Administering systems

The root account and system owner

The root login (sometimes known as ``superuser'') is a special account for performing system maintenance tasks. It gives the system administrator unusual privileges that ordinary users do not have, such as accessing all files in the system, and executing privileged commands. Many tasks presented in the administrative guides require that the system administrator be logged in as root To do this, the system administrator must know the root password created during the installation of your system.

WARNING: Few users should know the root password. Misuse of the account by naive users can result in a loss of data, programs, and even the operating system itself.

The desktop interface implements the concept of a ``system owner''. When you install the operating system, a user is designated as the owner. Any user name (except those already reserved by the system, such as uucp and bin) can be assigned as the system owner. The system owner is given the necessary permissions to do the day-to-day system administration tasks available through the SCOadmin interface. These special authorizations, and the ability to assign additional system owners, are described in ``Assigning authorizations''.

However, once an owner leaves the desktop interface (by opening a terminal window or logging in as a non-desktop user) they lack the power to perform most administrative tasks from the command line. For example, the system owner cannot change the permissions of system files and directories. The traditional UNIX system user who has the full set of authorizations for doing administration is the root user.

The root user is not a desktop user by default. In other words, when you log in as root, instead of the desktop interface starting up, the shell interface starts, and the special prompt (#) that indicates that you are root, appears.

The system owner and the ability to assign authorizations does not mean the login of root is no longer significant. But it does mean that you do not need to give a user access to the all-powerful root login when all the user wants to do, for example, is set up a printer and keep it running for his or her department.

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UnixWare 7 Release 7.1.4 - 22 April 2004