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TL;DR: Why am I getting the Operation not permitted? And how can I resolve this?

I'm facing a problem which I can't resolve. I'm creating a directory as user a:group a), which I want to change to user b:group a. I don't understand why this operation is not permitted. This is what's happening:

user a@foo:~$ mkdir /home/user b/foo/test             
uber a@foo:~$ chmod 0777 /home/user b/foo/test
user a@foo:~$ ls -alF /home/user b/foo/ | grep test
drwxrwxrwx 2 user a            group a 4096 Jan  6 19:53 test/
user a@foo:~$ chown user b:group a /home/user b/foo/test
chown: changing ownership of `/home/user b/foo/test': Operation not permitted

(I changed the user and group names for simplicity's sake)

Other things that might be relevant:

  • User A is in Group A and Group B.
  • User B is in Group B.
  • Directory foo in /home/user b has 0750, and is owned to User B:Group A.

I'm eager to understand as why this operation is not permitted, and how I can resolve this (a solution without using sudo is a plus)?

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try sudo before your chown command – kobaltz Jan 6 '12 at 16:23
What are the permissions of the "foo" folder? – TheCompWiz Jan 6 '12 at 16:29
up vote 10 down vote accepted

You can only change ownership on a file if you're root (or have the CAP_CHOWN Posix capability). This is so because giving away files would trigger some security concerns (for example, if disks quotas were enabled you could then fill user b quota).

Use sudo chown if you're allowed to do so and it will work.

You can however change the owning group to a group you're a member of, so you should be able to chgrp "group b" "/home/user b/foo/test", which may be an alternative to share files with user b without becoming root, depending of what you're trying to achieve.

For more flexible permissions, you may want to look into ACLs.

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Thanks for your explanation. For now, I went with sudo for a very small subset of commands. I'm going to look at chgrp. – Bjorn Jan 9 '12 at 8:58
Nope, the following does not work for me: You can however change the owning group to a group you're a member of, so you should be able to chgrp "group b" "/home/user b/foo/test" -- the same "operation is not permitted" problem. – Ayrat Mar 29 at 13:36

Part A:
The operation is not permitted because only the owner and root (TBOMK).

Part B: The answer is now obvious. Either have user b do it, or perhaps you will have to bite the bullet and use sudo. If you don't want to use sudo I assume it is because you don't have root and will have to get someone else to do it, but those appear to be the only two solutions.

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