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After upgrading to Lion, the owner of my files on the time machine disk is no longer myself but some user '501'. This makes all the backups that preceded Lion inaccessible.

I would like to run a recursive chown directly on the time machine disk to fix the ownership of everything under ~/., but I'd like to check first.

Have you run a recursive chown on your time machine disk under Lion and survived it?

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Did you run id in Terminal to see what your UID is now? –  patrix Oct 29 '11 at 11:11
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I've not done this personally but chown is pretty non-destructive spa recursive chown to make you the owner again is a perfectly valid and safe thing to do. In fact, it's what you are supposed to do when ownership is wrong.

You can always change it back to different ownership later with no loss or risk to file data but given that it is inaccessible right now due to ownership issues, I can't see why you would want to.

Just be very sure you are doing it to the time machine backup only.

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However mild the risk might be, it doesn't make sense to gamble with other people's data. Is there anyone here who has actually done it and can tell us how it went? –  Calaf Nov 3 '11 at 4:20
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