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Ask Max: Fixing File Permissions as Root User

Asked on 05/26/2006:

I screwed up. I often use "get info" on a folder and change the ownership to "no access" This works great so the kids don't accidentally play with my work. But I did the same thing, changing the ownership privileges to "no access" on 1 of my partitions shows on my external drive. Now the other partition shows up, as normal but the "no access" one will not mount. I can see it fine in disk utilities but still can't mount it.

How can I mount the partition so I can revert the privileges back?


Playing around with file permissions can get you into trouble, as you are now finding out. When you change the permissions on a volume (aka a partition) it is going to be near impossible for you to recover. That is the "you" that's the user currently logged into the computer. What you need to do is become bigger than "you" are in terms of user privileges. And in the Mac OS X world "root" is bigger then anyone else. So lets enable root and get you logged in as the "God User." From the /Applications/Utilities/ folder launch "NetInfo Manager." From the Security menu click on "Authenticate…" and enter your administrator password. Now go back to the Security menu and click on "Enable Root User." You will be warned about choosing a good password for root and then prompted to create that password. Make this a password that your kids are not going to guess but that you will not forget. Now logout from the blue Apple menu and you should see a new "Other" User option in the login window. Choose "Other" and enter "root" as the user name, and that new password you just made as the password. Now that you're logged in as root, you should be able to see that missing partition and fix the permissions on it. Please use extreme caution when doing anything as Root. There are few limitations when logged in as Root so you can break your OS if you're not careful. When you're done, log back in as "you" and run a Repair of Disk Permissions from the Disk Utility to clean up your system.

Hope that brings your partitions back.

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