Take the 2-minute tour ×
Ask Ubuntu is a question and answer site for Ubuntu users and developers. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I'm working on a Ubuntu system, and my client has completely forgotten his administrative password. He doesn't even remember entering one; however it is there.

I've tried the suggestions on the website, and I have been unsuccessful in deleting the password so that I can download applets required for running some files. Is there a solution?

share|improve this question

14 Answers 14

Ubuntu does not come with an Administrative password. There is only one initial account, the user account, which can be used to execute administrative tasks. For example, to get a root shell you run

$ sudo -i
[sudo] password for myuseraccount:         # here you type the user's password
# 

A lot of people that have Unix background or experience with other distributions stumble on this issue quite often.

The command

su 

will always fail because the root account is locked; it cannot be accessed directly or you cannot login directly to root.

There are great advantages in using the sudo facility.

share|improve this answer

By default the first user's account is an administrative account, so if the UI is prompting you for a password it's probably that person's user password. If the user doesn't remember their password you need to reset it. To do this you need to boot into recovery mode.

Boot up the machine, and after the BIOS screen, hold down the left Shift key. You will then be prompted by a menu that looks something like this:

enter image description here

I've noticed on some systems that timing when to hit the left Shift key can be tricky, sometimes I miss it and need to try it again.

Hit the down arrow until you select the 2nd entry from the top (the one with the recovery mode in the description) and then hit Enter.

Now you should see this menu:

enter image description here

Using the arrow keys scroll down to either root or netroot (doesn't matter in this case) and then hit Enter.

You should now see a root prompt, something like this:

root@ubuntu:~#

At this stage you should have a read-only filesystem. You have to remount it with write permissions:

mount -rw -o remount /

Now we can set the user's password with the passwd command. (In this example I will use jorge as the example, you need to substitute whatever the user's username is):

root@ubuntu:~# passwd jorge
Enter new UNIX password:
Retype new UNIX password:
passwd: password updated successfully
root@ubuntu:~#

Type in what you want the new password to be at the prompt. After it's successful reboot the machine and the user will be able to log in with their new password.


There is concern about this being a security vulnerability. It is not. You need to have physical access to the machine to do this. If someone has physical access to your PC, they could do far worse than change a password. When it comes to physical access, the battle for security is lost. Be wary of who you let on your PC.

Even setting a root password will not be successful, as one can simply boot with init being /bin/sh and have full root access. Again, given physical access, anyone with computer knowledge can do ANYTHING to your computer.

share|improve this answer
1  
I just tried it and passwd username worked. I'm very surprised. Why is this not considered a security issue? (especially for desktop PCs) –  Meligy Sep 23 '12 at 5:42
46  
It isn't a security issue, because you still have to be sitting in front of the machine to do this. And if you have physical access to the computer you can do pretty much anything to it anyway. –  Bobble Oct 3 '12 at 0:51
16  
Just to follow-up on Bobble's correct comment: if you have physical access to a machine, you can take the disk out and mount it on a totally separate system where you do have root. Just as one example. The only protection against full data compromise in the face of physical access is strong disk encryption. –  arielf Mar 3 '13 at 19:59
    
I had to go the route of editing the boot command. But your note here about remounting was the bit I was missing. Here is how to edit the boot command: makeuseof.com/tag/how-to-reset-any-linux-password –  ChronoFish May 17 '13 at 1:22
4  
Just to add to the security issues coming up here, it is possible to protect your root password by setting a root password using sudo passwd when you do remember the password. However, by doing this you will have to enter the password even in recovery mode, which will make this solution useless and you will have to always remember the root password(not the administrative account one). –  i08in Nov 4 '13 at 10:15

If Jorge's method didn't work for you, as it didn't for me, here is another method. I had to try something different because:

  1. My USB keyboard did not work at the root prompt ⋯ probably hardware either keyboard or mainboard. To fix I used an old PS/2 keyboard (the little round plug) and use that.

  2. When I used passwd username to change my password, it failed because of a bad token or such. This called for drastic measures.

The Drastic Measures

This is a very dangerous thing to do! Jorge's method should be used; only do this in case that method doesn't work.

Do this at your own risk. It did work for me on my 11.10 system.

