MacMost Now 793: Ignore Ownership On External Drives

If you use an external drive to share music, photos or other files, then you should know about the "Ignore ownership on this volume" option. This allows you to have multiple users on the same Mac, or multiple users across several Macs to have the same access to files and folders regardless of which user put them there. It can greatly simplify sharing the data on an external drive.
Video Transcript / Captions
Closed captioning for this video is available on YouTube: MacMost Now 793: Ignore Ownership On External Drives.

Hi this is Gary with MacMost Now. On today's episode I'm going to show you one simple little setting that will make it much easier to use external hard drives, especially if you have multiple users.

So I get email from a lot of people who are using external hard drives to share things like say iPhoto libraries or music libraries, media videos, all sort of stuff between either multiple computers or multiple users on the same computer. When you set up an external hard drive to be used in this way there is on little setting that you may not notice right off the bat that makes it much easier.

So I have another hard drive on my Mac that is called MediaDisk. In it I store a bunch of different things like iPhoto Library, iTunes Media, a bunch of different videos, and different things that I don't want on the main internal drive. Actually on my MacPro they are both internal but say on an iMac or using a MacBook Pro you may have the second drive as an external drive.

Now when you create a new folder that folder then will have the permission set so that it is owned by the current user. So you can see here it is owned by MacMost which is the current user logged in. If I would log out of the MacMost user and log into the user that I use for my day to day work I would find out that I don't have permission to change files and put new files into the folder because it is owned by MacMost. Likewise if I disconnected this drive from this Mac attached to another Mac I wouldn't have permission to change and add to this folder either because it is not owned by the user on that Mac it is owned by the user on this Mac.

Now fixing that on a folder by folder basis is pretty easy because here I can see by getting info on this folder that I can change it. So I have what Staff and Everyone, everyone would be any user, staff would just be admin users on this machine, would be able to do. Now it is set to Read Only. So say if I want to change everybody to Read and Write I can do that and it changes it for that folder. But that can get to be a pain especially if you are creating folders and adding new folders and changing things all the time.

So the better way to do it is to select the drive itself in the Finder here. So I have selected the drive and I'm going to get info, Command I by the way for Get Info or you can do File for info and that is how that is brought up, and you will notice that there is a check box here called Ignore Ownership on this Volume.

Now in order to get to that you are going to have to unlock the permissions here, so you are going to have to enter permissions in, and once you do that you will then have the ability to check and uncheck this box here. You can see I've got it checked because this MediaDisk I want it to be used by multiple users so I have ignore ownership. That way any user can create a folder, can change anything, and the other users can see it and have permission to get to it.

Another thing people do all the time that is not necessary is to select the entire volume like this, change one of the properties to Read and Write for say Everybody and then go down here, and if I had unlocked it, I would be able to do Apply to Enclosed Items. That would make everything Read and Write for everybody. But you don't need to do that if you simply Ignore Ownership on this Volume option.

Now you can only use Ignore Ownership on this Volume if its an external or a secondary drive, say on a MacPro, so it is not your main drive with the system on it. You can't do it there. You also can't do it on a disk image as well and depending upon how you have encrypted the disk and done different things to it, you also may have the option turned off. But for a standard, regular external drive that you want to store different files, music, photos, whatever on, you should be able to turn this on and make life a lot easier for you.

Hope you found this useful. Until next time this is Gary with MacMost Now.

Comments: 11 Responses to “MacMost Now 793: Ignore Ownership On External Drives”

    Toby Zen
    6 years ago

    Hi Gary, I have superduper and use it to clone my drive to an external drive. This drive is bootable. Does this mean that I may not ignore ownership on external drive for this drive because of my need to boot from it sometimes?

      6 years ago

      It shouldn’t matter unless you actually try to boot from the drive. Then I think it just automatically turns off “ignore ownership.”
      But why would you want to turn off ownership of a cloned backup?

    Steve Maynard
    6 years ago

    Is an “Ipod” equivalent to an external HDD. Does it have similar controls to unlock it.

    Here’s the reason for my question: My wife was given an iPod by her son. He’d loaded music on it. But, that “married” the iPod to his computer. So she can’t load music onto it…and, if she “marries” it to hers, she’s told that she’ll lose the music her son loaded for her. How do we save the music her son loaded but allow her to load music for her machine?

      6 years ago

      No, it is different. You can’t “save” the music from the iPod. You need to get it from its source (from her son’s computer).

        Steve Maynard
        6 years ago

        So, I guess the drill will be to have her son download the music to my wife’s external HDD and then save it anew to the iPod once it is “married” to my wife’s Mac (including her external HDD). Do you have videos that we can watch on how to “marry” (forgive my lack of technical jargon) to her computer?

        Thanks, for all you do Gary….I really appreciate your work!

          6 years ago

          There’s nothing to it. You just connect and then iTunes, and then choose to sync. It will warn you that you are about to erase everything on it and replace.
          But if the ownership of this iPod has been transferred, you may want to consider using iTunes to do a “restore” so it starts off like it came from the factory.

    Don Myers
    6 years ago

    Great advice and video. I’m new to the MAC world and the video was a big help in moving my time machine backup set to a larger drive.


    6 years ago

    Is there any way to make the change to “ignore ownership” permanent? Every time I restart my computer I have to go through these steps again. I usually forget. This wouldn’t be a huge problem (just an inconvenience) except that iTunes purchases won’t download and with the latest version of iTunes (11) the files vanish and I have to have them reset by Apple support.

      6 years ago

      Sounds like something is wrong. First, I haven’t noticed that this setting changes when you restart. Of course I rarely restart ( But it shouldn’t change the setting regardless. I’ve noticed that SuperDuper changes it — a bug in that app. Not sure what else would cause it to reset.

    6 years ago

    I followed the video but the volume would not give me any ignore ownership option when I unlocked it. It is the drive I was using for Time machine and I would like to move the backups to another larger external but it is saying that ownership is not enabled on the volume. I am sure I am missing the flick of an option somewhere can you give me any suggestions of what to try?


      6 years ago

      Hard to say without seeing it. But if you are trying to move the Time Machine backups to another drive, what I would do is to first start the TM backups on the new drive. Let it complete the new backup. Then when the old TM drive becomes redundant, erase it and start fresh. I don’t see the use for “Ignore Ownership” in this case.

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