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How to Enable the Root User in Mac OS X

When you are using OS X, sometimes having only administrator access is not enough—when you need more access you will want to be the root user, which is similar to using the sudo command in the Terminal, but for the whole OS.

Note: We’re showing you how to do this, but not necessarily recommending that you do it—it’s useful for certain scenarios, like getting total access to everything on your computer, but you shouldn’t use the root user as your normal user account.

Enabling the Root User

First you will need to open the System Preferences, then click on Accounts.

Next choose Login Options.

Then you will want to Edit the Network Account Settings, or choose Join if you see that button instead.

Now you want to Open Directory Utility.

Next you will want to open the Edit menu and select Enable Root User.

Now that you have enabled the root user, you will need to change the password. Again, choose the Edit menu, and then select Change Root Password…

Finally you will choose a password and verify it. Make sure its something you will remember otherwise you can just go though this process again.

At this point you can use the Log Out item on the system menu, and then login as the new root user.

Chris is a Mac geek who still knows his way around Linux and Windows. He's always looking for a good way to translate geek to english.

  • Published 11/12/10

Comments (5)

  1. Howard

    The Norton Security I installed had to be installed and uninstalled as root.

  2. Grant

    I was building Fink, and needed root. I just did the “sudo su – ” from the command line, though. Then I was able to run as root, at least for the command line stuff I needed.

  3. Big Dan

    What’s point of enabling the root user if you have SUDO for on demand root privileges? I feel a lot safer running as a regular admin then root.

  4. Jon

    Mac owners are generally going to be people that screwed up Windows based PCs all the time. The last thing you want to show them is anything that only a Power User should be doing. Let them be crippled on Macs. It best suits them.

  5. juacko

    But that’s really complicated…

    Easier and faster:
    1. Open “Terminal.app”
    2. Type: sudo passwd root
    3. Enter your own password
    4. Enter new password for root twice.

    And that’s it root enabled.

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