I am trying to access some lost photos from a MacBook Air backup (I no longer have the computer). I am denied acess to pictures folder because I don't have permissions. How can I log in with password and get access? This was my wife's computer; she has the login credentials, I just need to know how.

I have a MacBook Pro laptop with OSX Yosemite, with Time Machine to a 2Tb G Technology G-Drive with USB 3.0. The backup I am trying to access is a 2013 file (G-Drive/Backups/LuAnne'sMacBookAir/Latest/MacintoshHD/Users/luanne/Pictures)

Clicking on "Pictures" denies access by saying "You do not have permission to open the document “Pictures”."

  • 1
    In order to help you with this, we need to know with what type of computer and operating system you are using to try and gain access to the files. Please add the relevant info to the original question. – Allan Apr 12 '16 at 17:27
  • Also add what type of back up, e.g. Time Machine, file copy from Finder, etc. – user3439894 Apr 12 '16 at 17:36
  • Is there a little red circle with a white minus sign in it on the Pictures folder? If so, see my answer below. You just need to change permissions. – Christian Boyce Apr 12 '16 at 21:33

If you are an administrator (i.e. have an admin account) on the MacBook Air and are familiar with the command line interface you can use the sudo command to obtain machine-level admin rights. Once you have those rights, you can access the files in that folder.

An example of this might be:

$ cd ~/Desktop
$ mkdir luannsphotos
$ sudo cp -R G-Drive/Backups/LuAnne'sMacBookAir/Latest/MacintoshHD/Users/luanne/Pictures/* luannsphotos

This is pseudo-"code", but essentially I've created a folder in your home folder, and then recursively copied the contents of that folder you referenced into this new folder.

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You could use "BatChMod"to change the permissions on the folder and its contents to your own user's credentials (that is, to the credentials of the user you are logged in with on the machine you've connected the backup disk to). This is much easier than using the command line.


I am not associated with the people who make BatChMod but I use their product. It is "donation-ware."

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You can do this quite easily by "taking ownership" of the files. By issuing the command:

sudo chown -R <username> **file/folder**

  • sudo executes the command as a root (aka "Super User"). It will ask you to enter a password when you press Return
  • chown is the command that "changes ownership"
  • -R tells it to do it recursively through all sub-folders
  • is your currently logged in username. If you don't know this execute the command whoami at the Terminal prompt and the system will respond back with your username
  • file/folder is the filename or folder that you want to change the ownership of

So, for your particular scenario:

  1. Open the Terminal App (It's under Applications --> Utilities)
  2. Type the following sudo chown -R <username> /Volumes/G-Drive/Backups/LuAnne'sMacBookAir

This will take ownership of everything in the directory "LuAnne'sMacBookAir" and below. It may take a few moments depending on how much "stuff" you have in the directory.

  1. Verify you have access by trying to open one of the files by double clicking on them.

Once complete, you should have full access to everything that you want access to. You can copy things over, delete them or even edit them in place.

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