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Ivan's picture

Enable your root user

Have you ever been frustrated, because you couldn't do a certain file operation because of permissions? If you don't feel like using the Terminal for such task, but rather prefer the Finder, you can create a root user that is a System Administrator account that will allow you to do anything on your computer. However, be aware that this freedom comes with dangers!

To enable a root user in Panther you just need to find the Applications/Utilities/Netinfo Manager and select the Security/Enable Root User menu point. You will be asked to give a root user account password.

Now, you can log out and log back in as a root. In case you can't type in "root" as your user, you need to go the System Preferences/Accounts/Login Options (marked with a little home icon) and select Display Login Window as Name and password. You might also want to Enable fast user switching.

Warning! You can harm your System when you are logged in as root if you change your System file structure. Also, for safety log out from your root account once you're done.

Commenting on this Blog entry is closed.

Anonymous's picture


it is probably safer to use "sudo" which allows you to become a super user temporarily

most people won't need root access

Jim's picture

Being logged in as Root as a security concern is valid, but I believe people over-hype it with the "you can really mess up your system" argument. Being logged in as root in OSX is the same as OS9. You have access to the system files, nothing more, nothing less. Don't mess with Library folders and you'll be fine. People weren't so paranoid with 9, so I'm not sure why they are with X, other than the "unknown" factor of Unix.

That being said, if you don't feel comfortable tinkering with System files, then you probably SHOULD take the advice and not log in as root.

Anonymous's picture

Logging in as root is the worst possible advice that you could give a Mac user (or any user of any unix variant OS). There's too long of a list to give all the reasons why here, but some key points include:

1. As root user, a simple command issued locally or remotely could instantly erase every file on your hard drive without warning or any way to "undo" the operation.

2. This is not like "having control over system files, like in OS9". There are some key (and very critical) differences. For example, OS9 prevented data loss by demanding verification of key tasks such as file deletion and even prevented certain tasks such as deleting active system files. OS X prevents these blunders by using a permissions system. By bypassing the security of a permission-based filesystem, you are removing all fail-safes.

3. Another OS9-OSX comparison. OS9 was alive and well in a time before the wide proliferation of "always on" broadband Internet access. The risk of being hacked in some malicious way from a remote user was much less likely. The world has changed, so preventing remote users from harming your Mac using permission control is a very (repeat: VERY) good idea.

4. Remember - even if you back up your data regularly, the damage could far overshadow mere data loss. Giving up root to a malicious invader could hurt others - from using your Mac as a part of a DDOS attack, stealing credit card info or other personal information, or even potentially using your computer to hack the pentagon, etc. (extreme cases, I know, but its food for thought)

5. A few Mac trojan horses have spread already. If you are root, a trojan app could cause much more harm than if you are logged in as a normal user (even one with admin privileges).

One of the reasons why Mac OS X is so secure is because it has the strength of a stable UNIX-based permission structure, and has two things turned off by default: root access and unused network ports. Why deliberately disable an important safety measure just so that you "have control" over something that you don't need control over?

My advice is that if you need the absolute power of root, use sudo from the command line. If you dont understand the OS enough to use the terminal, then you should not be worrying about having this level of control.

Jon's picture

Thanks for the tip!

Ivan's picture

This post has been removed by the author.

Ivan's picture

First of all thanks for your comments! Can I ask?

"A few Mac trojan horses have spread already."
Really? I did not know that. Can you expand on that?

"One of the reasons why Mac OS X is so secure is because it has the strength of a stable UNIX-based permission structure, and has two things turned off by default: root access and unused network ports."
I agree, so if you log out from root, does it turn the root off? It doesn't, right? It's still enabled.

Anonymous's picture

there isnt anything wrong with being root to do system administartion tasks.... its very handy to have such access to your system. if you guys have run bsd or linux you would know the value of root and would know what to do as root.


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