Permissions error SNAFU causes Leopard not to boot [solved]

Update: This is a bigger bug than I thought.

I just went through a nightmare of permissions errors that caused my computer to stop booting for several hours.

I was trying to share my whole hard drive, and not just my home folder. I went to System Preferences > Sharing > File Sharing and added my hard drive as a shared folder. I noticed that all my shared folders had these sharing permissions:

Me: Read & Write
Users: Read & Write
Everyone: Read Only

It freaked me out that everyone would have read access to my drive; this sounded like OS X’s guest access. (Update: This IS OS X’s guest access, sharing all of your files with no password!) Furthermore, it wouldn’t let me select no access, so I was ([RIGHTFULLY]) worried that my drive was open to the public.

In finder, I used get info and saw similar permissions:

Sharing & Permissions:
System: Read & Write
admin: Read & Write
everyone: Read only

Since it says “Sharing” above it it, I clicked the lock to unlock, authenticated, and changed everyone’s access from “read only” to “no access”. Oops.

Clearly this is for general filesystem permissions and not for AFP file sharing. First, I couldn’t install a software package (it hung on examining additional volumes…). So I tried to reboot, and my computer hung on the grey screen with the little spinny dots circling around themselves. I’d just locked my system out of itself.

I tried booting into single user mode (hold down command S) and running fsck to fix the drive. No dice.

Then I booted with the Leopard install disk. I ran Disk Utility and tried to Repair Permissions. It failed, saying something like “Unsuccessful – an internal command reported failure”. The same thing happened with Check Permissions. Crap.

I tried booting with the Techtool Deluxe CD that comes with Applecare, but apparently this isn’t even compatible with Leopard — it wouldn’t even boot to CD for me, on several tries.

I tried some of the steps from the article Unable to move, unlock, or copy an item in Mac OS X:

cd /Library/Preferences/SystemConfiguration
defaults write /Library/Preferences/SystemConfiguration/autodiskmount AutomountDisksWithoutUserLogin -bool true

Next it said to run

sh /etc/rc

but in Leopard there is no rc in /etc/. So much for that.

By the way, in the article Troubleshooting permissions issues in Mac OS X, it says

1) open Terminal
2) type: sudo rm -rf.

I don’t care what it says, NEVER RUN THIS COMMAND. That’s the most dangerous command you can run in unix.

Anyway, finally, I took it into my own hands: I booted into single user mode, and typed

chmod -R 777 /

This would recursively give everything access to everything and is the loosest form of permissions I could think of. It would screw up all of OS X’s permissions, but hopefully it would at least give OS X access to the drive again and disk utility could fix them.

Disk utility was able to run and spent a couple hours fixing permissions on the drive. After that I was able to boot again. Yay! I went back and changed the everyone permission on Macintosh HD to read only.

I got several kernel extension errors – OS X complained about not being able to load my MOTUFireWireAudio.kext extension (for my firewire audio interface), LittleSnitch.kext (little snitch), and fusefs.fs (NTFS mounter that parallels uses to mount XP drives). For the kernel extensions, I used terminal and typed:

cd /System/Library/Extensions

The extensions mentioned above had the wrong permissions (still 777). I think this is because they didn’t come with OS X by default so repair permissions didn’t know what to do with them. So I typed:

chmod -R 755 MOTUFireWireAudio.kext/
chmod -R 755 LittleSnitch.kext/

And they worked better. These files are actually OS X packages / directories, hence the trailing slash and the -R flag. My MOTU driver started working but wouldn’t open the configuration application automatically, so reinstalling it and rebooting fixed it.

You can also test your kernel extensions by running:

kextload -t MOTUFireWireAudio.kext

for example. That gave me verbose output that the permissions were wrong.

I reinstalled parallels but fusefs.fs still wasn’t loading. So I typed:

cd /Library/Filesystems
chmod -R 755 fusefs.fs

Reinstalled parallels again, rebooted, and it worked.

I think things are ALMOST back to normal! Jeez. Lesson learned: Don’t freak out if you see “everyone” having “read only” access in sharing system preferences. It refers to linux permissions, not to Mac OS X’s guest file sharing access. Lesson Learned: If you have this bug there is no way to securely share your files in Leopard, and trying to change the permissions for user “Everyone” with get info may hose your system.

