My OS is Ubuntu 12.10, and my account is called acgtyrant, and its UID is 1000. For the need of researching, I changed my UID from 1000 to 1010 in /etc/passwd, and then I found my files' master changed to a number:1000, which prove my suppose. But when I try to change my UID back, I found I can't edit the passwd file any more! Because when I try to run sudo vim /etc/passwd, the Bash told me sudo: unknown uid 1000: who are you?.

So how to solve it? Acctually I am a chinese student, so forgive my poor English please.

  • I haven't got a LiveCD to hand to test this - but suggest that you boot from a LiveCD and choose to 'test Ubuntu' rather than install it. Then open a terminal and edit the passwd file. – Clive van Hilten Feb 27 '13 at 8:07

Press shift during boot then select recovery and drop to a root shell.

Now mount the file system read-write

mount -o rw,remount /

So far you are following the instructions on how to reset your password from here

Finally don't change your password but simply edit the file


To edit /etc/passwd or vipw -s to edit /etc/shadow

Similarly use vigr to edit /etc/group and vigr -s to edit /etc/gshadow

Standard editors such as nano and vim do not check the file structure before saving so may make problems worse.

reboot and all should be OK

  • 1
    Cautionary note: use vipw on a live system. For the recovery system this method may be just alright. Use vigr for the group file. Use the option -s to edit the respective shadow files. – 0xC0000022L Feb 27 '13 at 13:53
  • @0xC0000022L Thanks for pointing this out. I was not aware of the vipw command but just looked it up. Its safer. – Warren Hill Feb 27 '13 at 14:04
  • @acgtyrant If this solved your problem please accept the answer. It makes it easier for others with a similar problem to find. It also doesn't hurt my reputation score :-D. – Warren Hill Mar 1 '13 at 10:59
  • @Warren Hill As your wish. – acgtyrant Mar 5 '13 at 10:59

Maybe try something like this:

usermod -u UID_number username
  • I have solved it already, but thanks anyway. – acgtyrant Mar 1 '13 at 10:30

two things: have a "backup" user

already have a root password setup $ sudo passwd root

login with backup user account, then.


now as root, nano /etc/passwd change your uid and gid back to original, most likely 1000:1000

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