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New to the MacBook and Big Sur. Did multiple searches, no results specific to my question. Is it normal for the "Documents" folder to only show under "Sharing & Permissions" the "You have custom access"?

I know I change permissions, but the "Documents" folder doesn't allow that. Guidance? Explanation please?

Oddly enough, when I view the Documents from the second Admin account on the Mac, I don't see the "You have Custom Access", and I'm allowed to adjust the Documents folder permissions and access.

Thanks in advance.

2 Answers 2

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The folder itself has custom permissions because you don't have permission to change it, rename it or delete it.

The contents, you have full control over.

After the question edit & comments.
As an admin you can change any aspect of the permission on your own or anyone else's Documents folder [or any other]. The only thing stopping you is the little lock icon on the Get Info window, which you of course have the password to.
It doesn't mean you should, only that you can if you actually need to.

I just realised this is actually different on Big Sur. I'm assuming your own folder is protected by SIP, whereas someone else's isn't. It seems whoever redesigned the perms for Big Sur forgot that;)

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  • Oddly enough, when I view the Documents from the second Admin account on the Mac, I don't see the "You have Custom Access", and I'm allowed to adjust the Documents folder permissions and access.
    – Brian
    Commented Aug 7, 2021 at 16:13
  • By default you have 'no access' to someone else's Documents folder. As an admin, you can subvert that permissions scheme, just as you can your own Documents folder. That doesn't mean you should.
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Aug 7, 2021 at 16:23
  • @Brian Be aware that the first sentence of this answer is wrong. Finder says custom access because the folder has permissions that Finder does not let you see or modify - see my answer for why.
    – Gilby
    Commented Aug 9, 2021 at 9:17
  • Under Big Sur you can set the permissions of the document folder to be more open but every few minutes SIP will reset it to be private (Readable, Writable and Executable) only by the documents folder's owner. Commented Aug 29, 2021 at 21:36
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Multiple folders in the home folder ~/ have what Finder reports as "You have custom access".

Finder's Get Info only reports simple Unix style permissions based on read/write for Owner, Group (by default Staff) and World (Everyone).

But modern file/folder permissions can also use Access Control Lists (ACL). These first appeared on Windows with Windows NT and on OS X from 10.4. But their history goes back further - certainly to VAX/VMS and RSX-11M, and Wikipedia says Multics. An ACL consists of one or more Access Control Entries (ACE).

macOS adds an ACL to some folders in `~/'. Apple does not provide a GUI interface for viewing or modifying ACLs.

To see the full permissions including the ACL, open Terminal and use ls commands like these two:

ls -led ~/
drwxr-x---+ 86 gilby  staff  2752  7 Aug 11:17 /Users/gilby/
 0: group:everyone deny delete

ls -led ~/Documents
drwx------@ 43 gilby  staff  1376 18 Jul 13:34 Documents
 0: group:everyone deny delete
 1: group:com.apple.sharepoint.group.16 allow search

The rwxr-x--- and rwx------ are Unix style permissions for owner, group and world.

The subsequent lines are ACEs.

For both the examples the ACL it is saying that no-one (not even the user) can delete the directory.

The second ACE for ~/Documents is related to file sharing - it may not be present on your Documents folder.

I recommend you do not try to modify these or any other ACLs created by macOS. If you are determined to do so the chmod command can be used. Read man chmod for how to do this - the example commands are useful.

More safely, you can use chmod to modify the Unix style permissions - read the man page for usage and examples.

As an alternative to the command line, you can use TinkerTool System (not free) to view and modify both ACLs and Unix/POSIX permissions.

Apple's reference for file and folder permissions is File system Details which discusses both Unix (also referred to as POSIX) permissions and ACLs.

See also this question and answer What are all the available ACL attributes in Mac OS 10.13 High Sierra?.

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  • Thank you for this detailed answer. I don’t think I want to dive into the Unix command line at this time, for this purpose. I was just trying to make two members of my households’ entire Documents folder accessible to the other, and they’re both admins in the OS. But, both have separate iCloud accounts. And, I don’t want them to have to continually copy folders and files into the Public Share folder.
    – Brian
    Commented Aug 10, 2021 at 10:20

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