Enabling and using the "root" user in OS X

The root user in OS X is disabled by default. Follow the steps in this article to enable and use it when needed.

About the root user

The user account named "root" is a special user in UNIX-style operating systems that has read and write privileges to all areas of the file system. 

Because the root user has special privileges in OS X, it might be useful for specific administration or troubleshooting tasks, but it's not intended for routine use. If used without caution, the root user can make changes that can only be fixed by reinstalling OS X. Consider using an alternative such as the sudo command instead of enabling the root user. If you do enable the root user, disable it again after completing your task.

The root user doesn't appear in Users & Groups, Users, or Accounts preferences.

Important: If you are not familiar with the meaning of "root user," read this entire article to learn important information before using the root user. You must have an administrator account and password to complete the steps below.

  • Only the owner of a computer or its designated administrator(s) should have an administrator account or the root password.
  • Any user with an administrator account can become the root user or reset the root password.
  • A root password should be difficult to guess, containing both numbers and letters within the first eight characters.
  • A root user has the ability to access other users' files on the computer.
  • The root user has the ability to relocate or remove required system files and to introduce new files in locations that are protected from other users.

How to enable the root user

OS X Lion (10.7) and later

  1. From the Apple menu choose System Preferences.
  2. From the View menu choose Users & Groups.
  3. Click the lock and authenticate as an administrator account.
  4. Click Login Options.
  5. Click the "Edit" or "Join" button at the bottom right.
  6. Click the "Open Directory Utility" button.
  7. Click the lock in the Directory Utility window.
  8. Enter an administrator account name and password, then click OK.
  9. Choose Enable Root User from the Edit menu.
  10. Enter the root password you wish to use in both the Password and Verify fields, then click OK.

Mac OS X Snow Leopard (10.6.x)

  1. From the Apple menu choose System Preferences.
  2. From the View menu choose Accounts.
  3. Click on the lock and authenticate with an administrator account.
  4. Click Login Options.
  5. Click the "Edit" or "Join" button at the bottom right.
  6. Click the "Open Directory Utility" button.
  7. Click the lock in the Directory Utility window.
  8. Enter an administrator account name and password, then click OK.
  9. Choose Enable Root User from the Edit menu.
  10. Enter the root password you wish to use in both the Password and Verify fields, then click OK.

How to log in as root

Use these steps in Snow Leopard and later to log in as the root user.

  1. If you are logged in, choose Log Out from the Apple menu.
  2. If you are logging in from a list of usernames with pictures, click Other.
  3. In the Name field, type: root
  4. In the Password field, type the password you defined when setting up the root user account.

How to disable the root user

OS X Lion and later

  1. From the Apple menu choose System Preferences.
  2. From the View menu choose Users & Groups.
  3. Click on the lock and authenticate with an administrator account.
  4. Click Login Options.
  5. Click the Edit button or Join button.
  6. Click the Open Directory Utility button.
  7. Click the lock in the Directory Utility window.
  8. Enter an administrator account name and password, then click OK.
  9. Choose Disable Root User from the Edit menu. 

Mac OS X Snow Leopard

  1. From the Apple menu choose System Preferences.
  2. From the View menu choose Accounts.
  3. Click on the lock and authenticate with an administrator account.
  4. Click Login Options.
  5. Click the Edit button or Join button.
  6. Click the Open Directory Utility button.
  7. Click the lock in the Directory Utility window.
  8. Enter an administrator account name and password, then click OK.
  9. Choose Disable Root User from the Edit menu. 
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