Change File Permissions in Mac OS X
You can instantly change file permissions in Mac OS X without getting your hands dirty in the command line by using the Finder instead. All you need to do is access the “Get Info” panel for the file, folder, or application in question. These instructions demonstrate locating the file permissions manager, and how to adjust privileges for items found in OS X.
It’s worth mentioning that you can also use this trick to quickly view current file and folder permissions and ownership details in the Mac OS X Finder. To view permissions, just use the Get Info panel as described below but don’t make any modifications. OS X calls permissions “Privileges”, but they mean the same thing.
How to Change File Permissions on Mac
This is the most user friendly way to view or adjust file permissions in OS X, it works with anything found in the Finder file system, be it a file, binary, application, or a folder. Here’s what you’ll want to do:
- Select the file or app in the Finder you want to edit permissions for
- Hit Command+i to “Get Info” about the selected file (or go to File > Get Info)
- At the bottom of the Get Info window, you’ll see “Sharing & Permissions”, select the arrow to drop down the options
- Adjust permissions* on a per user basis, the options being: read and write, read only, or no access
*Note that with certain files, apps, and folders, you may need to click on the little lock icon in the corner of the Get Info window, this will require a login to grant access from the administrator to be able to modify the permissions for the selected item.
When finished, just close out of the Get Info window. The changes to permissions happen immediately as you select items from the privilege option dropdown menus.
Permission Types & Explanations of Limitations
The permissions options are fairly self-descriptive in their naming, but here’s a quick overview in case you’re new to the concepts on a file level:
- Read & Write: The user can both read the file, and write to the file (make changes, modify the file, delete it, etc)
- Read Only: The user can only read the file, and is therefor unable to make changes to the file
- No Access: The user has no access to the file at all, meaning the user can not read the file or write to it
When you’re finished setting the desired permissions and privileges, close the Get Info window and the changes will take effect immediately.
Notice that you can’t make files executable through this the Get Info panels, you’ll still need to pull up the terminal for that.
One of our readers pointed out that you can use Get Info to adjust file permissions on remote files using the Mac OS X built-in FTP client, which is pretty convenient if you’re without a separate FTP app but you’re remotely needing to change privileges on something.
Generally speaking, if you’re not sure what to set, you shouldn’t mess around with file permissions since it can change the way a file or application responds to a given document. This is particularly true with system files and applications, as permissions can mean the difference between some apps working and some not. If you’re digging around because of frequent errors regarding access to files or ownership, try using the Recovery Mode method of repairing user permissions that works with OS X 10.7, 10.8, 10.9, 10.10, etc, which can usually sort out those problems automatically without any manual modification of files.
You can also modify permissions from the command line using the ‘chmod’ command followed by flags or sequences and a file name, but that’s really a topic for another article.