How to Reset debian Root Password

Sponsored Link
If you forgot your root password for your debian server use the following procedure to reset.

Boot to the GRUB menu. Then, press <e> (for edit) before Linux has a chance to boot.

Using your keyboard arrow keys, move the cursor down a line or so, and press <e> (for edit) again, you should now be on the kernel line, and press <End> to go out to the very end of that line. Now hit the spacebar once, if necessary, to add a space, and then add one of the folllowing:




Then press <Enter>, and you're back at the kernel line, press <b> (for boot) and the computer will proceed to boot to a root prompt.

At this point, the root file system is still mounted read-only, so enter the following command:

mount -n -o remount,rw /

Then type:


Enter your new password. Retype if asked to confirm.
Then restart the machine by typing:


Now you should be able to login with your new root password as required.

Sponsored Link

19 thoughts on “How to Reset debian Root Password

  1. I followed the instructions and they worked up until I tried to change the pw. I got

    “passwd: User not known to the authentication module”
    “passwd: pasword unchanged

  2. My way of solving this issue:
    1. Start up the computer with a linux live CD (or USB key). Doesn’t matter if it’s a Debian, Ubuntu or probably any other distro – I used an Ubuntu 11.10 USB key.
    2. Using the Disk Utilities available from your device, mount the partition that hosts your /etc folder (probably marked as bootable) a command line, go to ./etc under your mounted partition, probably in /media/[a long hd id-like number]. Notice the dot (.) before /etc; don’t go to “/etc”. You can check that you’re in the right folder with a little “grep -i [name of a user of yours (not root!)] shadow” If you get anything, you’re in the right folder and you can proceed to step 4.
    4. Just to be safe, make a backup copy of your “shadow” file. I simply used a “cp ./shadow /media/[an inserted and mounted USB key]/shadow” command.
    5. Using your favorite text editor (I used nano because I know it’s available on my key), edit your “shadow” file (“nano shadow”)
    6. Locate the root line. It’ll look something like “root:[encrypted pw]:12345:5:99999:::” (figures are made up)
    7. replace the [encrypted pw] part of the line with a single “!”. Yep, just an Exclamation mark with no double quotation mark. That tells Linux to authorize the mentioned user to access the system with no pw, so be cautious ! Your line will then look something like “root:!:12345:5:99999:::”
    8. Save your changes and exit the command line
    9. Back to your Disk Utilities program, unmount the partition you mounted in step 2 above.
    10 Turn your computer off and remove all media, may it be USB key, CD, or whatever.
    11 Restart your computer and, in the grub menu, choose “rescue mode”. You’ll find yourself in a command line of a root session with no pw.
    12 change your pw with a “passwd” command. If you’re not sure, “man passwd” should help.

    I know it’s somewhat lenghty, but it worked for me in a few minutes.

  3. Original post worked like a charm – init=/bin/bash didn’t work – locked the machine and did a hard reboot. Then tried init=/bin/sh and was in in seconds. Entire process took 2 minutes after reading this post. For the linux newbies the kernel line starts with “linux …” just goto the end and add the proper init=…”

    Thanks again,


  4. doesn’t work at all , like the simular shit on the net. after “mount -n -o remount,rw /” there is just an error and a bunch of info on !!!correct-comando’s!!!

    seems this isn’t a full comando?????

    nicely done.
    useless like al the others i tried.

  5. Bernard, you’re the man! easy, understandable instructions. Worked perfectly for me while the actual post above didn’t work.
    Thanks Bernard! Cheers!

  6. Thanks a lot for your help. Instead of “mount -n -o remount,rw /” I used “mount -a”, also, instead of , worked for me….

  7. Doesn’t work on 7, you can’t add it at the end of the kernel and just hope it works. It won’t; there’s no kernel line.

    It needs to be added after “ro quiet” on the linux line.

  8. This worked for me:

    Select Advanced Options for Debian

    Select Recovery Mode

    Select Root command line

    Enter commands as above

  9. Thanks for the info. However, when i try it seems to reset successfully but when i try my terminals with the password I set and nothing it just seems to reset. Has anyone had this? if so, how do i get around it?



  10. @RobChitown

    Thanks for clarifying where to insert the commands, guide made me think it was at the very end of the file.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *