Bugs & Fixes: A new solution for permissions problems

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A friend of mine recently started having problems renaming items in the Finder and saving files. When he tried, he would get a message that said either “You don’t have sufficient access” or “You don’t have appropriate access privileges.” These were all tasks that had never generated such messages before. Of course, this suggested some sort of permissions problem. My friend tried repairing permissions via Disk Utility’s First Aid, but this had no effect.

As it turned out, an Apple Knowledge Base article contained the solution. Of potentially more general interest, it also made mention of a new feature in Leopard that I had not known about before.

According to the article, the permissions problem noted above can arise if you make a change to the Sharing and Permissions listings in the Finder’s Info window for a folder in your Home directory, and then select the “Apply to enclosed items” option from the Info window’s Action pop-up menu. You’re especially likely to see these symptoms if you do this for the Home directory itself, but I believe the issue can also arise if you perform the action on subfolders.

The fix requires two steps. First, launch Terminal and type: sudo chmod -RN ~

Enter your admin password when asked. This apparently removes all Access Control List (ACL) modifications from all items in your Home directory. These modifications can come from certain changes made to the Sharing & Permissions section of an Info window.

Next, start up from a Leopard Install DVD and select Reset Password from the Utilities menu. Here is where the new feature appears. This utility has been around for quite awhile, certainly prior to Leopard. However, the Leopard version sports a new option—Reset Home Directory Permissions and ACLs.

Select your user account, click the Reset button, and, after you restart your Mac, the error messages should be gone. Of course, you’ll now need to re-enter any custom changes you made to permissions settings, assuming you want them back.

Apple leaves a couple of questions unanswered here. For one, it’s not clear (at least not to me, with my limited UNIX background) why the Terminal command is even needed, as the Reset Password action appears to include what the command does. I could not find any documentation for the Reset Home Directory Permissions and ACLs action, so I could not confirm this for sure.

Second, it is not clear whether the symptoms are due to a bug in how “Apply to enclosed items” works, which Apple will hopefully fix—or if you are simply never supposed to use the command with your Home directory.

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