Let's say I create a user named "bogus" using the adduser command. How can I make sure this user will NOT be a viable login option, without disabling the account. In short, I want the account to be accessible via su - bogus, but I do not want it to be accessible via a regular login prompt.

Searching around, it seems I need to disable that user's password, but doing passwd -d bogus didn't help. In fact, it made things worse, because I could now login to bogus without even typing a password.

Is there a way to disable regular logins for a given a account?

Note: Just to be clear, I know how to remove a user from the menu options of graphical login screens such as gdm, but these methods simply hide the account without actually disabling login. I'm looking for a way to disable regular login completely, text-mode included.


8 Answers 8

passwd -l user

is what you want.

That will lock the user account. But you'll still be able to

su - user

but you'll have to su - user as root.

Alternatively, you can accomplish the same thing by prepending a ! to the user's password in /etc/shadow (this is all passwd -l does behind the scenes). And passwd -u will undo this.

  • 39
    By using the passwd -l option you should be aware that the user could login using another authentication token (e.g. an SSH key).
    – pl1nk
    Commented Feb 20, 2013 at 16:42
  • 2
    Please see my answer below on a recommended solution on how to avoid this.
    – JoeGo
    Commented Oct 29, 2014 at 15:58
  • 2
    This does not work on ubuntu 16.04. It will change the expire date and not allow su - user anymore.
    – merlin
    Commented Feb 7, 2017 at 17:09
  • 4
    Is this same as the --disabled-password option given to adduser? Does creating a user without --disabled-password and then running passwd -l on that user achieve the same result as running adduser with --disabled-password in the first place?
    – haridsv
    Commented Apr 16, 2018 at 9:18
  • 2
    @haridsv on Alpine (likely the same on other distros, untested) if I use --disabled-password and then ran passwd -l user I get the error passwd: password for user is already locked. I assume they're the same yes. Commented Jul 26, 2021 at 22:35

The man page of passwd(1) says about passwd -l:

Note that this does not disable the account. The user may still be able to login using another authentication token (e.g. an SSH key). To disable the account, administrators should use usermod --expiredate 1 (this set the account's expire date to Jan 2, 1970).


usermod --expiredate 1 [LOGIN]

seems to me like the right way to disable an account a user should not be able to use anymore (e.g. because he left the company).

  • 5
    On my CentOs 6.3, passwd -l does block ssh connection for a user, and usermod --expiredate 1 doesn't!
    – fduff
    Commented Feb 6, 2015 at 8:20
  • 1
    On my CentOS 7.4, passwd -l no longer blocks ssh connections for a user, and usermod --expiredate 1 user does block. Per man passwd you can also use chage -E 0 user to block a user. After applying usermod or chage I am able to sudo su user
    – user12345
    Commented Oct 23, 2017 at 20:42
  • usermod --expiredate 0 [LOGIN] also works, it sets the expire date to Jan 1 1970 whereas a 1 sets this to Jan 2 1970.
    – slm
    Commented Nov 15, 2017 at 4:39
  • 2
    "The value 0 should not be used as it is interpreted as either an account with no expiration, or as an expiration on Jan 1, 1970." -- shadow(5) Commented Aug 5, 2018 at 7:07

There are two methods to prevent a user from being able to login:

  1. you can lock the user by editing /etc/passwd
  2. by directly issuing the passwd command with the -l switch

In the second case the user can login using another authentication token (e.g. an SSH key).

Method #1

  1. Find where is nologin: /bin/nologin or /bin/sbin/nologin
  2. Open a terminal and login as root
  3. Type vi /etc/passwd

Now you are in passwd file press Ins to edit the file.

Change the below line with the nologin option (/bin/bash means the user is able to login).


to this. nologin means the user is unable to login.


(or with /bin/sbin/nologin)

  1. Close the vi Esc :wq

Method #2

To lock user: passwd -l username

To unlock user: passwd -u username

  • 3
    On an Ubuntu 14.04 system, I found /usr/sbin/nologin instead of /bin/nologin. Commented Oct 10, 2014 at 23:25
  • 3
    Tip: use which nologin to determine the correct path for your system
    – musicin3d
    Commented Oct 9, 2020 at 20:49
  • In modern distros you no longer can succeed with su - user if user's shell set to nologin as you will be bounced back with This account is currently not available.. You can still succeed for accounts locked with passwd -l though. Commented Oct 10, 2020 at 17:53

Its quite easy task you simply have to make some changes in /etc/passwd file.

Simply you have to change the shell which is generally by default /bin/bash I.e you can login using this shell change it to /bin/nologin or /bin/false. It is advisable to change it to /bin/nologin because /bin/false is outdated.


Set /bin/false as a shell in /etc/passwd

  • 21
    When one sets the shell to /bin/false, one prevents using su to act as that user. Additionally, using /bin/false produces no error nor other hint of what just went wrong -- in cases where one does want to prevent even su from being used to get a shell as that user, the shell should be changed to /sbin/nologin which does produce an error.
    – HedgeMage
    Commented Aug 24, 2011 at 16:22
  • 8
    No, the su is still possible for users with /bin/false shells in passwd - just use the option --shell: su - --shell /bin/sh bogus. Commented Feb 27, 2014 at 9:56
  • 1
    /usr/sbin/nologin has the same effect as /bin/false, but also shows a useful informational message.
    – Rörd
    Commented Jan 31, 2018 at 15:20

Assuming you want to start with a fresh user account:

sudo adduser --no-create-home --disabled-password --disabled-login <uname>

With usermod --expiredate 1 <uname> I had the problem that this account cannot be used for nothing anymore (e.g. for samba logins). My use-case was that I want to disable all functionality for ssh, ordinary, ... logins but still use it as a Samba user.


When we lock the user using the passwd -l user command, "!!" are indicated in the /etc/shadow file. But we can still able to switch to a user shell from the root account, but not able to switch to user account by other normal users login shell.

We can also disable account by providing /bin/nologin or /bin/false in to /etc/passwd file. So user may not able to login in.


You can use the command

usermod -s /sbin/nologin username
  • this way su username fails with Cannot execute /sbin/nologin: No such file or directory
    – mahyard
    Commented Jan 27, 2021 at 11:51

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