Repair Permissions – Do This Regularly

24th April 2009
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For some background please read About Disk Utility’s Repair Disk Permissions feature. I’m going to be providing a general overview of that information here, and some tips for keeping your mac running at its best. To repair permissions you need to open the Disk Utility app in this directory: Hard Drive/Applications/Utilities/Disk Utility

There are more macs in the workplace.

Lately I’ve noticed a marked jump in the use of macs in the workplace. I believe this is a result of macs switching to Intel processors thereby allowing for better PC OS emulation with software such as VirtualMachine, Parallels, Bootcamp and AppStorm. You can have the best of both worlds on one machine.

What new mac users, and even experienced users, forget about using a mac is that while it handles app crashes really well and doesn’t allow them to bring down the entire machine most of the time, a mac still needs to be maintained.

When You Should Repair Permissions

This is where repairing permissions comes in. You need to repair permissions when:

1. Your computer and/or its applications start exibiting problems


2. Once every 30 days

According to Troubleshooting permissions issues in Mac OS X, permissions are:

“Permissions Defined

Mac OS X incorporates a subsystem based on a UNIX-style operating system that uses permissions in the file system. Every file and folder on your hard disk has an associated set of permissions that determines who can read, write to, or execute it. Using the AppleWorks application and one of its documents as an example, this is what the permissions mean:

* Read (r–)
You can open an AppleWorks document if you have the read permission for it.
* Write (-w-)
You can save changes to an AppleWorks document if you have the write permission for it.
* Execute (–x)
You can open the AppleWorks application if you have the execute permission for it.

Also note that you must have execute permission for any folder that you can open; thus File Sharing requires execute permission set for other, world, and everyone for the ~/Public folder, while Web Sharing requires the same setting for the ~/Sites folder.

When you can do all three, you have “rwx” permission. Permissions for a folder behave similarly. With read-only permission to a folder containing documents, you can open and read documents but not save changes or add new documents to the folder. Read-only (r–) permission is common for sharing files with guest access, for example.”

Repairing Permissions should be part of your regular mac-maintenance routine

When your mac starts acting “strangely” or in an unexpected manner, run repair permissions and restart and you might find the problems resolved. Make this a regular maintenance step and your mac should work well for a good long time.

Run other maintenance scripts and download applications

There are other maintenance scripts you can run and they are easily run along with repairing permissions with these applications:

1. Cocktail Run the “Cron” scripts as well. Your mac also runs scripts at 3am (if it’s left on) that help its performance. Sometimes forcing these to happen, at a time that’s convenient, can fix issues. I’ll probably post more on cron scripts later, but it’s a subject unto itself.

2. CacheOut This app cleans your mac’s cache which is a quick reset of icons and other bits of information that can bog down system performance over time.

3. Onyx “A multifunction utility for Mac OS X (PowerPC and Intel). It allows you to verify the Startup Disk and the structure of its System files, to run misc tasks of system maintenance, to configure the hidden parameters of the Finder, Dock and of some of Apple’s own applications, to delete caches, to remove a certain number of files and folders that may become cumbersome and more.”

Repairing Permissions Regularly

There’s those who question the effectiveness of repairing permissions. However, from personal experience I’ve found that repairing permissions definitely helps my mac to run well. It’s the first thing I pull out of the troubleshooting toolbox.


Nathaniel Flick

I'm a Front End Web Developer passionate about usability. My primary specialties are HTML5, CSS3, SCSS, LESS, and jQuery and I am very familiar with Foundation and Bootstrap frameworks. I've worked on top of and with WordPress, Shopify, Rails, Python, and frameworks.

2 thoughts on “Repair Permissions – Do This Regularly”

  1. Why do permissions become broken? How? (what exactly is happening?) Why doesn't Apple fix OS X so 'permissions' don't break?

  2. Hi! Permissions "break" regularly and it's something Apple is aware of and anticipates. Read the article links I posted here for more info.

    Suffice to say you need to repair permissions regularly. Try it now and see if it fixes your issue.

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