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Two questions:

  1. What's the difference between the groups "wheel", "staff", and "admin"? What do they do?

  2. specific use case: I'm trying to setup a local CVS repository as stated in the Apple webpage so I can download a remote source tree... and I have to get myself permission to use a new directory /usr/local/cvsrep. It gets created by default as owned by "root" under group "wheel"... but I don't have membership in "wheel", I do have membership in "admin" and "staff" and am just wondering if I should chgrp the directory to admin or staff instead of wheel.

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Are you just trying to download the source of some project that only you are going to hack on? You can just download it to a folder that you have permissions on already. – Richard Hoskins Aug 9 '09 at 23:31
Oh. you're correct... well, then the 2nd part of the Q is moot for my own purposes. But I'd still like to know about my first question. – Jason S Aug 9 '09 at 23:44
up vote 37 down vote accepted

Regular OS X users are put into the staff group.

Admin users are put in the staff and admin groups. The admin group can do some things that other users cannot do. e.g. Write to the /Applications folder. If you want to put an OS X user into the admin group you should do this by designating him as an admin via System Preferences->Accounts.

root is the only member of the wheel group, and should remain the only member. If you have to do something that requires wheel, you should use the command sudo.

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