I'm trying to create a new user on a Centos 6 system.

First, I do

useradd kevin

Then, I tried to run commands as that user

su - kevin

However, I get the following error messages

-bash: /dev/null: Permission denied
-bash: /dev/null: Permission denied
-bash: /dev/null: Permission denied
-bash: /dev/null: Permission denied
-bash: /dev/null: Permission denied
-bash: /dev/null: Permission denied
[kevin@gazelle ~]$

And I can't do very much as that user.

The permissions on /dev/null are as follows:

-rwxr-xr-x  1 root root           9 Jul 25 17:07 null

Roughly the same as they are on my Mac,

crw-rw-rw-   1 root   wheel         3,   2 Jul 25 14:08 null

It's possible, but really unlikely, that I touched dev.

As the root user, I tried adding kevin to the root group:

usermod -a -G root kevin

However I still am getting /dev/null permission denied errors.

Why can't the new user write to /dev/null?
What groups should the new user be a part of?
Am I not impersonating the user correctly?
Is there a beginners guide to setting up users/permissions on Linux?

  • 1
    Looks like /dev/null got changed to a 9-byte-long ordinary file; it's supposed to be a device file ('c' at the beginning of the file type/permission bits field). If you cat /dev/null, does it look like something you recently used? Jul 25, 2014 at 21:18
  • ah. yes it did. "* master". do you want to add that as the answer & I'll mark it? Jul 25, 2014 at 21:19
  • You can reboot and /dev/null will get remade, but do you know what happened to change /dev/null into a file? It'd be a pain if it happened again. Jul 25, 2014 at 21:22
  • 1
    My guess is I moved the output of "git branch" to /dev/null instead of writing it, or had a bad script or something Jul 25, 2014 at 21:23

6 Answers 6


Someone evidently moved a regular file to /dev/null. Rebooting will recreate it, or do

rm -f /dev/null; mknod -m 666 /dev/null c 1 3

As @Flow has noted in a comment, you must be root to do this.

1 and 3 here are the device major and minor number on Linux-based OSes (the 3rd device handled by the mem driver, see /proc/devices, cat /sys/devices/virtual/mem/null/dev, readlink /sys/dev/char/1:3). It varies with the OS. For instance, it's 2, 2 on OpenBSD and AIX, it may also not be always the same on a given OS. Some OSes may supply a makedev / MAKEDEV command to help recreate them.


This should fix the issue (as root):

rm /dev/null
mknod /dev/null c 1 3
chmod 666 /dev/null

What these commands are doing:

  • rmis removing the bogus file that has been created because the expected one was missing;
  • mknod is creating a character device named /dev/null with the appropriate major and minor numbers for a Linux kernel;
  • chmod is setting the permissions for all users to be able to read and write to /dev/null.
  • 2
    This one also works on Mac/BSD
    – redolent
    Feb 11, 2015 at 23:06
  • this answer works but can yu explain those cmds? @jlliagre Mar 9, 2020 at 9:03
  • @AATHITHRAJENDRAN Explanations added.
    – jlliagre
    Mar 9, 2020 at 11:32

The solution suggested by Mark did not work on OpenBSD. However

mknod -m 666 /dev/null c 2 2

did the trick. I have tested this on OpenBSD 5.6. When the accepted answer is executed /dev/null will block and screw any code reading from it pretty badly.

To re-create all standard devices on OpenBSD (null included), you should use (as root):

cd /dev
  • Didn't the OP use CentOS rather than OpenBSD?
    – ott--
    Mar 15, 2015 at 18:23
  • 6
    Unfortunately, different operating systems use different major/minor numbers for /dev/null, and there's no standard. OP asked about CentOS 6. Linux has used 1,3 for /dev/null going back to at least 2001. On FreeBSD, I've seen 0,6, 15,0, 17,0, and 20,0. OpenBSD uses 2,2. On OpenBSD, you actually don't need to know the numbers; you can run # cd /dev; ./MAKEDEV std . Mar 16, 2015 at 21:54
  • 1
    Major and minor numbers are not transportable between operating systems. What works on Linux won't usually work on *BSD or Mac OS X (or Solaris, AIX, HP-UX, …), and vice versa. You have to find the correct numbers to use in the mknod command by scrutiny of the manuals (if you're lucky, the information is in there) or by scrutiny of the kernel headers. Mar 4, 2016 at 17:27

This happened to me on windows within the Ubuntu application, while trying to run a script that wrote into /dev/null. Permissions were correct for both /dev and /dev/null.

Turned out the problem was windows newlines in the script file. Running :

dos2unix.exe c:\path\to\script.sh

Solved the issue for me.


For IBM AIX Server i did the same and it's working

# rm /dev/null;mknod /dev/null c 2 2;chown root:system /dev/null;chmod 0666 /dev/null

# ls -l /dev/null
crw-rw-rw-    1 root     system        2,  2 Jul 10 22:18 /dev/null
  • Welcome to the site, and thank your for your contribution. Please note that your solution looks very much like the accepted answer. You may want to edit it to make the difference more clear.
    – AdminBee
    Jul 10, 2020 at 15:00
  • Yes, for AIX it is major=2, minor=2 not the same as it is in Linux. Jul 10, 2020 at 18:37

Posting the Mac OS X answer for posterity...

sudo sh -c '
  rm -rf /dev/null &&
    mknod /dev/null c 3 2 &&
    chmod 666 /dev/null'
  • 1
    @Kusalananda, I've corrected that. I can't comment on whether 3, 2 are the correct major/minor on macos or not. Mar 29, 2021 at 8:07
  • @StéphaneChazelas 3 2 should be correct.
    – Kusalananda
    Mar 29, 2021 at 8:16

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