What does root:wheel mean in the following?

chown root:wheel myfile

2 Answers 2


root is a user (the super user) and wheel is a group (of super users I guess).

chown root:wheel myfile

means making myfile belong to the user root and the group wheel (read man chown for more information).

  • 11
    wheel is typically the group with sudo rights (see this question) Sep 4, 2010 at 14:28
  • Some Unixen do this for files which are to be accessed by system administrators. Typically these file will have a user:group of root:wheel and permissions rw-rw----. This approach has fallen out of favour, as it allows system changes to be too readily made in error (eg, cd /etc; …; vi hostname would succeed); rather the modern approach has system files owned by root:root and requires the use of the sudo command prior to successfully changing a file (eg, cd /etc; …; vi hostname would fail, only the more intentional sudo vi hostname succeeds).
    – vk5tu
    Oct 14, 2020 at 13:34

More specifically about the wheel group:It is a Unix group specifically intended for only those users who have rights to su as root.

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