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Debian GNU/Linux Reference Guide
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4.1.1 Login to a shell prompt as root

Upon rebooting the system, you will be presented either the graphical login screen or the character based login screen depending on your initial selection of packages. For the sake of simplicity, if you are presented with the graphical login screen, press Ctrl-Alt-F1 [ 3] to gain the character based login screen.

Suppose your hostname is foo, the login prompt looks like:

     foo login:

Type root , press the Enter-key and type the password which you selected during the install process. In the Debian system, following the Unix tradition, the password is case sensitive. Then the system starts with the greeting message and presents you with the root command prompt waiting for your input. [ 4]

     foo login: root
     Last login: Sun Oct 26 19:04:09 2003 on tty3
     Linux foo 2.4.22-1-686 #6 Sat Oct 4 14:09:08 EST 2003 i686 GNU/Linux
     Most of the programs included with the Debian GNU/Linux system are
     freely redistributable; the exact distribution terms for each program
     are described in the individual files in /usr/share/doc/*/copyright
     Debian GNU/Linux comes with ABSOLUTELY NO WARRANTY, to the extent
     permitted by applicable law.
     [email protected]foo:root#

You are ready to perform the system administration from this root command prompt. This root account is also called superuser or privileged user. From this account, you can do anything:

  • read, write, and remove any files on the system irrespective of their file permissions

  • set file ownership and permission of any files on the system

  • set the password of any non-privileged users on the system

  • login to any accounts without their passwords

It is extremely bad idea to share the access to the root account by sharing the password. Use of program such as sudo(8) is the good way to share the administrative privileges.

Please note that it is considered a good Unix habit to login to the non-privileged user account first even when you plan to perform administrative activities. Use commands sudo, super, or su -c to gain the limited root privileged when needed. See Working more safely – sudo, Section 9.2.4. [ 5]

Debian GNU/Linux Reference Guide
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  Published under the terms of the GNU General Public License Design by Interspire