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. Mar 25, 2011 at 19:55
  • @Gilles: that’s fantastic, I had no idea. Mar 25, 2011 at 20:01
  • Have you considered, instead, sudo. Sep 6, 2018 at 17:48

3 Answers 3


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, 2011 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. Mar 25, 2011 at 14:18
  • 1
    Should be sudo passwd, or just plain passwd if you are running with root privileges.
    – phunehehe
    Mar 25, 2011 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, 2011 at 16:11
  • 1
    @Katerberg You can just use su -c "passwd" Nov 16, 2016 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.

  • 1
    “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? Sep 17, 2014 at 15:56

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