The idea is to set the user's password to blank (or null) - this allows you to just press Enter at the Password: prompt.

Still at the root prompt from Jorge's method, first remount the root file system as read-write by using this command:

mount -o remount,rw /
  • Now you are a super-user on this system. Tread lightly.

Then edit the password shadow file to remove the encrypted password for your username. Type in:

nano -B /etc/shadow

The nano editor will display the contents of the file. Each line will have the form name:⋯:⋯:⋯… where ⋯ is a string or null (empty). One of the lines will start with your username. The first ⋯ after your username is your encrypted password. As an example:

username:$1$amFeNcjp$PprjCKEVk3UtzKwWfEMOY0:14920:0:99999:7:::

where $1$amFeNcjp$PprjCKEVk3UtzKwWfEMOY0 is the encrypted password.

Carefully delete the encrypted password leaving the all the ":"s, so it looks like this:

username::14920:0:99999:7:::

Then type Ctrl+O, press the Enter key to save, then Ctrl+X to close nano.

Reboot and you will have an empty (or null) password. Be sure to use passwd username in a terminal to set or reset your user password.

Source for PS/2 workaround was here.

Sources for the drastic measures were here and here.

Note on nano ― the -B option makes a backup of the original edited file, same name with a "~" appended.

share|improve this answer
2  
You can also use this method by booting with a different disk and editing /etc/shadow after mounting the appropriate disk. –  Mei Mar 29 '12 at 23:52

I was able to use Jorge's method - the one above with the nice screen shots - with a few minor changes. I'm using Ubuntu 11.10

First, when booting up - don't press the left shift key until the BIOS screen goes black and then immediately press and hold the left shift key.

Then, after perhaps a minute and a number of lines of text scroll on the screen, I got the first menu, but with a couple of fewer lines - I chose the second line.

Then I got the Recovery Menu - but when I chose Drop to Root Shell Prompt (bottom item) I was root but couldn't reset the password - because the disks were Read Only. Type exit and get back to the Recovery Menu

There was a choice (not shown on Jorge's screen shot) to Remount Read/Write Used the down arrow to go to it, then left arrow to get to and Enter - and it mounted the disk RW.

Then again to Drop to Root Shell Prompt and I'm root and can write - so passwd username had me enter the desired password twice - then exit to go back to Recovery Menu Resume normal boot and everything worked fine with my new password! I'm the only account on this box, and my password works with sudo so I apparently have Administrative Privileges.

This was less exciting than editing /etc/shadow but I was glad to trade the excitement for a nice ending.

share|improve this answer

Somehow booting into recovery mode did not work for me because it would not boot into the root system. And when I tried to change the root password it asked me for the root password, which I didn't have. An alternative to this problem is using UXterm which is a simpler version of terminal and seems to have root system capabilities. Just type in "passwd" and enter your new password and it's changed.

This works fine for Ubuntu 1.10. to bring up command line. Enter sudo passwd root. Enter new password 2X. back to GUI. Logout, then login as root to test.

share|improve this answer
3  
This unfortunately won't work for most cases. –  belacq Nov 3 '12 at 22:32

No, there is no way to retrieve the old password.

Yes, you can change the password without knowing the old one. The process is described on several sites on the net, easily found via a search on Google

If you do that however and happened to have used an encrypted /home directory for that username you are likely not to gain access to the files in your /home directory (and if you do then Ubuntu should be uninstalled...)

share|improve this answer

Yes, you can change the old password via GRUB.

  1. If you have a single-boot (Ubuntu is the only operating system on your computer), to get the boot menu to show, you have to hold down the Shift key during bootup.

  2. If you have a dual-boot (Ubuntu is installed next to Windows, another Linux operating system, or Mac OS X; and you choose at boot time which operating system to boot into), the boot menu should appear without the need to hold down the shift key.

  3. From the boot menu, select recovery mode, which is usually the second boot option.

  4. After you select recovery mode and wait for all the boot-up processes to finish, you'll be presented with a few options. In this case, you want the Drop to root shell prompt option so press the Down arrow to get to that option, and then press Enter to select it.

  5. Once you're at the root shell prompt, if you have forgotten your username as well, type ls /home (small letters & not capitals). This will list all the user accounts in your set up.

