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So I'm logged in as the user 'Shannon', but can't gain root access through the GUI when I'm prompted to install a program for example. However using sudo su, type in the root password, gain access through the terminal and then install the programs from there. Aren't these passwords supposed to be identical?

Does anyone know how to fix this one?

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possible duplicate of How do I reset a lost administrative password? – NikTh Sep 12 '13 at 7:30
@NikTh: don't agree; the title of his question is misleading. I have updated it. – January Sep 12 '13 at 7:41
@Shannon can you give me an example of what is not working? Please be specific. – January Sep 12 '13 at 7:42
What the OP here wants to achieve. I still not understand. Maybe this is a problem with gksudo ? (sudo mode). – NikTh Sep 12 '13 at 10:48
Yeah, it could be the gksu method (I've got a duplicate question here: But the problem is, @Shannon did not specify how he's "installing through the GUI". @Shannon, were you using the gksu command to get the "GUI" that's asking for the password? Can you please post a screenshot of the window asking for the password? You can read my answer here: if that's the window you're getting. – Alaa Ali Sep 12 '13 at 19:28
up vote 5 down vote accepted

OK, let me write a short clarification. There are two different users: Shannon and root. In Ubuntu, by default, root does not have a password at all and cannot log in at all. If Shannon wants to do a task requiring root privileges, he uses the command sudo that consults a file called /etc/sudoers and has the ability to turn Shannon into root.

By default, sudo wants to make sure that Shannon actually is Shannon and not his dog who just took over the keyboard. This is why sudo asks user Shannon for his (and not root's) password. Also note that "a task requiring root privileges" can be a bash shell, which essentially means that you can log in as root (without using root password!).

So, it is not that the two users (Shannon and root) have different passwords, but that the password of root is not actually being asked for at all.

Personally, I don't have a dog; that is why I modified /etc/sudoers in such a way that it never asks me for my password -- being there is sufficient. Using the command sudo visudo I have edited /etc/sudoers and edited the following line:


The line above means that all users from the sudo group (and I can only assume that Shannon belongs to this group if he installed his system) can run essentially ALL root commands.


Ah, but now the NOPASSWD directive makes sure that not only I can run any program as root, I can run it without being pestered for typing a password. Note that to edit this file I must use the program visudo which makes sure that I don't make any syntax error. Syntax error in the sudoers file might completely disable the sudo system -- and then, if root does not have a password, you are in a deep kacka.

To add confusion, there is yet another program allowing for gaining root privileges temporarily called su. However, su is much more primitive -- it just asks for the password of the root. Therefore, it does not work in a default Ubuntu installation.

So, which password is actually asked for when you type sudo su? Well, the command that you are running first is sudo , not su. Thus, you are asked for Shannon's password, not roots. sudo then gains root privileges and runs su as root. But when the root runs su, su does not ask for a password. In any case, don't do that -- that is what sudo -i is for (does exactly the same thing).

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Good clarification, but the NOPASSWD is still dangerous. – NikTh Sep 12 '13 at 10:48
@NikTh except that not really :-) if someone can log with your username or if you tend to leave your desktop unlocked and go for lunch, there is little an intruder will not be able to do, starting with a keylogger and ending with rm -rf /home. In a single user machine, the really sensitive and valuable stuff is all in your home directory. – January Sep 16 '13 at 9:26

By default root is locked in ubuntu.

To get root privileges we use sudo su where it asks for our password.

While installing any software it also prompts for the same password.

To unlock the root account use sudo -i and passwd in this way you can unlocak root account which is not advised though.

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So let's say I log in as the user 'Shannon' which is not the root user. Performing sudo -i will remove the 'authentication' process that comes up on nearly every task? – Shannon Sep 12 '13 at 7:22
No sudo -i and passwd can be used to unlock the root account which you may have seen is not displayed on login screen. But the best way to do is when you log in as 'Shannon' and install any software when it asks for password give the password of the account 'Shannon' that's it. – Tarun Sep 12 '13 at 7:26
They're the same passwords... – Shannon Sep 12 '13 at 7:27
Ya when you login as the user 'Shannon' its asking for the password of the user 'Shannon' – Tarun Sep 12 '13 at 7:30
@Shannon remember that your password is not the "root" password. User Shannon has his own password. User root has his own password. But by default, the root account is disabled and doesn't have a password. However, by default, your account has root privileges (or let's say "admin" privileges), that's why your password can be used to install applications. So yeah, I know you're calling it the "root" password because you can install applications with it, but technically it isn't the "root" password. Read the last link in my comment on the question to know more. – Alaa Ali Sep 12 '13 at 19:37

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