Don't lose much sleep over OS X permissions errors

Don't lose much sleep over OS X permissions errors

Summary: Most of us don't usually look at the Disk Utility log when permissions are repaired. And that may be a good thing. It's the Mac version of sausage making.

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My system cloning software automatically repairs permissions when starting a job and since I run this script multiple times during the day, I don't pay much attention to the permissions error log. However, when preparing for a major system event, such as a move to OS X Mavericks, many users will launch Disk Utility and run the permissions repair routines themselves. And they will be horrified at the results.

Don't lose much sleep over OS X permissions errors

Often, there will be scads of errors in the Disk Utility log window after repairing a disk. They often start with a warning about some file being modified or that permissions differ in a library and they can't be repaired or won't be. Here are a few examples:

Warning: SUID file "System/Library/Filesystems/AppleShare/afpLoad" has been modified and will not be repaired.

Warning: SUID file "usr/bin/setregion" has been modified and will not be repaired.

Permissions differ on "Library/Application Support/Apple/ParentalControls/ContentFiltering", should be drwxrwxr-x , they are drwxr-xr-x .

Permissions differ on "Library/Application Support/Apple/ParentalControls", should be drwxrwxr-x , they are drwxr-xr-x .

Permissions differ on "System/Library/CoreServices/RawCamera.bundle/Contents/CodeResources", should be -rw-r--r-- , they are lrw-r--r-- .

Warning: SUID file "System/Library/PrivateFrameworks/Install.framework/Versions/A/Resources/runner" has been modified and will not be repaired.

There is an Apple Support Note titled Disk Utility's Repair Disk Permissions messages that you can safely ignore, which has page after page of these errors.

The "resolution" of the problem at the bottom of the note is  even more unhelpful and somewhat worrisome:

You can safely ignore these messages. You can also usually ignore any "ACL found but not expected..." message. These messages can occur if you change permissions on a file or directory; they are accurate, but generally not a cause for concern.

Um, Apple braintrust: what exactly does "generally" mean here? Can we leave well enough alone or should we worry?

The answer appears to be that unless you're having more problems, don't worry too much.

I was surprised to discover a new "feature" in recent versions of OS X Disk Utility. It's not so backwards compatible.

Mac OS X v10.6 and OS X Lion:

In Mac OS X v10.6.x and later, Disk Utility can verify/repair permissions of the same Mac OS version it is running. For example, if you need to verify/repair a Mac OS X v10.5.x disk, use a Mac OS X v10.5.x or earlier installation disc.

You don't need to repair disk permissions prior to installing Mac OS X over a previously-installed OS. The installer will do this automatically.

So, Snow Leopard and Lion are compatible for repairs but for anything before, you need the Leopard software.

Topics: Apple, Operating Systems, Storage

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6 comments
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  • so what you're saying ...

    is that Apple is s!!thouse at anything that is Enterprise?
    hubivedder
    • no - he is not saying this at all ...

      some of the permission 'errors' are not errors at all ...
      I will re-link the permission information:
      http://support.apple.com/kb/TS1448
      http://support.apple.com/kb/HT1452
      http://support.apple.com/kb/HT2963
      Bee Ryan
    • Nah mate

      They only do it to confuse the sadly deficient, like perhaps yourself. It's not as though Apple is not out to get you. Who knows, perhaps you prefer the angst produced by a certain vendor who faff about with their system so drivers drop like flies on a point release of their OS. Then there's the "Ooops, we're sorry, that patch we released, roll it back of you can" current standard mode of operation. It's all like sketchy presents at Christmas time all of the time. Who knows, it is likely that you wouldn't know Enterprise anything even it had attached neon signs and a propensity to bite you.
      ego.sum.stig
    • no

      He wrote a very specific article about the disk utility log and repair process. Do keep up.
      Mac_PC_FenceSitter
  • no severity?

    Does this utility not show you the level of the error (info, warning, ERROR) with each line item? Telling you that "most" of these errors are meaningless is meaningless.
    Is there no way to separated out the meaningful errors?
    mswift@...
  • Overrated

    Repairing permissions is overrated anyways. I've seen wayyy too many people suggest or mention repairing permissions as some first form of addressing issues. Rarely does it solve a thing...matter of fact anytime I've pursued a problem and seen people suggest this, I've tried it and never once seen it solve any of those problems.

    Of course my understanding of it is that while permission issues can certainly cause problems(duh!), the thing about running this "fix" is that the utility only knows what to "fix" based on what Apple thinks the permissions should be. In some cases 3rd party software or drivers installed might have needed to configure certain permissions differently than what Disk Utility expects. Simply by running repair permissions you can actually create more problems in those cases than what there was if there even was a problem. I say that because some people think they need to run it regularly.

    Of course there are arguments as to whether it's wise to have software or drivers installed that change such permissions but in most people's cases they just want something to work. If that's what it takes, then that's what it takes.

    At any rate I lump repairing disk permissions in with resetting the smc and nvram. All are talked about wayyy too much as a possible solution to anything without understanding it or the problem they even have. An equivalent on the Windows platform use to be defragmenting disks. If I had a buck for every time that was suggested to solve a system slowdown problem, I'd be a rich man.

    For those who argue that repairing disk permissions does solve their problems consider this...what are you running or doing so often that is causing this to happen? Attack the problem, not the symptom. Also, my experience has been that in many cases it turns out that it didn't solve a thing once you start digging into it all. There's a lot of variables involved but like I said many don't understand all of that.
    Jim68