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Debian GNU/Linux Reference Guide
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8.7.2 rm /etc/passwd

Loss of some important files such as /etc/passwd through your stupidity is tough. The Debian system makes regular backups of them in /var/backups/. When you restore these files, you may manually have to set the proper permissions.

     # cp /var/backups/passwd /etc/passwd
     # chmod 644 /etc/passwd

See also Recover package selection data, Section 6.3.4.

Debian GNU/Linux Reference Guide
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