chmod - macOS


chmod (change mode) is a command used on macOS to change the permissions of files or directories. It allows users to specify who can read, write, or execute a file. This command is useful for managing file access controls in multi-user environments or for securing personal files from unauthorized access.


The basic syntax of the chmod command is as follows:

chmod [options] mode file...
  • mode: Specifies the permissions set for the file or directory.
  • file: The file(s) or directories to apply the permissions.

Permissions can be specified in symbolic or numeric format:

  • Symbolic: Uses letters (r, w, x, -) and symbols (+, -, =) to set file permissions.
  • Numeric: Uses octal numbers (0-7) that represent the binary permissions.


  • -v, –verbose: Displays a detailed message for every file processed.
  • -c, –changes: Like verbose but reports only when a change is made.
  • -f, –silent, –quiet: Suppresses most error messages.
  • -R, –recursive: Changes files and directories recursively.


  1. Setting Permissions Using Numeric Mode:
    Set the read and write permissions for the owner, and read permission for group and others:

    chmod 644 filename
  2. Setting Permissions Using Symbolic Mode:
    Add execute permission for the group:

    chmod g+x filename
  3. Using Recursive Option:
    Apply read, write, and execute permissions to the owner, and read and execute permissions to others, on a directory and its contents:

    chmod -R 755 dirname

Common Issues

  • Permission Denied: You might not have the necessary rights to change permissions of a file. Using sudo before the command can resolve this.
  • Incorrect Usage of Symbols: Misplacing symbols or using incorrect syntax can lead to unexpected permission changes. Ensure you understand the symbolic representations.


Combine chmod with other commands to manage files effectively. For example, use it with find to change permissions of specific files:

find /path/to/dir -type f -name "*.txt" -exec chmod 644 {} +

This command modifies the permissions of all .txt files in a directory to be readable and writable by the owner, and readable by others.

  • chown: Changes the owner and group of a file.
  • ls -l: Lists files and their permissions.
  • umask: Sets the default permissions for newly created files.

Further Reading

For more detailed information, consult the chmod manual page:

man chmod