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Something has gone weird with Ubuntu 8.4 on my computer. Somehow, many files, docs and audio have decided to become "read only". Other files (that I own) are denying permission to view, move copy or otherwise access.

Does anyone know how this could suddenly happen?

Does anyone have a suggestion as to how to return these files to their original status?

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Check for commonalities in the file locations. Are they all on the same partition? Only in a few subdirectories?

  • If all affected files are under one (or a small number of) directory(ies), it may be a permissions problem. ricbax's answer gives details to fix the issue, but use ls -l to verify that's the problem first.

  • Ubuntu and other linuxes are often configured to remount the system partition as read-only when errors are detected. If this is the case, chown and chmod won't help -- you'll need to fix the filesystem (eg with fsck) before you'll be able to remount the partition normally. Any partition could potentially be mounted with this option.

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Sounds to me like a permissions issue. Open terminal and cd to one of the folders/files affected.

sudo chown -R user:group ./folder

sudo chmod -R 755 ./folder

  • More info on setting permissions: chmod
  • More information on setting ownership: chown
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of course "user" and "group" must be your actual username and groupname – Davide Dec 6 '09 at 21:44

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