How to change a file or folder’s permissions

Every file on your Mac can be set so that different users and groups can access the file or folder in different ways.  It sounds strange, but the files you see in your home folder, in your Documents folder or on your Desktop, can even be set up so that you can’t make any changes at all.  It gets even more confusing when these permissions change by freak accident or through an unexpected act of nature.  You’ll use a file for ages when, possibly following an eclipse, solar flare, or presidential election, it’s suddenly unusable and you’ve no idea why…  But you’ve got this.

If you see a message that you don’t have permission to read or write a particular file or folder, here’s what to do:

  1. Single-click the file or folder so that it’s highlighted.
  2. Go to the File menu at the top left of your screen and click the Get Info menu item.  An Info window will appear.
  3. Look for the padlock icon at the bottom right of the Info window.  If it’s locked, click it once and enter an administrator’s username and password to unlock it.
  4. Look for the Sharing & Permissions section near the bottom of the Info window.  If the triangle next to Sharing & Permissions is pointing to the right, click it once to see a list of who has permission to access the file or folder.
  5. Look in the Name column for a particular user (your name will have “Me” next to it), click the value in the Privilege column next to that user, then click the setting you need.  For yourself, you’ll usually click the “Read & Write” menu item.

Permissions, or privileges, come in the following flavors:

  • Read & Write:  The user or group can open the file or folder and make changes to it.
  • Read only:  The user or group can open the file or folder but can’t make changes to it.
  • Write only:  The user or group sees the folder as a drop box.  They can move or copy files to the folder but can’t see what’s inside.
  • No Access:  The user or group can’t access the file or folder at all.

For additional details, you’re welcome to get in touch at so we can help out!

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