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

How do I do that? I haven’t forgotten/lost the current password, I just want to change it.

  • 4
    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 'SO- stop being evil' Mar 25 '11 at 19:55
  • @Gilles: that’s fantastic, I had no idea. – Paul D. Waite Mar 25 '11 at 20:01
  • Have you considered, instead, sudo. – ctrl-alt-delor Sep 6 '18 at 17:48

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).

  • 1
    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
  • 1
    Should be sudo passwd, or just plain passwd if you are running with root privileges. – phunehehe Mar 25 '11 at 14:33
  • 1
    @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
  • 1
    @Katerberg You can just use su -c "passwd" – 12431234123412341234123 Nov 16 '16 at 15:27

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),


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.

  • “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

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.