I just installed elementary OS dual booted with windows 10. After the installation. I saw that the / root directory has every file and folder locked. I can't rename, delete or create anything there. Home directory is fine. I ran

sudo chown -R $USER: /

command from internet to get permissions and all folders were unlocked. But now after reboot I can't login. It just doesn't show the login screen. It shows a black screen with blinking _.

I want to ask the following -

  • Are the root directory folders locked by default? If they are, do I need to unlock them for some reason in future for installing some software or any other reason? If I need them unlocked for some purposes, how should I do it correctly?
  • I pressed Ctrl+Alt+F1 on black screen and I can login as my username. But couldn't do much. Can I reverse the process to login again? If yes how?
  • I can see my windows disks under other locations. All files can be read but are locked which is fine and I want them to be like that. But is there any possibility that those files can be deleted by me by running some commands?

I am kind of new to linux. I don't understand when I am the only user, why root has the permissions. And if root has the permissions, I am only one using the OS so how to do things which only root has the permission to do? I tried googling this thing but couldn't understand it properly.


1 Answer 1


You broke it.

  • The root directory and most things under it (not your home directory), are owned by the system, and are as you say locked (for good reason). Even when you know what you are doing, it will be rear to change anything there. Very roughly, the system is split into two parts: The operating system, and user data. Don't try to change the operating system part. If you need to use sudo it is to change the operating system part, don't do it (except to install new packages: sudo apt install ...).
  • There are some executable-files / programs, that when run, run as the owning user of the file. They need to do this to allow privileged operations (such as logging in, and changing to the new user).

The easiest thing to do is to re-install.

After re-install, avoid use of sudo except to install new packages. Learn how the system works before trying to fix it.

  • So after reinstall, I don't need to unlock the root folders. Am I right?
    – Pera
    May 18, 2020 at 7:25
  • Correct. Not only do you not need to do it. You must not do it: You already have access to everything that you need. And if you mess with it, then it will break. Changing permissions on it could make it break, and could allow programs to change the way that the OS works (probably in a bad way). May 18, 2020 at 15:04
  • I reinstalled it. It's working fine. Now I get it. If I need to write some files there, I don't need to change the permissions. Instead I can just open the file manager as administrator and no folders are locked then. Thanks for your insights.
    – Pera
    May 18, 2020 at 15:23
  • @Pera Yes you can change the permission (If you know what you are doing), or do it as admin (If you know what you are doing). However Don't put files there. It is not the place for them. May 18, 2020 at 17:01

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