20 Responses to “Permissions error SNAFU causes Leopard not to boot [solved]”

  1. on 12 Feb 2008 at 2:32 am boand

    Hi jordan314!

    to me happened unfortunately exactly the same on my macbook (os x 10.5.1):

    I changed “Sharing & Permissions” for “everyone” to “no access”…

    I did what you posted in your blog and went into single user mode and typed/ran:

    chmod -R 777 /

    Could you please give me more detailed instructions on what to do next (after it changed all files to “read only” the command line reads:

    ‘single user boot – fsck not done’
    ‘Root device is mounted read-only’

    Can you please go more into detail, particularly your following two paragraphs:

    “This would recursively give everything access to everything and is the loosest form of permissions I could think of. It would screw up all of OS X’s permissions, but hopefully it would at least give OS X access to the drive again and disk utility could fix them.

    Disk utility was able to run and spent a couple hours fixing permissions on the drive. After that I was able to boot again. Yay! I went back and changed the everyone permission on Macintosh HD to read only.”

    I hope you can help, as I am sort of desperate.


  2. on 12 Feb 2008 at 10:13 am jordan314

    The first thing you need to do in single user mode is type:
    fsck -y
    Then type:
    mount -uw /
    Then, type
    sudo chmod -R 777 /

    The first two lines check the integrity of the disk and mount the drive in write mode, and are what you should run as soon as you start single user mode. Otherwise you won’t be able to make any changes to the disk. I’m not sure if the sudo is necessary at the end but it can’t hurt (as long as you know the password – it may be your administrative password).

  3. on 09 Mar 2008 at 10:11 pm strider

    I did the same thing.
    However, When I try to boot up in single user mode I get:
    Could not open file ‘mach_kernel’
    Error loading kernel ‘mach_kernel’ (0xe)

    One time after a few minutes it rebooted automatically and went into a weird screen where the grey apple flashes to different shapes; a folder, question mark and maybe some other items. They go by very fast.

    I would appreciate any suggestions?

  4. on 10 Mar 2008 at 12:51 am Simmerl

    Your guide worked like a charm when I did the same thing yesterday – for the exactly same reasons, too!

    Thank you very much :D

  5. […] Permissions Error SNAFU […]

  6. on 16 May 2008 at 6:10 pm aaplzen

    I’m in the same boat as STRIDER. Do you know if he resolved the issue.

    Pullin’ my hair out over here,


    [email deleted]

  7. on 16 May 2008 at 11:57 pm jordan314

    Remind me to delete your email from your comment or it will get picked up by spam bots.

    Can you boot from the Leopard DVD? Can you run terminal from it and try
    sudo chmod -R 777 /
    from there?

  8. on 06 Jun 2008 at 4:52 pm rajathbk

    Hi Jordan,
    I am a new Macbook owner and got into the same trouble.
    Though i face some problem following your instructions.
    I did booted in single mode and typed in
    chmod -R 777 /

    It took around 2hours to complete this command.
    Afterwards it returned to command prompt. i thought the process is over and therefore typed in “exit”, guessing that it will boot into normal mac.
    But then it showed warning
    ’single user boot – fsck not done’
    ‘Root device is mounted read-only

    Could you please explain in detail what to do next, as i am totally new to macbook. Furthermore how to start again after this as you mentioned in your post.
    Many thanks in advance for your reply.

  9. on 06 Jun 2008 at 11:42 pm rajathbk


    Thanks for the wonderful post. It worked out for me also.
    I tried the part as mentioned by you =
    fsck -y
    Then type:
    mount -uw /
    Then, type
    sudo chmod -R 777 /

    and in the end typed in exit to boot (“exit has to be typed twice)

    Thanks “-)

  10. on 09 Jun 2008 at 11:17 am jordan314

    Glad to hear it rajathbk. I would highly recommend repairing permissions after you run the terminal commands and reboot.
    aaplzen and strider, did you get your issue straightened out? Please post and let us know what worked/didn’t work for you!
    Thanks, Jordan

  11. on 19 Jun 2008 at 10:53 pm shrock

    first day with my new MacBook Pro….switched from windows. Did a get info on Macintosh HD….saw Everyone having Read only access…didnt like that….changed to “no access”….computer DEAD….not very impressed that its this easy to kill. Tried help here but SUDO would not run….some sort of permissions error….I know squat about UNIX…nothing was on it yet so erased the drive and reinstalling MAC OS X now…I’m really dissapointed that something that seems pretty logical and is so easy to do……click….with NO warnings can completelly hose the OS.

