Ubuntu: changed permission of 'usr' to 700


I changed the permissions of /usr in Ubuntu to 700.

Graphics are not working. In a tty I have no access to sudo to change permissions back again.

I tried to access root from 'advanced boot option' and run the command chmod 755 /usr but it said something like 'read only file' and the permissions didn't change.

One of my friends also tried by mounting the drive and changing owner, but nothing seems to be working.


Unfortunately, you removed group permissions and all other permissions. And you did it to just about every program that your system uses to boot and draw the GUI. You also nuked the terminal emulator. Unless you have an image that you can restore from, I think you're going to have to re-install the OS.


If you boot in recovery and get given a menu where you can enable networking (this option mounts the file system with read write permission), then enable networking and then choose the option to enter a root shell and skip to step 3 - you can omit sudo on the commands in this case. If you boot in recovery and don't get this option, then it won't work because you have to use sudo to remount as read-write and you cannot use sudo, so in that case:

If you don't have the networking & root shell recovery option, then boot into a live session (get that friend to make you a live USB if you don't have one) and mount your installation:

  1. Find the root partition with sudo fdisk -l . It will be the biggest one if you don't dual boot and most likely have an ext4 filesystem.

  2. Mount the partition, using the actual name of your root patition instead of /dev/sdxY and cd to the mountpoint:

    sudo mount /dev/sdxY /mnt  cd /mnt  
  3. Check the current permissions

    ls -ld /usr  
  4. Change the owner back to root if it is not root:

    sudo chown root:root /usr  

Check whether your friend used -R by doing ls -ld /usr/bin and if it says root is the owner, then do nothing more and go to the next step. If your friend used -R then you must use sudo chown -R root:root /usr to correct it here. root should be the owner of everything in /usr except /usr/bin/at which should belong to daemon so if you used chown -R root:root /usr then afterwards do chown daemon:daemon /usr/bin/at (I checked this using the clever find command from this answer... if you have /usr/sbin/uuidd that should also be chowned : chown libuuid /usr/sbin/uuidd

  1. change the permissions (NOT USING -R)

    sudo chmod 755 /usr  

Again, please please do not use the -R flag

  1. a. Assuming you did not use the -R flag in the first place, you've fixed it now. If you did use the -R flag, then it might be easier to back up your /home stuff safely and reinstall, but for now fix sudo which needs the setuid bit (octal 4):

    sudo chmod 4755 /usr/bin/sudo  
  2. If running a live session, cd out and unmount the partition:

    cd /  sudo umount /dev/sdxY  

and reboot back into your system. Now you have sudo, and chmod is in /bin so you can use sudo chmod to fix broken permissions on anything else you need in /usr for whatever you want to do next, but make sure you know exactly what you are doing (read some stuff, for example this and this) when using chmod (read and avoid using the -R flag - if you clear the setuid bit from sudo you will break it again.

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