Say goodbye to repairing file permissions in El Capitan

Repairing file permissions has long been a standard practice of many old-time Mac users. Debates have raged about its efficacy, but the bottom line is there's always been a way to do it in Apple's Disk Utility app, and if Apple lets you do it it, it must be okay, right? That changes with Disk Utility in El Capitan. Let's take a look.

S.G. writes:

"I was just shocked by Disk Utility changes. No more verify/repair permissions option or disk? Seems like it has no utility anymore."

S.G.'s talking about Disk Utility 15, the new version of Disk Utility included with OS X El Capitan. El Capitan was released on September 30, 2015.

El Capitan works with Macs built since 2007, so there's a good chance you're on a Mac that can run it, if you aren't already. There are a lot of productivity and performance enhancements this time around, so make sure to check out Rene's review for more details:

Disk Utility is an essential tool in the Utilities folder, but if you've never gone near it, not to worry — many Mac users never do. But if you've had to reformat or repartition a hard drive, mount or create a disc image, repair disk permissions or perform other disk "first aid," you have probably opened it.

S.G. noticed that there's no option anymore to verify or repair disk permissions. But that doesn't mean Disk Utility has been hobbled. That's because El Capitan makes some essential changes to the way it handles files.

Manual disk permission repair simply isn't necessary anymore. El Capitan automatically repairs file permissions during software updates and changes. So don't worry that the repair permissions option isn't available in Disk Utility anymore. It's become redundant, thanks to improved file integrity in El Cap.

Honestly, it was an open question if repairing file permissions has had a real benefit, at least for the past few releases of OS X. It was one of those old-school remedies that was offered as a cure-all for all sorts of problems, but rarely actually did anything.

Users of Macs before the modern age may remember "rebuild your Desktop" as a common troubleshooting refrain. "Repair disk permissions" has likewise been relegated to the trash-heap of history.

As an aside, Disk Utility looks very different in El Capitan than it did in previous OS X releases. Here's a screenshot of what Disk Utility looked like in Yosemite:

And here's what it looks like now:

So much of El Capitan's focus has been to improve efficiency and performance. This is evident in Disk Utility, too. The interface has been reworked to be clearer and more straightforward, and the application's functions are all available at the press of a button.

If you have a need to use Disk Utility, feel free to snoop around and check out the changes in El Capitan. You may be impressed by its simplified interface and improved easy of use. If not, don't worry about it. Most of us can continue to use our Macs quite happily without ever messing with it.

