Setting File Permissions on OS X Without Disk Utility

I’ve been transferring files around a lot the last few days. I had a 27″ iMac that I had done Migration Assistant on for years, even as far back as when I used a PC many years ago. So when I wanted to use my MacBook Air with all those documents, photos, movies and more I dumped them all on an external hard disk.

The problem, evidently, was that the file permissions somewhere along the line got royally screwed. So much so I couldn’t even open my iPhoto library on my Air; I could read some files but not write (which prompted problems with Pages, Numbers and Keynote files trying to Auto Save).

I went to the Genius Bar and the Apple Genius, named Wayne, struck me as incredibly rude and unhelpful. He told me “I don’t know what you did, so I can’t help you.” At one point he said he “needed to move on”, so he told me to run Migration Assistant on a Mac I told him I didn’t even own anymore. Which is why I’m not opposed to naming his name here. Luckily, I figured out my problem.

I came home and did some more research. Using Terminal sudo commands didn’t work, using “Get Info” and applying them to all files on the external disk didn’t work and even selecting individual files didn’t work. The result was infuriating, even when I clicked “Ignore Permissions on this Disk”.

Turns out, there’s a utility I’m linking to here for the Googlers searching around for a way to repair disk permissions without Disk Utility, which doesn’t work on user files; just system files.

It’s called Permissions Reset, it’s Lion-compatible and is available for download here:

It works wonderfully where everything seems to have failed. I’d recommend having a backup of even the semi-locked files, then running this on a few files or folders first. If so, I went whole hog after testing and just ran it on the whole disk by dropping the icon into the utility. Then I set the “Owner” from “root” or “wheel” in some cases to “myuserid”.


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