’s. So it would be safe to remove it as part of a system troubleshooting/fixing session.

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