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I want to change the password I assigned to root on my Debian webserver to something longer and more secure.

Bit of an obvious newbie question, but how do I do that? I haven’t forgotten/lost the current password, I just want to change it.

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To find this out for yourself, run apropos password: you'll get a list of commands that contain “password” in their short description. You can narrow the search a little with apropos -s 1 password: -s 1 restricts to section 1 of the manual, which contains user commands. – Gilles Mar 25 '11 at 19:55
@Gilles: that’s fantastic, I had no idea. – Paul D. Waite Mar 25 '11 at 20:01
up vote 43 down vote accepted

Ah, use the passwd program as root:

sudo passwd root

Or, if you’re running as root already (which you shouldn’t be), just:


The root argument can be omitted, because when you execute passwd it defaults to the current user (which is root, as only root can change the root password).

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Obvious in hindsight, really. :) – Shadur Mar 25 '11 at 14:15
@Shadur: painfully :) I’d just never done it before, and the Google links I found first were for folks who had forgotten the root password. – Paul D. Waite Mar 25 '11 at 14:18
Should be sudo passwd, or just plain passwd if you are running with root privileges. – phunehehe Mar 25 '11 at 14:33
@phunehehe: ah, gotcha. Answer edited; do I need root after sudo passwd if I’m not running as root? – Paul D. Waite Mar 25 '11 at 15:03
@Paul I took liberty in editing your answer. There are a few ways to run things as root, and when passwd is run as root, it defaults to modify the root user. – phunehehe Mar 25 '11 at 16:11

If you're going to be doing a lot of command-line administration, you might find it useful to check out the man pages for usermod(8), chfn(1), chsh(1), passwd(1), crypt(3), gpasswd(8), groupadd(8),

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You have to boot in Recovery Mode before using Paul D. Waite's suggestion:

  1. Right after booting your Debian system choose "boot in Recovery Mode"
  2. Right after booting into "Recovery Mode" right at the command prompt simply type:

    sudo password root

    then the system will ask for the new Root's password once and twice to verify and you ARE done.

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“You have to boot in Recovery Mode before using Paul D. Waite's suggestion” — Really? I don’t remember doing that. Is this a new thing in a new version of Debian? – Paul D. Waite Sep 17 '14 at 15:56

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