  6. To reset the password, type passwd username where username is the username you want to reset, for example, passwd mysterio in my case.

  7. You'll then be prompted for a new password. When you type the password you will get no visual response acknowledging your typing. Your password is still being accepted. Just type the password and hit Enter when you're done. You'll be prompted to retype the password. Do so and hit Enter again.

  8. Now the password should be reset. Type exit to return to the recovery menu.

  9. After you get back to the recovery menu, select resume normal boot, and use Ubuntu as you normally would — only this time, you actually know the password!

share|improve this answer
    
This offers a route for when you forget both userid and password, which would also work with @Jorge Castro's answer. –  Bobble Oct 3 '12 at 0:59

First, you have to reboot into recovery mode.

If you have a single-boot (Ubuntu is the only operating system on your computer), to get the boot menu to show, you have to hold down the Shift key during bootup. enter image description here From the boot menu, select recovery mode, which is usually the second boot option. enter image description here After you select recovery mode and wait for all the boot-up processes to finish, you'll be presented with a few options. In this case, you want the Drop to root shell prompt option so press the Down arrow to get to that option, and then press Enter to select it.

The root account is the ultimate administrator and can do anything to the Ubuntu installation (including erase it), so please be careful with what commands you enter in the root terminal.

Once you're at the root shell prompt, if you have forgotten your username as well, type

ls /home

That's a lowercase L, by the way, not a capital i, in ls. You should then see a list of the users on your Ubuntu installation. In this case, I'm going to reset Susan Brownmiller's password.

To reset the password, type

passwd username

where username is the username you want to reset. In this case, I want to reset Susan's password, so I type

passwd susan

You'll then be prompted for a new password. When you type the password you will get no visual response acknowledging your typing. Your password is still being accepted. Just type the password and hit Enter when you're done. You'll be prompted to retype the password. Do so and hit Enter again.

Now the password should be reset.

Type exit

to return to the recovery menu.

After you get back to the recovery menu, select resume normal boot, and use Ubuntu as you normally would—only this time, you actually know the password!

source

share|improve this answer

In which OS have you forgot the password, Ubuntu or XP? For Ubuntu, in the boot GRUB menu, you may append init=/bin/bash to the kernel boot parameter to get a root shell.

share|improve this answer
    
It is the password of Ubuntu my friend .And I got it done .Any way a big thanks to you too for your kindness Xie. –  Noah Diaz May 12 '12 at 3:21
2  
On the askubuntu site you ask for Windows Xp? :D –  saji89 Sep 19 '12 at 4:11

If you forgot the password for your Ubuntu system you can recover using the following steps:

  1. Turn your computer on.
  2. Press ESC at the GRUB prompt.
  3. Press e for edit.
  4. Highlight the line that begins kernel ......... or linux ........, press e
  5. Go to the very end of the line and add rw init=/bin/bash
  6. Press Enter, then press b to boot your system. Your system will boot up to a passwordless root shell.1

  7. Now issue the command passwd username *where "username" is the user for which you want to change the password.

  8. Then you will be asked to give new password:

    Enter new UNIX password:

1Source: ubuntugeek

Other resources:

For Xubuntu 14.04 just follow the screens below. It's similar to some of the other answers.

Press Esc, and choose Advanced options

Enter image description here

Choose recovery mode:

Enter image description here

Then choose root, and once you get the prompt type passwd <user_name>, to change the password.

Enter image description here

share|improve this answer
    
The OP may not know what to do at the shell. –  hexafraction Jul 18 '12 at 20:10
    
Did not work in Xubuntu 14.04 LTS - no command in GRUB2 beginning kernel or linux. –  K7AAY Apr 25 at 3:52
    
@K7AAY see my addition for Xubuntu 14.04. –  Mitch Apr 25 at 12:17
    
you are life saver its worked for me in ubuntu 14.04 –  Maulik.J Jul 8 at 19:20
    
Glad that it worked for you. –  Mitch Jul 8 at 19:25

You can change your password if you have access to the file /etc/shadow (maybe with your root account, via sudo from anotother account, from recovery mode, or with a LiveCD/DVD).

