I want to repair permissions of a user defined directory along with it's subdirectories.
How can I do this?

So far, I've looked for options in finder and tried to drag the folder into Disk Utility. But none of my ideas brought success.

  • 1
    Stupid question I know, but do you have root access? Also what are the messed up permission, are they just set to read only or something else?
    – Chillie
    Commented Jan 18, 2012 at 16:01
  • @Chillie I'm admin. But this does not mean that I'm logged in as root, right? I've imported a large backup from a relative. This is just supposed to be general maintenance.
    – gentmatt
    Commented Jan 18, 2012 at 16:09
  • @gentmatt you are correct, an admin account does not mean that the root user is enabled.
    – pdd
    Commented Jan 18, 2012 at 16:55
  • 1
    @gentmatt In order to properly answer this question, we need a little bit more insight as to what exactly the functional problem with the permissions is. Commented Jan 18, 2012 at 17:19
  • Re: gentmatt and permissions from Windows XP PC - it's been a long time since I've even thought about this, but generally speaking Windows does not operate on the same permissions-based system as Mac OS X. As such, the permission differences are likely an intrinsic difference. What happens that these 'incorrect' permissions are a problem?
    – soxman
    Commented Jan 18, 2012 at 18:48

4 Answers 4


Repairing permissions only affects System files, and files installed from a package with the Installer, which give a BOM (Bill Of Materials, stored in the (~)/Receipts folder) that list the expected permissions. There is no meaning in repairing permissions for “a specific directory“, as an arbitrary directory has no expected permissions against which to compare, unless it is one listed in one of the said files.

(just for sourcing: Wikipedia agrees  ;)  )

If you want to change permissions of a lot of files at once, for example by having copied them from another drive with permissions, and you encounter problems with them, you could use a tool such as BatchMod :)

  • I didn't know that receipts carry permission sets. Nice to know. Having said that, I don't think I've ever seen permission messages for installed apps in Disk Utility after running 'repair disk permissions'. (Then again, why would they have ever changed? Methinks testing is necessary here.) Commented Jan 19, 2012 at 17:33

The act of "repairing permissions" is a very specific system-level only process. There is nothing in the UNIX-like world (such as BSD, which OS X is based on) that defines what a "correct" permission is. According to a Genius I spoke with at my local Apple Store, there is simply some file that lists important system files/folders, and clicking "Repair Disk Permissions" simply applies the appropriate permissions on the contents of that list.

Client file permissions have no "correct permission" because they can be whatever you want to achieve.

  • I'd love to provide more insight/detail, but the problem could be anything. More detail is needed. Commented Jan 18, 2012 at 17:20
  • +1 for "According to a Genius..." :) I guess my question seems a little stupid due to my lack of knowledge in that matter. The data on the backup is mostly user generated (spreadsheets, photos, ...). Other data contains software licences and code projects. Since these are not files which are essential to the performance of the system, any permission for them is right? So you would say that there is no need to repair permissions here in the first place?
    – gentmatt
    Commented Jan 18, 2012 at 17:44
  • The question I'm asking is: What is happening that leads you believe you need to repair permissions? Commented Jan 18, 2012 at 17:59
  • This is a huge amount of data from an old PC running XP. I want to check if is all good. So, I did check it for viruses using Sophos. In my limited knowledge I thought that repairing permissions would be the next step for maintenaince.
    – gentmatt
    Commented Jan 18, 2012 at 18:25
  • Permissions change when moved from PC to Mac To Linux, etc. You only really change permissions if you can't access something or if a program/ script needs access.
    – Chillie
    Commented Jan 18, 2012 at 19:26

If I understand your question correctly, you're attempting to reset the permissions on a user's home directory. This is easily accomplished by resetting ACLs on the desired home directly by using the Reset Password utility in the Recovery Partition:

Restart your computer from the recovery partition (if running Lion) or the gray disk (if not running Lion). Open Disk Utility and run a permissions repair on your startup volume. After this is complete, close Disk Utility and open Terminal from the Utilities menu. Type in resetpassword and select your user account (NOT System Administrator/root) from the drop down menu. Click the Reset button at the bottom of the window in the Reset home folder permissions and ACLs section. Quit the Password Utility and go back to the main recovery screen. On your keyboard, hit Command+Q and restart your computer.

It's very important that you don't hold down the power button to exit the recovery session, or the ACL reset won't occur.

Let us know how it goes.


open a terminal and navigate to the folder in question

the command would be as follows

sudo chown -R user:usergroup ./(file/dir)


sudo chown -R alex:admins .

dot is the folder in which you opened your terminal

  • 2
    How does this repair permissions? It sets the owner and the group, it doesn't repair anything.
    – nohillside
    Commented Apr 3, 2018 at 19:11

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