Super User is a question and answer site for computer enthusiasts and power users. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I have done quite possibly THE dumbest thing I could have done and now I cannot boot past the white apple screen with the spinning progress wheel.

I was setting up FTP access on my computer and wanted to limit what files/folders the new user could see beyond the default settings. I used "get info" to edit permissions on files/folders and in the process, unknowingly edited the custom hard drive permissions. Since rebooting, I'm stuck at the white apple screen.

I have used install disk to boot up, accessed disk utility and tried everything I could think of including - verify and repair disk, reset passwords and ACL's to all users. I tried to verify/repair permissions and it errors out on exit and fails. I tried to run an archive and install and it failed and now I can't even access the option to try again.

I do not have a recent time machine back up so I don't want to use that. (it's from 2010) I also did not have a disk image saved prior to this problem but, I did make one now and stored it on my external drive in hopes I can recover files from it if I cannot fix this problem.

I can access terminal but am unfamiliar with what commands I can use to access and modify permissions.

Some questions I have for anyone willing to help.

Can I restore just the permission settings using my old time machine back up? If so, how? Keep in mind I can only work from the install disk as my computer won't boot. But, time machine is saved on my external hard drive if that helps.

Can I somehow force the archive and install option to reappear on install disk menu? It's currently greed out because it failed once. I want to try it again and uncheck the box to archive settings and permissions because I had it selected the first time and probably shouldn't have.

Is there a set of commands I can use in Terminal to access and fix the hard drive permissions and if so, what are they? I've tried looking and find it difficult to determine proper spacing,terms,etc.

Is there anything at all I can do to fix this that I haven't thought of?

Thanks in advance for any help.

share|improve this question
How does verifying / repairing permissions fail? Any specific message? When the Archive and Install option is not available anymore, the installer can't detect an existing version of OS X on the disk, so that's bad. I'm not sure if at that point you can even restore anything. Can you boot into Single User Mode? – slhck May 21 '12 at 17:55
It's greyed out now also and the history log is gone so I can't tell you the exact error but it basically started to run repair, gave an error stating "function failed on exit". – Lost in Macspace May 21 '12 at 18:25
I tried booting in single user and it didn't work. I only tried once earlier. – Lost in Macspace May 21 '12 at 18:25
I am not Mac savvy but am self taught through years of Mac ownership. Ive never partitioned drives, mounted disk images or used terminal beyond basic commands. I feel if there is any solution it involves manual permission editing through terminal or, partitioning and installing fresh on the new part and trying to access files from there? – Lost in Macspace May 21 '12 at 18:32
If you can't get into Single User Mode, then your options are really limited since that'd be the easiest way to get to a terminal. Can you access the data on your backup from another machine or is it really just a plain disk image? (Depends on that whether you can easily mount it somewhere else) FYI, chmod and chown are mostly used to modify permissions in *nix, but first of all you need a terminal for anything that exists on your drive. I'm somewhat skeptical whether there's anything left if you can't get into Single User Mode. – slhck May 21 '12 at 18:40

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.