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Help!! I need to recover my photos on my failed iMac hard disk

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I need some help in recovering my photo's on a failed imac hard disk......
The history to this is that I received the cursed flashing folder with a question mark (?) when I tried to boot into my normal OSX Maverck on my imac - I researched this and there was a possibility of a hard disk error.
I booted off the Mac OSX Snow Leopard CD to access Disk Utility to see if I could repair the hard disk - no luck! I couldn't repair it.
I then installed a new version of OSX Snow Leopard on a external hard disk connected to the Imac through the USB - I then upgraded this version of OSX Snow Leopard to OSX Maverick. This allowed me to reboot the Imac off the external version OSX Maverick. I could subsequently see the failed hard disk on File Manager and have access to all the files on the main account. I don't however have access to other accounts (my wife's) where I store my photo's as there is a folder with a red minus sign denying me permission - I tried to change permission on these accounts but when I right click on the folder and select "Get Info" the permissions tab is greyed out denying me the ability to change permissions.
How do I change permissions on the failed hard disk from my external copy of OSX Maverick? How do I get access to those files so I can receover the photo's?
My ulitmate goal is to recover all the information on the failed hard dsik so that I can reformat the hard disk.
By the way, I tried recovering the photo's using Time Machine but the last history I have is December 2011 which is 2.5 years out of date - something must have gone wrong! I don't want to receover this and lose the most recent photo's on the failed hard disk. Another question with Time Machine - if I perform a back-up today, will I be able to recover the data after I reformat the hard disk - my worry is that I'll only be able to get back to where I man now which is not being able to access the data on the folders that I don;t have permission on.
I really appreciate the groups assistance.
Lightning_rabbit

Answers

I can think of several ways to get the files off.
One is to create a root (super user account) user whcih will have access to everything. Another thing is to duplicate the other accounts that were on the failed drive on the new one and then log in as that user and move them over.
A link to create the root user is here:
http://support.apple.com/kb/PH14281

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