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? Commented Jul 25, 2014 at 21:18
  • ah. yes it did. "* master". do you want to add that as the answer & I'll mark it? Commented 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. Commented 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 Commented 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.

  • 19
    If by "someone" you mean "me", then yes :) Commented Jan 21, 2015 at 21:50
  • Even i ran int the same issue on server. ubuntu 14.04 LTS. But I didn't change permissions. Is there any possiblity where I can track which process changed the permissions?
    – Mani
    Commented Apr 5, 2018 at 5:19
  • @Mani Linux by default doesn't log such small changes, but you can turn on auditing to see them from now on. How to detect on Linux chmod of a file Commented Apr 5, 2018 at 16:14
  • 1
    The solution fixes the problem but the issue reoccurs. Why?
    – code
    Commented Oct 6, 2018 at 3:40
  • @AbhishekSoni You might try auditing, as described in Display a file's history (list of users that have modified a file) Commented Oct 11, 2018 at 17:47

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
    Commented Feb 11, 2015 at 23:06
  • this answer works but can yu explain those cmds? @jlliagre Commented Mar 9, 2020 at 9:03
  • @AATHITHRAJENDRAN Explanations added.
    – jlliagre
    Commented 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--
    Commented 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 . Commented 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. Commented Mar 4, 2016 at 17:27

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. Commented Mar 29, 2021 at 8:07
  • @StéphaneChazelas 3 2 should be correct.
    – Kusalananda
    Commented Mar 29, 2021 at 8:16

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
    Commented Jul 10, 2020 at 15:00
  • Yes, for AIX it is major=2, minor=2 not the same as it is in Linux. Commented Jul 10, 2020 at 18:37

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