This is out of interest rather then looking for a fix to a problem.

What actually causes permissions on Mac OS X Systems to become messed up? Its an easily fixed problem (i.e. there's a quick and easy fix via Disk Utility) but its something I'd encountered a few times doing support in a Mac-reseller store without actually understanding the causes.

I'd guess that part of it is due to some applications not playing nicely, but what else might be the source of this issue?

  • docs.info.apple.com/article.html?path=DiskUtility/10.5/en/… says generically "User permissions associated with files, folders, or applications can become damaged and prevent a file or application from opening. Permissions problems can also cause your computer to run slowly. Using Disk Utility, you may be able to fix these permissions problems. You can only verify or repair permissions on a disk with Mac OS X installed." – artlung Apr 29 '10 at 14:09

Here's some common causes:

  1. Improper shutdown of the Mac ( files not closed properly )
  2. Sudden power loss
  3. Badly behaved Third party installers
  4. Dragging files to/from external disks

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