The file’s name originates from one of its initial functions as it contained the data used to verify passwords of user accounts. However, on modern Unix systems the security-sensitive password information is instead often stored in a different file using shadow passwords, or other database implementations.
To view an example of a user in the passwd file, run the following command specifying what user you’d like to view. In my example, I’ve grepped the mysql user.
# cat /etc/passwd | grep mysql
To see all users, run it without the grep as I’ve done here:
# cat /etc/passwd
The fields, in order from left to right, are:
- Username: It is used when user logs in. It should be between 1 and 32 characters in length.
- Password: An x character indicates that encrypted password is stored in /etc/shadow file.
- User ID (UID): Each user must be assigned a user ID (UID). UID 0 (zero) is reserved for root and UIDs 1-99 are reserved for other predefined accounts. Further UID 100-999 are reserved by system for administrative and system accounts/groups.
- Group ID (GID): The primary group ID (stored in /etc/group file)
- User ID Info: The comment field. It allow you to add extra information about the users such as user’s full name, phone number etc. This field use by finger command.
- Home directory: The absolute path to the directory the user will be in when they log in. If this directory does not exists then users directory becomes /
- Command/shell: The absolute path of a command or shell (/bin/bash). Typically, this is a shell.