I am pretty new to Ubuntu (in case that fact is not immediately obvious).

I setup a machine with Ubuntu 14.04 for some people in our church. In setup, I used their user name to configure the computer. Afterwards, I added my name and set it as an administrator (in the GUI). As administrator, I want to be able to see all files that they add or edit. I tried adding root permissions to my account with 'visudo' but that did not give me the access I wanted.

I cannot determine how to grant access to my account for their files. In addition, I do not even have access to the primary partition on the hard drive, or to USB drives that are inserted into the computer. Please explain how I can gain access to view and modify their files, and how I can access the primary drive and USB drives that may be added.

The drive partition and USB drives are listed under media/firstuser. The firstuser folder is owned by root. I added my user name to root group, but still cannot access the firstuser folder.

And since appreciation is not to be added later, thank you in advance. :-)

  • Be careful using forms of sudo without fully understanding their use - you can do serious damage to the system accidentally. Most experienced admins limit their use of the elevated privileges. As someone said, learn the basic permissions system and learn about owners, groups, and how they interact. Except for root, all files can only be accesses normally by their owner or someone granted permission by that owner. You can become root temporarily to either change or access files, though. Commented Nov 12, 2014 at 17:56

2 Answers 2


Probably the most novice friendly solution for browsing files is to start nautilus with root privileges.

gksu nautilus

If you want to change permissions for files you should have a look at chmod. See also here http://www.perlfect.com/articles/chmod.shtml

It might be that you encrypted the home partition of the other user. If that is the case and you don't have the password for the other user, you are however out of luck.

  • Using sudo nautilus does allow me access to the files from the original user, and that is helpful. What I would really like to do is have the drive located in the firstuser account changed to be accessed in myuseraccount instead.
    – RaifMT
    Commented Nov 12, 2014 at 17:58
  • It sounds like you want to change the owner of the files. You could have a look here: askubuntu.com/questions/6723/… Also as mentioned above be careful in what you do while you browse files as a root.
    – cstich
    Commented Nov 13, 2014 at 14:56

I have had same problem like you, and you proabaly need to use thunar, and to do this you have to enter in the terminal this:

  sudo -i
  gksudo thunar

and then you can alter promising to all of you files, and it might work fine this way.

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