Open a Finder Window with Root Access

UPDATE (9/28/09): Got Snow Leopard? Please see this post for updated instructions.

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It’s occasionally handy when troubleshooting a problem in OS X to have root access in the Finder without having to log out of your current session. Sure, you can do most things in the Terminal, but the GUI can be much handier for certain tasks. This is a quick-and-dirty Terminal trick to open a Finder window with root access.

Run the following command and then enter your password:

sudo /System/Library/CoreServices/Finder.app/Contents/MacOS/Finder

A new Finder window resembling the following should open:

root-window

You can see that it opens up to the root user’s home. Use this window to navigate anywhere you like and make the changes you need. Keep in mind that you can do just as much damage with this as you can in the Terminal as root.

To end your root Finder session, go back to the Terminal window and hit ^C.

Quirks to be Mindful Of

  • You won’t be able to interact with any files you might have on your desktop, as those belong to your logged-in user account and root’s desktop is currently (and transparently) sitting on top of it.
  • If you take any screenshots, they will be owned by the logged-in user and you’ll need to navigate to them via your root Finder window.
  • If you attempt to open/double-click a file which requires root access to read, the corresponding application will open as the logged-in user and the file will fail to open. To get around this, you can launch the app’s /Contents/MacOS executable as root and open the file from within the app.
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13 thoughts on “Open a Finder Window with Root Access

  1. I quit terminal, and Finder opens normally, but when i open a second finder window it starts at root again. how do i change this

    • In Snow Leopard or later, after running the command in the terminal you can simply click on the Desktop and type ⌘-N to get a root Finder window.

  2. Ha, thanks for your rapid reply. I found out how it works, also with some help from the Topher Kessler article. So this is the way to start a second instance of the Finder (hence two Finders running). The second (‘root’) Finder running is responsive, the first one isn’t. Some remarks:
    cmd-N in the Finder works, choosing New Finder Window does not (‘All My Files’ = empty).
    Using cmd-click on the new Finder Window name you can navigate up but you will be restricted to the (root) user home.
    To see all the files, like Applications, choose Finder: Preferences… and make sure the hard disks are set to visible. Now you see a second instance of your hard disk from where you can navigate to all files.

  3. Please, i can’t leave the root finder mode. I hit control c, but i still see all folders everywhere..

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