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It might feel like you're lost in a digital maze trying to figure out what's happening with your Mac's read-only disk. When you try to save a file or make changes, do you get the annoying message that your disk can only be read? Do not be afraid! This guide is your helpful friend as you try to free your Mac from these restrictions.

Think of your computer as a busy city and your read-only disk as a gate that keeps you from getting to some places. We'll give you the keys to that gate, letting you freely explore, change, and make your digital world your own. Hold on tight, Mac Explorer! We're going on a trip to change the read-only settings on your disk and take back control of your data kingdom!

Why Files on A Disk Become Read-only on Mac?

There are many reasons why files on a Mac might become read-only, but the most common ones are problems with the file system, rights, outside factors, and problems with compatibility. Here is a more in-depth breakdown:

  • File System Issues: When there is damage or corruption to the file system's structure, the disk may go into read-only mode to stop any more harm. Sudden power blackouts, bad system shutdowns, or bugs in the software can cause file system problems.
  • Permissions Problems: macOS gives users, groups, and others different file and directory rights. If you don't set the rights correctly, you might be unable to write to the files, making them read-only. Updates, installations, or user changes can sometimes mess up the rights meant to be there.
  • External Factors: If the storage device is physically damaged, like if the hard drive fails or the wires connecting it to the computer break, it may go into a read-only state to protect the data. If the system gets too hot or has other hardware problems, it may switch to read-only mode to protect the data.
  • Compatibility Issues: The HFS+ or APFS file systems are what most Macs use, but external drives can be formatted with file systems like NTFS, which is popular in Windows environments. If a Mac comes across an NTFS-formatted drive, it might be read-only to avoid problems or lost data.

change disk read-only setting on Mac

Ways to Securely Change Read-only Settings on Mac

1. Adjust Permissions Using Finder:

The easiest way to change file rights is to use Finder:

Step 1. Use the Finder to find the file or folder.

Step 2. Right-click the file and select "Get Info" or "Command + I."

Step 3. Scroll to the "Sharing & Permissions" paragraph in the Info box.

Step 4. If the lock icon is locked, click it and enter the password to confirm.

Step 5. Change the user's privileges by changing the "Read Only" dropdown menu to "Read & Write."

change disk read-only setting on Mac

That is the best way to manage rights for single files or folders because it doesn't require you to go into more complicated settings.

2. Terminal Commands:

Terminal is a powerful tool for people who are used to using the command line:

Step 1. Go to Applications > Utilities and open Terminal.

Step 2. Follow the 'cd' command to get to where the read-only file is.

Step 3. To allow writing, run the command "chmod +w filename" (change "filename" with the name of your file).

Step 4. Use 'ls -l' to confirm modifications and verify them.

Terminal commands give you fine-grained control, but you must know much about command-line grammar to use them. Make sure you're right to avoid unexpected results.

3. Using Disk Utility:

Disk Utility is a good tool for you to format the crashed or incompatible disk for your Mac so that you can read-write the disk.

Step 1. Make a backup of the data stored on the disk.

Step 2. Go to Applications > Utilities and open Disk Utility.

Step 3. Select the disk, click Erase.

Step 4. Select a file system that can work on your Mac, such as APFS, Mac OS Extended or ExFAT.

change disk read-only setting on Mac

Step 5. Click Erase again. When it completes, click Done.

Note: If you want to use the disk on both Windows and Mac OS, select ExFAT or MS-DOS (FAT) as the file system.

If you have lost data due to erasing hard drive using disk utility, try data recovery software to get lost data back.

Unformat Hard Drive on Mac

Unformat Hard Drive on Mac

Run Do Your Data Recovery to scan the erased hard drive (erased by Disk Utility or other software) and get all lost files back.

4. Using NTFS for Mac Tool:

To change a NTFS drive from read-only to read-write on Mac without formatting, just try NTFS for Mac tool. We know that NTFS is a native file system of Windows OS and it is not compatible with macOS. Fortunately, with installing a NTFS for Mac on Mac, the macOS will have the ability to read-write NTFS drive without any limitation.

Step 1. Download and install DoYourData NTFS for Mac - a reliable, easy-to-use & 100% safe NTFS for Mac tool.

Step 2. Connect the NTFS disk to your Mac, open DoYourData NTFS for Mac.

Step 3. Select the NTFS disk, click on Enable Writable. Then you can read-write NTFS drive on your Mac.

change disk read-only on Mac


On a Mac, changing the read-only settings on a disk requires several fixing steps, ranging from making changes to the software to looking at the hardware. You should follow the steps in this guide to find and fix the problems making your disk read-only.

Always make a copy of your data before making big changes to the disk settings. If the problems stay, you may need help from Apple Support or a qualified expert. Following these steps, you can regain control of your storage devices and ensure your Mac computer works smoothly.

DoYourData Author

Written & Updated by Justin Kenny

Justin Kenny is a writer & editor of DoYourData. He joined DoYourData in 2016 and focuses on writing articles about Windows data recovery, Mac data recovery, external device data recovery, hard drive clone, data erasure, Mac cleanup, computer issue fixes, etc. He is a super fan of Apple devices and is big on testing new digital device and system utility software.

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