On a new Mac, I connected the Time Machine disk from my old Mac and now want to copy specific files out of the ~/Library and ~/Downloads folders from a past Time Machine backup. I can navigate to my home folder in a dated backup on the TM disk without trouble, and I can turn on viewing hidden files in the Finder and see the contents of my home folder including hidden files; however, I can't go inside the Library, Downloads, Documents, and certain other folders. They have a red "do not enter" symbol over them, as shown in this example:

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"No problem", I thought, "I'll do it from the terminal". But after going to the Privacy & Security system preferences and enabling Full Disk Access for the terminal, I still can't look inside those folders:

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How can I go inside the Library other such blocked folders in a Time Machine backup?

Additional notes:

  • The backup is from a previous Mac, not the current one, so entering Time Machine and then looking for the files in there does not work.
  • My question appears to be a duplicate of this one from 2012, which has an answer that is irrelevant to the problem at hand (namely, I don't have a problem viewing hidden files; I have a problem accessing certain folders)
  • sudo su (take care).
    – Gilby
    Apr 9 at 3:34
  • I'm not sure if it appears for Time Machine disks, but in the Get Info window at the bottom (on the VOLUME itself), does an option to ignore permissions appear?
    – Ezekiel
    Apr 9 at 22:42
  • @Gilby You're right, doing it as root works. I should have thought of that. Anyway, thanks!
    – mhucka
    Apr 12 at 23:18

1 Answer 1


If you don't want to use terminal commands which might be potentially dangerous or corrupt any backup file by accident, create and log in to a separate user account, and restore your Time Machine backup by using Time Machine or Migration Assistant into that account. Then browse the restored files that you need, copy them to the /Users/Shared folder, and access them from your real user account. When you're done, you can delete the user account you created.

Alternatively, you can gain permissions on any folder recursively with this command:

sudo chmod -R u+rwX <directory>

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