From man 5 shadow:


   Backup file for /etc/shadow.

   Note that this file is used by the tools of the shadow toolsuite,
   but not by all user and password management tools.

What I would like to know is, when this file is backed up? Is there a configuration file in which change the frequency of, or even disable, this backups?

  • Don't rely on it. Back-up to somewhere off site (and secure). Also consider, in addition, revision control such as etc keeper. Aug 26, 2014 at 16:30
  • Well, I need to know this in order to conclude some things in a forensic analysis.
    – Tonat San
    Aug 26, 2014 at 16:38

2 Answers 2


Whenever you change the /etc/shadow file with the vipw or similar command, it saves the previous copy as /etc/shadow- . This is not a backup. It's simply an instant-mistake fixer.


It is retained as a copy of /etc/shadow and created upon changes. Nothing to configure there.

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