After the installation of Catalina all User created folders from root are moved into a separate folder and the root folder is made readonly, containing only system default folders.

How is it possible to undo this and to make the root folder writeable again?

  • Are you looking to persist this change across reboots of the OS or just gain permission one time to make some changes? – bmike Oct 14 at 11:03
  • Can you explain exactly what you want to achieve? Are there specific files that you want to add to the root? Any reason that these files cannot operate from another location? Or do you want to modify existing system files? – benwiggy Oct 31 at 11:57
  • @benwiggy My use case is that I simply want to create a shorter path for the files I use for development. It's much easier to type cd /devel/myproj than cd /Users/medington/devel/myproj. The synthetic directories are exactly what I want to do that. – Mark Edington Nov 23 at 18:27

You can create a symbolic in root directory via synthetic.conf, example below create a symbolic link named "bar" at / which points to "System/Volumes/Data/bar", a writeable location at the root of the data volume.

echo -e 'bar\tSystem/Volumes/Data/bar' | sudo tee -a /etc/synthetic.conf

After execute command above, you need to reboot to see effects.


man synthetic.conf
  • 2
    Really oversubtle to call this "... your root volume will be writeable again" considering that the man explicitely mentions that: The synthetic entities [...] are not physically present on the disk, but when the system is booted, they behave as if they were within certain parameters..." – klanomath Oct 14 at 11:43
  • 2
    Safer solution than disabling SIP – Saisurya Kattamuri Oct 16 at 3:28
  • 3
    The question asked was "How to make root volume writeable again in Catalina?" - This does not make the root volume writable again! – user3439894 Oct 16 at 16:23
  • 3
    I think this is the right solution proposed by Apple to be able to write in the root volume. So I would accept the question as valid. Thanks @Shawyeok for sharing it. – Peter Gibbons Oct 17 at 11:35
  • 1
    @Peter Gibbons, This does not make the root volume of the Macintosh HD writable again as in previous versions of macOS! All this does is allow the system to create a user defined symlink to a file in /System/Volumes/Data in the root of the Macintosh HD. It is still not writable to the user as in previous versions of macOS. It is a good workaround, but that is all that it is. – user3439894 Oct 17 at 14:49

Found this thread at Apple Developer Forums where they do make their root directory writable again. This is not persistent across reboots so you might want to create an script that runs at startup to make the change be permanent (don't think this is necessary but would be a way out).

Original Answer:

  1. Disable SIP (recovery mode, csrutil disable).

  2. Restart.

  3. Mount drive for read and write (sudo mount -uw /).

  4. Assign rights for read and right ([sudo] chmod - R 775 /your/folder/).

  5. Delete it ([sudo] rm -rf /your/folder/).

  6. Restart.

  7. Enable SIP (recovery mode, csrutil enable).

"sudo" in square brackets means it may be required (like in my case) while others report they managed to get result without it.

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