chown/chmod Your Way To A Backup Free Of The MemeodHelper Error in OSX 10.6.x (Snow Leopard) & A Seagate Vs. Western Digital Experience

UPDATE – 29 September 2010: In my usual policy of *nix-based deference to anything Perry Metzger has to say (other areas, too, but specifically here), I note that my procedure has the potential to mangle whatever is using Memeo (although I've not had anything go bump in the night yet). For those less than interested in the surgery below, your most safest bet is to crack open a Terminal window and sudo cp -R /Users/[you] /Volumes/[Your Backup Drive] (assuming you've activated the root password in OS X, of course). That is all.

There isn't too much of this online so I thought I'd provide my fix. As background, I like the idea of having constant capsules of my MacBook Pro (MBP) sitting on a Time Capsule drive, but I am constantly up-and-running with my MBP and am rarely sitting in front of a machine long enough to let full writes be written to some backup drive (and, as any quantum chemist worth their salt is generating scores of files on an hourly basis, my laptop is constantly undergoing changes). Long story short – I want to spend one hour at my choosing to turn off wireless, close all my open programs, copy my User directory, and paste it onto an external drive. That's it.

Finally upgrading to 10.6.4 (by way of a new 13.3"), my first attempt to backup the first clean copy of the complete migration from my old 15" went all of 20 minutes before the following error popped up on my screen:

The operation can't be completed because you don't have permission to access "MemeodHelper."

There is ONE other mention of this issue and it's present on the Apple Support forum at:

I guess the two of us are the oddballs for not sticking to the OSX program suite.

The solution is to simply change the permissions so that you, the user, DOES have access to read + write this file. I tried a Right Click – Get Info – Sharing & Permissions fix only to discover I DID have Read & Write access. Clearly, I am not the owner of this file. Taking the next proper step…

Applications -> Utilities -> Terminal

cd ~/Library/Application\ Support/Memeo
ls -al

…we see that the permissions set for the MemeodHelper file are as follows:


r = read
x = execute
s = domain socket

And that the owner is root (not you). The ownership problem explains the inability to read + write this file. And, I have never seen an "s" in all my days digging around in Terminal (had to look it up to see what it meant. Hail Wikipedia).

This "s" and the missing "w" for you, the user, is the problem. The solution is to allow you (the user) to write and execute this file, which I have chosen to do by simply changing the user ownership and the permissions. The steps are as follows (userid = the userid that shows up for the ".." and "." (shown above this file with an ls -al)):

sudo chown userid MemeodHelper

It will ask for a password – your user password will do.

chmod u+wrx MemeodHelper

This changes the ownership permissions for MemeodHelper.

That's it. You should now be able to copy + paste your User directory (HOME) to another drive. By Firewire 800, I'm copying 220 GB in about 56 minutes, which I cannot complain about. To date (after a week), I've had no machine issues with my change to MemeodHelper and have found no other people having complaints. If you discover something, by all means say something.

And, to continue to discussion, I had the most miserable experience migrating from Seagate FreeAgent USB 2.0 drives used with a Windows XP backup machine to the point that I bought and returned them over 24 hours, with these drives unable to reliably write files larger than 500 MB (and one of the two I bought for my global backup would spontaneously unmount itself. Not cool).

My solution was to spend extra money and pick up Western Digital 2 TB My Book Studio LX (for Mac) USB 2.0/Firewire 800 external drives (and I am using them as Firewire devices). I am presently very happy with this setup.

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