change .conf files' ownership from root wheel to root admin

Gabriel Rosenkoetter gr at
Wed Apr 10 15:01:11 UTC 2019

On 2019-04-09 12:59 EDT, Murray Eisenberg wrote:
> I migrated my apps, docs, library from an old Mac to a new one, both
> using macOS Mojave 10.14.4.

What command did you use for this "migration"? It sounds like you
executed it as root (or under sudo(1)), but did not tell it to preserve
ownership (and maybe not even permissions).

That'll probably cause you significantly more problems down the line
than just not being able to edit specific config files.

> On the old Mac, many MacPorts .conf files were owned by user root, group
> admin. Those include httpd.conf, httpd-vhosts.conf, httpd-userdir.conf

Is the old Mac still around? If so, you could repeat the process but
make sure you tell whatever program you use to perserve permissions.
There are lots of tools to do this, here are just a few commonly-used

tar(1) via ssh:
  tar c srcdir [[srcdir]…] | ssh <newmac> ( cd / && tar xp[v] )

pax(1) can also be used via ssh, but let's pretend that you've got both
file systems visible on the same system (eg, via SMB) for this example:

  pax -rw -pe [-v] srcdir [[srcdir]…] /Volumes/newmac

rsync(1) is good if you expect to want to resynchronize things later
(which may not be important here), and it's also pretty smart about file

  rysnc -avzR --no-implied-dirs srcdir [[srcdir]…] [newmac:]/dest

> On the new Mac, these files are now owned by user root, but group wheel.
> That means I cannot edit these .conf files under my user account, which
> is in the admin group.
> How can I fix this so as to restore these files to group admin instead
> of wheel?

One thing you *can* do is use find(1) to locate all files now owned by
root:wheel and -exec chgrp admin on them, but I don't think that's a
good idea, given the situation you described. I think that this symptom
indicates that there's probably way more files that have the wrong
permissions for them, and I think you should probably try the copy
again, preserving permissions.

Gabriel Rosenkoetter
gr at

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