This shadow password file has all the users and encrypted passwords (as well as other administrative information) for the system. The fields are separated by : . For example :

YOUR_USERNAME:$6$lCu1.iVo$Q3nAL98jBLe5mMJ.0dBDd1Iquz41dDKsP3UdJ4X92gZPwwmQ0vdIEIY8EQxEcYACoMboYhovrpyq7Tm.DztQB.:15520:0:99999:7:::

The password is the second group of characters after YOUR_USERNAME, between the two colons. You can replace this with a other password, for example, you could replace the existing password string (truncated for clarity):

$6$lCu1.iVo$Q3nAL98jBLe5mMJ.0[...]boYhovrpyq7Tm.DztQB.

with

$6$8gMLdPVn$Ych6r5ysKRqhL9jOlg0UPe28KRuzo3TSYMShqb5pzACrE/A0oyDEBFefOgplbboeoe0T9ZqNz7u6Y8YWuQRkz/

The encrypted string represents "hackme". This would be your new password.

share|improve this answer

From the official Ubuntu LostPassword documentation:

  1. Reboot your computer
  2. Hold Shift during boot to start GRUB menu
  3. Highlight your image and press E to edit
  4. Find the line starting with "linux" and append rw init=/bin/bash at the end of that line
  5. Press Ctrl+X to boot.
  6. Type in passwd username
  7. Set your password.
  8. Type in reboot. If that doesn't work, hit Ctrl+Alt+Del

This works for Linux Mint 14, too.

share|improve this answer
1  
I was working on a computer whose user had lost both the admin and the root passwords. This is the only method that solved his problem, thanks! –  Waldir Leoncio Jul 14 '13 at 12:59

I was having the same problem with my password and I tried everyone's suggestions but none worked for me. So I tried some of my own and this is what worked for me... "Keep in mind I can NOT explain why it worked, all I know is it worked...

"10 Easy and Simple steps to Reset Lost or Forgotten Password"

  1. Reboot computer and hold the Left Shift Key down.

  2. Select boot into recovery mode.

    http://i.imgur.com/yWK0N0m.png

  3. After a few seconds you should get the "Recovery Mode Options" screen.

    http://i.imgur.com/g812F2o.jpg

    Note: (Here is the part I can't explain. After trying everything, and nothing working, I finally just started trying all the options here one at a time. When I tried the "grub Update grub boot loader" and then followed the rest of the steps all was well and password was reset.)

    So before going to the "root Drop to root shell promt"selection,

  4. Select "grub Update grub boot loader", and you should get this screen.

    i.imgur.com/cctcZyx.png

  5. Select "Yes". Wait for it to go through the update.

  6. Now select "root Drop to root shell prompt".

  7. Now you should be at a root terminal with something like the following: youracctname@yourcompname:~$. type passwd accountname ( acountname being the name of the account you are trying to change the password for ).

  8. Enter new Unix password: "enter the new password".

  9. Retype new Unix password: "retype the same password you did in Step-8".

  10. It should confirm successful password change. type exit at the prompt and reboot.

If this does not work for you, try skipping Steps 4 & 5...

share|improve this answer

If recovery mode is disabled, the method I would use is booting to a Live CD or USB. It could be the media you installed from or just another Ubuntu ISO you've downloaded and burnt. The process is fairly simple.

  1. Boot to the Live media.
  2. From the menu, open a terminal.
  3. Find out the device name for your primary disk. sudo fdisk-l will list all partitions. Derive your partition from the list. We're looking for something like /dev/sda1 (which it will likely be)
  4. Mount this somewhere so we can use it (obviously change the disk to the right one):

    sudo mount /dev/sda1 /mnt
    
  5. Cross-mount things from the Live install so we can "use" the mounted disk (just copy and paste):

    for d in dev sys run proc; do sudo mount --bind /$d /mnt/$d; done
    
  6. Become root on the system by running sudo chroot /mnt. You can now do anything root can on the real install.

  7. Set the password for the account:

    passwd username
    
  8. Reboot and you're done.

share|improve this answer
    
Worked like a champ in Xubuntu 14.04 LTS. Recomended. –  K7AAY Apr 25 at 3:51

protected by Community Apr 10 '12 at 0:46

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality answers, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site.

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?