What is the difference between the commands adduser and useradd on Ubuntu?

up vote 339 down vote accepted

useradd is native binary compiled with the system. But, adduser is a perl script which uses useradd binary in back-end.

adduser is more user friendly and interactive than its back-end useradd. There's no difference in features provided.

Source: What's the difference between “adduser” and “useradd”?

  • 44
    add useradd command wont create '/home/username' directory but adduser command will – Deepen Apr 30 '14 at 16:12
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    useradd with the -m option will create the home directory. – richsinn Aug 8 '14 at 0:02
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    The implimentation isn't that interesting, the semantics are. Like adduser(8) is more userfriendly and creates and set up a user by default the way you expect. And useradd(8) only do what you ask, so do you want a home directory created, you have to tell it to create it for you. – Anders Sep 22 '14 at 14:14
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    I have to google this every time... How can I help myself remember which is which? – Quentin Skousen Jan 22 '16 at 20:10
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    @kkhugs to me "adduser" feels the most intuitive because it's a command that sounds like english, while the other does not, semantically. If you remember it as the "most intuitive" of the two, you can also try to remember it as the preferred/easier one. – pzkpfw May 1 '16 at 10:41

Always use adduser (and deluser when deleting users) when you're creating new users from the command line. (If you're writing a script, especially if you aim for portability, you might want to use the lowlevel utilities instead – and adduser/deluser might not be available on all distros, e.g. on SuSE.)

The useradd, userdel and usermod commands are lowlevel utilities which are there for historical reasons, while adduser/deluser Do The Right Thing™. (I remember which to use by thinking that user* comes after adduser/deluser in the alphabet, and therefore is "worse".)

According to the respective manpages (on Ubuntu 12.04 Precise Pangolin, i.e. a Debian derivative system).

Manpage for adduser says:

(Emphasis added.)

adduser and addgroup add users and groups to the system according to command line options and configuration information in /etc/adduser.conf. They are friendlier front ends to the low level tools like useradd, groupadd and usermod programs, by default choosing Debian policy conformant UID and GID values, creating a home directory with skeletal configuration, running a custom script, and other features. adduser and addgroup can be run in one of five modes:

Manpage for useradd says:

useradd is a low level utility for adding users. On Debian, administrators should usually use adduser(8) instead.

See also: What's the difference between “adduser” and “useradd”? (on SuperUser)

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    I never can remember which one, so this is my stupid mnemonic if it helps anyone :) "user" rhymes with "loser", and "loser" comes last. Thus: adduser, deluser. – Mads Skjern Mar 13 '15 at 12:27
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    I actually disagree on "Always user adduser": For automated scripts I'd prefer useradd because it's always there, non-interactive, and not distro-specific. – Wernight Apr 15 '15 at 10:47
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    I tried adduser on openSUSE, and it's not there.(13.2) – cst1992 May 24 '16 at 7:18
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    @cst1992 You're right, I've edited the answer to reflect this. Curiously enough, when I tried locate adduser on a SuSE 11 system at work I found that there was an adduser manpage, but no binary (and neither a deluser manpage nor a command). – zrajm May 24 '16 at 15:40
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    useradd is better if you're a true sys admin. Not being able to use adduser in an autonomous script is a real bummer. – answerSeeker Feb 10 '17 at 0:53

adduser: add user with full profile and info (pass, quota, permission, etc.)

useradd: add user with his name only (if you want to add a temp user with only a name,other info not required)

  • 1
    +1 and Welcome! I up voted the person who was incapable of explaining their previous down vote. Keep it up! Good programmers always rise to the top - (and don't down vote without an explanation). :) – Ricalsin Aug 9 '14 at 2:38

Another couple of differences, that lead to specific scenarios where useradd might be preferable.

  1. In some newer distros, including Ubuntu 14.4, adduser will prompt for information such as password and "gecos" (data for the finger command). This means it can be less suitable for calling from a script (credit: already mentioned in a comment by Wernight).

    The prompts can be suppressed by passing null arguments:

    adduser --disabled-password --gecos "" USER
    
  2. useradd allows you to pass multiple additional groups to add a user to by means of the -G option. adduser seems to require that you call the command once for each group to add.

  • Doesn't work on ubuntu 16.04. – answerSeeker Feb 10 '17 at 0:55

adduser is friendlier in that it sets up the account's home folders and other settings (e.g. automatically loading system stats and notifications on login), whereas useradd just creates the user.

  • 1
    Wrong. useradd can create home directory with -m, set password with -p, create skeleton files with -k, and add user to group(s) with -G. – ychaouche Feb 21 at 11:38

Basic difference is "adduser" will create home directory & add skeleton files to that directory where "useradd" wont create any home directory & skeleton files !

adduser try :

Adding user `try' ...
Adding new group `try' (1001) ...
Adding new user `try' (1001) with group `try' ...
Creating home directory `/home/try' ...
Copying files from `/etc/skel' ...
Enter new UNIX password:
Retype new UNIX password:
passwd: password updated successfully
Changing the user information for try
Enter the new value, or press ENTER for the default
        Full Name []:
        Room Number []:
        Work Phone []:
        Home Phone []:
        Other []:
Is the information correct? [Y/n] y

useradd try1 :

# ll /home/
total 20
drwxr-xr-x  5 root    root    4096 Oct 26 15:52 ./
drwxr-xr-x 22 root    root    4096 Oct 26 15:47 ../
drwx------  8 ashishk ashishk 4096 Oct 26 15:50 ashishk/
drwxr-xr-x  3 root    root    4096 Oct 14 13:02 .ecryptfs/
drwxr-xr-x  2 try     try     4096 Oct 26 15:52 try/
root@chef-workstation:/home/ashishk#

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