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Out of curiosity, I set the permissions on my hard drive from "everyone" to "no access". The drive then turned into a blue folder with a red circle on it. I restarted and now I’m stuck at the gray screen with the Apple logo. What can I do to get it back to normal?

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You should be able to do the following:

  1. Boot up while holding the "Option" key (or command + R for lion and mountain lion users
  2. Since this is a Lion (or later) system, one of your boot options is "Recovery" - pick that
  3. Once the recovery partition boots up, go to the menus and select "Disk Utility"
  4. Find your Macintosh HD drive in the list on the left, select it
  5. Go to the First Aid tab
  6. Select "Repair Disk Permissions"

This will take a little bit, based on the size of the disk, but you'll be up and working. After the permissions are repairs, it's a good practice on HFS+ (your filesystem) to choose "Repair Disk" also.

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Note that the Option key is pressed after the chime during bootup – Ethan Lee Sep 4 '12 at 7:40

I accidentally changed the permissions on a disk so that one or more of the permissions were set to No Access, and I can't see the disk to change the permissions back. How do I fix this?

If the disk in question is your Mac OS X startup disk and your computer stops starting up at the blue/gray screen, restart with Cmd-S held down, and enter the following commands:

mount -uw /
chown root /
chmod 1775 /
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