Open a Root Finder Window in Snow Leopard or Later

This is an update to an existing post about the same topic. Yes, you can still open a root Finder window in Snow Leopard, but there is an extra step required.

First, run the following command in Terminal and then enter your password:

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

Next, click on an empty spot on your desktop — not in an existing Finder window. Now, type Command-N  (⌘-N) or select New Finder Window from the File menu. 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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18 thoughts on “Open a Root Finder Window in Snow Leopard or Later

  1. Thanks for the tip. When I try it on my machine, the new Finder windows doesn’t open with root, nor is it in the list of places. Is there more to it?

    • This is strange. It works exactly as I wrote on my own machine. Try adding an ampersand ‘&’ after Finder in the command, then do a ‘ps -ef | grep Finder’ to see if you have two copies of Finder running.

  2. No feedback after entering the password. Should there be any?

    Doesn’t like the ‘&’ after Finder. Get this: [4] 2744

    After entering ps -ef | grep Finder, no feedback from terminal. Still no root after creating a new Finder window.

    I don’t know much about the command line, probably something I’m doing wrong.

    • There should be no feedback with the first method and just some numbers with the ampersand, so it appears to be working in both cases. Did you make sure to click on the desktop (not in any active window) before opening a new window?

  3. Ah, clicking on the desktop did the trick. I was clicking in the Finder window, thought that is what you meant earlier.

    Many thanks. Great tip!

  4. Is there a way to add fonts from a root file using Font Book? i.e. when it asks you to locate the file have that window be a root finder? Thanks.

  5. Is there a way to make a *shortcut* to a root finder window? I’m happy to create a bash script for this but every time I try it all I get is an empty prompt after running the script …

    • Sounds like you made the script correctly. After running your root Finder bash script, just click on the Desktop and hit Cmd-N to open a new root Finder window.

  6. I dropped a short AppleScript into my menu that does this for me, and I added a Quit Finder item to Root’s Finder, so it’s exceptionally easy to switch in and out of it.

    try
        do shell script "nohup /System/Library/CoreServices/Finder.app/Contents/MacOS/Finder &" with administrator privileges
    on error
        tell application "Finder"
            activate
            display alert "Could not spawn Finder as root!"
        end tell
    end try

    sudo defaults write com.apple.finder QuitMenuItem 1

  7. 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.

    This is incorrect, you can get to your desktop by going to /Users/Yourname/Desktop

    • I was hoping the way I worded it — “on your Desktop”, rather than “in your Desktop folder” — would have made it clear I was referring to the Finder desktop itself. Thanks for clarifying, though.

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