Enabling the Root Account

Only one person is allowed to clomp through any Mac OS X directory, unfettered and unrestricted: whoever holds the root (superuser) account. There are two ways to turn on this usually hidden account: the NetInfo way (see Section 11.8) and the Unix way.

To enable the root account in Terminal, all you have to do is make up a password for the dormant account using the passwd command.

Normal account holders can use passwd to change their own passwords (although the Accounts pane of System Preferences strikes most people as a more direct way to do so). To change your own password, for example, just type passwd and press Enter. You’ll be asked to type your old password, and then the new one twice.


As you type your old and new password, no typing appears onscreen. That’s a safeguard against people peeking over your shoulder as you type.

The superuser, on the other hand, can change anyone’s password—including the root account’s password. Fortunately, so can an administrator using sudo, like this:

		sudo passwd root

At this point, sudo will prompt you for your password to confirm that you’re actually an administrator. After you’ve entered it, the passwd utility will prompt you to enter a new password for the root account. Make it a good one: no spaces, at least four characters long.


If you ever lose the root account password, you can set up a new one by starting up the Mac from the Mac OS X installer CD. From the Installer menu, choose Reset Password.

Once the root ...

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