Resetting User permissions on MacOS X (a proper fix).

I’m saving this here mainly to save myself hours of time later on. I’m not sure why this is buried as the Apple support community is *fully* of references to issues solved by use of this fix.

Want to really Repair Permissions on your Mac? Try this. | TechBlog | a blog.

This is a great tip for the power and novice users out there pushing the limits of their software on MacoOS X (typically 10.5-10.7). I’ve been a keen promoter of a great user and system migration tool named “Migration Assistant”. What I haven’t run into for some time have been the numerous permissions issues that can pop up. The problems I’ve run into lately occurred after a clean install of MacOS X when I recently upgrade my desktop instead of replacing it. I did of course clone my system but along came some junk and deprecated user profile permissions. I’ve been upgrading and migrating since MacOS 10.1! Maybe time for a full reinstall? Tough to accomplish when you use the iLife suite with all the linkages and file databases.

I put in more RAM and an SSD for my boot drive, which i think was a better investment that  should carry me for another 2+ years. I also upgraded the CPUs – a tricky move if not done properly (thermal issues abound if you get too greedy and go for something that runs too hot). So far so good though.

And on top of that I have been busy putting together team sharing workflows (DropBox, Google Docs, etc), and just as I’ve settled into using my main desktop as a creative and workflow management hub I start getting repeat CPU freezes and various permissions issues. Indexing has been a hassle, and apps have been unable to save their preferences and/or function normally. Setting permissions manually is not an issue. The relatively complex nested ACLs that are now required in MacOS X Lion were. The system logs tell enough of the story, but linking those logged errors to permissions issues was not so easy. Google is great but crowd-sourced knowledge isn’t always up to snuff.

How to reset though? I’m a fan of standard practice, and wanted to reset to factory specific ACL settings but the built-in permissions check/repair in Disk Utility din’t in fact repair *user* permissions…only system permissions. After much searching I found a solution at the link above – hidden away:

This tool is squirreled away for some reason inside an obscure password reset feature. Here’s how you use it.


1. Restart Lion, and before you hear the chime, hold down the Command and R keys.


2. You’ll be at the Repair Utilities screen. Click the Utilities item in the Menu Bar, then click Terminal.


3. In the Terminal window, type resetpassword and hit Return.


4. The password reset utility window launches, but you’re not going to reset the password. Instead, click on icon for your Mac’s hard drive at the top. From the dropdown below it, select the user account where you’re having issues.


5. At the bottom of the window, you’ll see an area labeled Reset Home Directory Permissions and ACLs. Click the Reset button there.


The reset process takes just a couple of minutes. When it’s done, exit the programs you’ve opened and restart your Mac.



So there you have it …so far everything actually works again. CPU activity is backing off to normal again, and the startup and login routines aren’t posting obscure errors anymore. Lovely.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.