And They Said the Mac Was Intuitive

by Matthew Bookspan Apr 10, 2007

Well, it definitely isn’t in one regard. I was able to delete my usr (Unix) folder. Yes, my usr folder. How did this happen? Well, one of the programs I installed caused this lovely little Unix hidden folder to become exposed. Knowing that I already have a Users folder and the multiple Library folder(s), it seemed reasonable to delete it.


Okay, first let’s try to figure out why this folder was exposed. I have a Maxtor Fusion NAS to store photos, music, data, etc. for both laptops on the home network. The Fusion has a built-in Web server to share data with external users. The Fusion requires a dynamic DNS. I use to manage this for me (and because it is free).

The Mac client is great in managing the dynamic DNS. Further, the folks are great for support. Unfortunately, it seems that this little app is the culprit in exposing my usr folder (bug filed—received a reply—didn’t solve problem).

So, what happened? Well, yesterday I wanted to clean up my Mac by removing apps and using Cocktail to clean up caches and such. While perusing my hard disk, I saw this folder and thought, “I don’t need this” (as mentioned above). Wrong thought indeed.

This caused some very unexpected results. Once the Finder began to delete the folder, the machine locked up and my apps began to self-terminate. I forced a reboot by powering down and then powering up the Mac again, which resulted in the spinning cursor of death. 

I then called my close friend Phil who manages Mac IT support at Children’s Hospital in Oakland, CA. Well, he confirmed the situation (including my limited knowledge) and provided the recommendation on how to get my system restored. Within four hours and after reinstalling the OS, life was normalized.

What did I learn? The usr folder is a UNIX folder that should not be made visible. And yet, mine was visible (and with the reinstall of NO-IP’s client, it is again made visible). Further, this is a highly critical folder containing key information about the OS.

Was this folder mentioned in the Mac documentation? Nope. Was this folder name something easily discovered online? Reasonably so, although I didn’t think to go looking until after the debacle.

Imagine if I was a novice user…yikes! Support calls, yelling, crying, and more. Woohoo! What a party. I still consider myself to be relatively new to the Mac, although I do have familiarity from yore. Nevertheless, this is not the intuitive and simple way Macs should work.

OS X’s underlying architecture provides amazing power given that it is based in Unix. However, do Mom & Pop care about this? Nope. Do they care that it just works? Yup. Do they care what the usr folder is? Nope. Do they even want to know about it? Nope. You get the picture.

For those who know much more than I, enjoy the laugh at my expense. For those who know less, beware of your own mistakes. You can still cripple a Macintosh computer.


Anyone out there know how to fix the permissions on my usr folder so I can hide it again? And yes, I did repair permissions using Disk Utility (as well as Cocktail).



  • Go ahead and call me a disgrace and call me stupid but I deleted the folder too and I need help!! I can’t open any applications and I have no idea what else could be wrong. 

    Any help please???

    hmmm had this to say on Nov 04, 2007 Posts: 1
  • Reinstall the OS.

    sjk had this to say on Nov 04, 2007 Posts: 112
  • I have learned many important things from your post and i want to thank you for sharing this post.

    Lemon Lawyer

    erik6484 had this to say on Oct 05, 2010 Posts: 3
  • Okay, first let’s try to figure out why this folder was exposed
    birthday wishes

    jonisonis had this to say on Aug 29, 2011 Posts: 29
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