Peter Cohen
  • It’s rubbish.
  • Downvote all you like. It’s crap.
    What’s wrong with having a hidden debug menu available, (it’s not - I’ve tried all the usual terminal commands), for power users if the default interface needs to be dumned down? Apple are moving more and more toward computers that I don’t like every year.
  • I no longer have the ability to write to my old Windows External hard drives. :(
  • Here goes the solution!!! Tried & Tested on El-Capitan! U just need to install a third party software to write on ur external drive. its called "Paragon NTFS". Available in https://www.paragon-software.c.... Around $20.
    This auto change happened to me when i upgraded the OS to El-Capitan. Go to & search for Crack version if u don't want to pay & buy the licensed version. Search for "Paragon NTFS" There's crack version available. its a very small software below 15MB size.
  • I just copied everything over to another drive and reformatted to a Mac compatible version....problem solved.
  • There is a LOT to not like in El Capitan. My install onto my mid-2010 iMac has been terrible. Everything is much, much, much slower with innumerable software glitches and UI problems. What a disaster. I hope people with newer computers are not having the same issues.
  • The update bricked my 2009 iMac. The installer crashes at the the 4-minute mark while installing the update. Every time. I had no choice but to wipe out the whole computer and start from scratch because I could never get passed that crash.
  • I had encountered the same thing yesterday on my MacBook Pro; it would shut itself down whenever the progress bar moves to the middle point. You don't need to wipe your computer, though. Just pressed CMD+R when you start the machine up and choose to install OS X. It will then download another copy of OS X onto your computer and install it without wiping anything Sent from the iMore App
  • Upgrade on early 2009 mac mini all good (download was very slow). This is the 6th OS upgrade on the mac mini, so far never re-installed or done a clean install, very impressed. Still performs extremely well. For every OS update, I make sure I have more than enough space (only 120GB on this), update all apps, restart, then open App Store and download, and don't interfere with it until install is complete.
  • Capitan is an absolute disaster. DO NOT go anywhere near this on a 2010 iMac. As BongBong says, it is massively slow to do anything at all. Type a character - ooh look, you get a free beach ball for 30 minutes! It makes no attempt to assess whether the OS is suitable to your machine (mine is a standard CPU, but with 16GB of RAM - which I foolishly thought might be enought to cope with a seemingly minor upgrade) . . . Worse, it has disabled the WD MyCloud drive that I keep my Time Machine backups on - cannot connect at all. When, once, did manage to connect, having given up in desperation any hope of reverting to Yosemite, Capitan tells me I CANNOT use any of my (many) backups of Yosemite. The iMac now only has the benefit of having a nice screen, so I'll wipe it and run some reliable species of Unix on it. Even Windoze is preferable to this diabolical, infernal insult of an OS. I really wonder why I ever bothered trying to come back to Apple.
  • I have a MBP Mid 2010 and it runs very fast without any problems.El capitan is the best version of OS X!!!
  • Hmmm... I don't know about this... Sent from the iMore App
  • Count me as one of those who believed in the voodoo of repairing permissions. Haha.
  • I was doing it every time I installed anything through software update / the app store. Sent from the iMore App
  • Thanks for making me a star on here. ; ) I found some of the missing things in the menu bar drop down items. I'll just have to get used to the new interface. Hard when something has been around a long while but progress is nice.
  • Next you're going to tell me I can't zap the PRAM! Pretty soon the only way I'll be able to fix my mac is to shake a rubber chicken at it.
  • Jesus, they finally changed the Interface. How long was the old one around? Like 15 years?
  • I've always though of "repair file permissions" as just a bunch of hand-wavey stuff that did little good anyway. I really like the overhaul of Disk Utility and appreciate them clearing away some of the cruft.
  • I take it you never heard John Siracusa talk about file permissions and the HFS history.
  • Why are the complainers missing the fact that SIP prevents system file permissions from changing in the first place, preventing the need to ever repair them? Also, with SIP enabled, Disk Utility couldn't change system file permissions even if it tried, it would be disallowed.
  • I can't count the number of times a friend has told me their Mac was running slow and after I run Repair Permissions 2 or 3 times, it runs like it was new again.
  • If you really want disk permissions try the command line. I haven't tried it in el capitan though. diskutil It will list all the commands you can use. But honestly I never noticed repair permissions fixing anything whenever I used it.
  • Am fighting El Capitan to have passwords recognized. Won a couple; still fighting.
    All three connected drives have no read/write enabled. WTF? Had Paragon operating well on my
    2 Seagate drives; now isn't working. May need to restart it??
    Who says Disk Utilities is more efficient? Apple marketing, that's who. I see no way to enable read/write to my Mac hard drive.
    Me-too replies are not helpful.
  • Yesterday 10-29-15, I downloaded EC on my nearly-new Mac Mini. Now regretting it.
  • Guys I have read all your post, and all of you are very wrong about El Capital. El Capital is by far the OS X that Apple has launched. That only thing I don't like is that apple is trying to control the machines that we owned, not fair we pay lots for money for this computers, thus, we should have access to them. Not all is lost if you go to recovery mode and ONLY on recovery mode, open terminal and use the following command "csrutil disable" this will disable the protection apple has to change the permissions. Immediately restart the computer and sign in to you account. NOW YOU HAVE access to change permissions. After you make all the changes you want to make to the permissions go back to recovery mode and open terminal and type the following command to enable the protection again, type "csrutil enable" and restart. I hope this shares someone light on you concerns.
  • Well, after another update I can no longer write to my external back-up drives and thumb drives. Short of re-formatting them (which utterly defeats the object of a back-up system) they now represent bloody expensive bricks. One of them might just be a straightforward NTFS based drive but the other bore the Apple logo when I purchased it last year as being approved for use with Macs. WTF? I can't use iCloud - my connection is far too flakey (yes, such places still exist) - so how do I go about backing up my data and using my existing files?
  • The new happy colorful simplified UI in ElCap's Diskutils is a big improvement - until you actually have to use it to diagnose a disk problem and get yourself out of a jam. The idea that diagnostic output from diskutil's various sub-commands is only visible on a modal pane that doesn't support cut-and-paste and occludes the rest of the app window is absolutely insane - how are you supposed to take notes, document symptoms and results, compare test runs etc etc? And pretending that you can't get file system permissions eff'd-up is just putting your head in the sand; sure, SIP is intended to prevent these problems, but what if they got screwed up - as I suspect happened to a lot of users - during the ElCrap upgrade process itself?