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Let's say I create a user named "bogus" using the adduser command. How can I make sure this user will NOT be a viable login option, without disabling the account. In short, I want the account to be accessible via su - bogus, but I do not want it to be accessible via a regular login prompt.

Searching around, it seems I need to disable that user's password, but doing passwd -d bogus didn't help. In fact, it made things worse, because I could now login to bogus without even typing a password.

Is there a way to disable regular logins for a given a account?

Note: Just to be clear, I know how to remove a user from the menu options of graphical login screens such as gdm, but these methods simply hide the account without actually disabling login. I'm looking for a way to disable regular login completely, text-mode included.

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Your -d is the flag to delete the password. That is different from disabling it (refereed to as locking, see Chad's answer). – Caleb Aug 24 '11 at 20:59
up vote 57 down vote accepted

passwd -l

is what you want.

That will lock the user account. But you'll still be able to

su - user

but you'll have to su - user as root.

Alternatively, you can accomplish the same thing by prepending a ! to the user's password in /etc/shadow (this is all passwd -l does behind the scenes). passwd -u will undo it.

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By using the passwd -l option you should be aware that the user could login using another authentication token (e.g. an SSH key). – pl1nk Feb 20 '13 at 16:42
Please see my answer below on a recommended solution on how to avoid this. – george g Oct 29 '14 at 15:58

The man page of passwd(1) says about passwd -l:

Note that this does not disable the account. The user may still be able to login using another authentication token (e.g. an SSH key). To disable the account, administrators should use usermod --expiredate 1 (this set the account's expire date to Jan 2, 1970).


usermod --expiredate 1 [LOGIN]

seems to me like the right way to disable an account a user should not be able to use anymore (e.g. because he left the company).

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On my CentOs 6.3, passwd -l does block ssh connection for a user, and usermod --expiredate 1 doesn't! – fduff Feb 6 '15 at 8:20

There are two methods to prevent a user from being able to login:

  1. you can lock the user by editing /etc/passwd
  2. by directly issuing the passwd command with the -l switch

In the second case the user can login using another authentication token (e.g. an SSH key).

Method #1

  1. Find where is nologin: /bin/nologin or /bin/sbin/nologin
  2. Open a terminal and login as root
  3. Type vi /etc/passwd

Now you are in passwd file press Ins to edit the file.

Change the below line with the nologin option (/bin/bash means the user is able to login).


to this. nologin means the user is unable to login.


(or with /bin/sbin/nologin)

  1. Close the vi Esc :wq

Method #2

To lock user: passwd -l username

To unlock user: passwd -u username

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On an Ubuntu 14.04 system, I found /usr/sbin/nologin instead of /bin/nologin. – Dennis Williamson Oct 10 '14 at 23:25

Its quite easy task you simply have to make some changes in /etc/passwd file.

Simply you have to change the shell which is generally by default /bin/bash I.e you can login using this shell change it to /bin/nologin or /bin/false. It is advisable to change it to /bin/nologin because /bin/false is outdated.

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There should be a CAPS-LOCK button on your keyboard... – garethTheRed Dec 2 '14 at 11:12

Set /bin/false as a shell in /etc/passwd

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When one sets the shell to /bin/false, one prevents using su to act as that user. Additionally, using /bin/false produces no error nor other hint of what just went wrong -- in cases where one does want to prevent even su from being used to get a shell as that user, the shell should be changed to /sbin/nologin which does produce an error. – HedgeMage Aug 24 '11 at 16:22
No, the su is still possible for users with /bin/false shells in passwd - just use the option --shell: su - --shell /bin/sh bogus. – Matej Kovac Feb 27 '14 at 9:56

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