  12. on 20 Jun 2008 at 12:30 am jordan314

    Yup, your disappointment is justified. This seems like a pretty big design flaw on Apple’s part given how many people are doing this. It was a lot harder to kill your system in Tiger.

  13. on 09 Aug 2008 at 3:43 pm d_version

    I have multiple Macs, so I booted into target disk mode and changed the permissions that way.

    Seems to be back to normal.

    Hope this helps…


  14. […] greyed out for user Everyone in Leopard File Sharing [unsolved] This is a follow up to my previous post about locking the system out of itself by trying to set “Everyone”’s priveledges […]

  15. on 16 Feb 2009 at 4:57 pm digits9

    I’m still having problems with this…

    …I’m running 10.5.6, and have run the two commands prior to:

    chmod -R 777 /

    but when I type exit I still get the
    ‘single user boot – fsck not done’
    ‘Root device is mounted read-only’

    Someone PLEASE Help!!

  16. on 16 Feb 2009 at 5:10 pm digits9

    Also, if I type exit twice, the computer will reboot…again and again and again and again…

  17. on 16 Feb 2009 at 9:03 pm jordan314

    Digits9 make sure you run
    fsck -y
    Then type:
    mount -uw /
    Then, type
    sudo chmod -R 777 /

  18. on 22 Mar 2009 at 1:35 pm SGMchumni

    Hi jordan,

    Thanks for writing this thread and being so helpful. However, i have constructed a possibly bigger SNAFU than yourself. In all of my infinite curiosities, a few weeks ago I decided to “upgrade” my wifes iMac to a faster cpu and larger HDD. However, the mac has been acting very buggy since. to the point that I restored all of the factory components and did a clean system folder install while keeping all of our older files intact. The startup times have seemed to increase for both the OS and apps that I decided to verify disk, and repair permissions…

    well, all this to no avail…

    I found a utility called IceClean to clean up the caches… seemed to be doing better…

    however, I am back at square one minus 5 i think…

    I found applejack and did a deep clean from single user mode…

    Still acting funny,

    I booted in safe mode and verified disk and permissions again… then decided to manually delete all caches…

    it seemed to be doing ok… the apps seemed to be more responsive… load times were still slow…

    then I upgraded to 10.5.6 which seems to be causing me the most problems…

    I started having the same issues as strider, and so I tried booting in single user mode like you suggested…

    Kernel panics… kernel not found… boot from leopard disk, ran terminal… inputted code that you suggested…

    ‘fsck -y’ seemed fine
    ‘mount -uw/’ invalid option error
    ‘sudo chmod -R777/’ unknown command

    I still can not get into single user mode because of kernel panic

    then while trying to boot into safe mode this screen turned up , never seen this one before…

    I am not sure if you might have any suggestions on what you would try if in this sort of predicament.. I myself am very unfamiliar with under-workings of UNIX terminal commands, however, I see this as a challenge and love the opportunity to learn something new. Thanks for any input.

  19. on 22 Mar 2009 at 3:30 pm jordan314

    Wow thisSGMchumni, sounds like a mess.
    When you say you “upgraded” your wife’s iMac to a faster cpu and larger HDD, what do you mean? Is it possible to even upgrade the chip on the iMac or do you mean you exchanged the iMac for a better one? If the problems started when you upgraded the hardware, maybe it’s a hardware issue. Is the chip seated correctly, are the hard drive cables plugged all the way in, etc.?

  20. on 11 Apr 2009 at 2:44 am spool

    I recently experienced the same error after having set the entire volumes’ privelleges for everyone from ‘read only’ to ‘no access’. Then I experieced the whole #%#$load of boot-up problems, as described above. In search for a solution I tried everyting as explained above, but to no succes. Then I tried a range of solutions myself. What finally worked was booting up from an backup which will allow you access to the volume that gives the error. Don’t use an application like Disk Utility (it gave an performance error and didn’t fix a thing), but manually change back the privelleges by selecting the volume, selecting ‘get info’, and then at the bottom change privelleges for everyone back from ‘no access’ to ‘read only’. Afterwards, use Disk Utility to set things straight.

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