Working as Root

Fri, May 9

Root is the uber system account. Although handy at times (for example when installing applications), it’s generally recommended that root not be used as your everyday login. What follows are some options for working as root.

If you need to run a command as root, you can use the sudo command. For example, to run the script for daily system maintenance, you can run this command (the $represent the terminal prompt):

$ sudo periodic daily

Now that’s all well and good, however, it’s generally applicable only for one command. What if you are in a terminal and want to login as root to do some larger scale maintenance or system work? Try this:

$ sudo -s

This command will enable the root account and update your prompt as shown in the figure below:

The above screenshot assumes you are using the bash shell and have admin rights on the account you are logged in with. The $ typically represents a user account whereas # represents root.

The last option is to create/enable a root account, thus you can login (when restarting/rebooting) as root. This approach offers the most flexibility and power, however, use with caution as there are no limits to what (damage) you can do.

Root account option #1: Enter the following from a terminal:

$ dsenableroot

You’ll be prompted for your (current) password, as well as the new root password.

Root account, option #2: Enter the following from a terminal:

$ sudo passwd

You’ll be prompted for the same series of passwords as above.

Root account, option #3: Follow the steps below:

– Start the Directory Utility application (/Applications/Utilities/Directory Utility)
– Click the lock icon in the lower left corner (to unlock it)
– From the Edit menu (across the top of screen), select Enable Root User

To wrap up this post I was planning to show you how the login window changes when a root account is enabled. Unlike other accounts on your system where a name is typically displayed as one of the login options, the root account is not listed as one of the options (for security reasons).

However, getting a screenshot of the login screen is a considerable feat. This is a great segue to a post coming next week where I’ll show the tricks that I tried for capturing the elusive login screen and I will pose an intriguing challenge for you…