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My web server uses the user www-data to access/change files. This causes permission issues for php file upload etc. for files owned by root (or by any other user).

I'd like to use the 755/644 permissions for my folders/files (rather than 775/664), so I'd like to actually change the owner of the files to www-data, rather than just the group.

I don't want to run in to the situation where the root user can't access/modify the files though.

I'm sure this is basic knowledge for most people, but I just wanted to double-check it. If I change the owner:group of a file to www-data:www-data, will the root user still be able to edit/access the files? Would the root user be able to change it back to root:root if desired?

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    Fun experiment: do chmod a-rwx on a file. Then open it as root. – muru Jan 9 '15 at 19:33
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In most situations (read default installations), root can do anything a regular user can and much more. If you think root cannot do something, remember it can become a user who can :)

You'll be fine.

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