Like title says, is there a difference between these two commands :

sudo su - root
sudo -u root -H /bin/bash

I'm using GNU/Linux, if that makes a difference.


4 Answers 4


If you want to become root, the best way to do so is sudo -i, which simulates the initial login (giving you all the paths and variables associated with a root login). If you want to login without getting the root users .files, you could just use sudo su (no need to specify the root user).

  • sudo -H /bin/bash does run bash. The -H option doesn't take an argument. Mar 21, 2012 at 23:37
  • -H just changes the $HOME to the target user's home directory. That's it. As the man page says, this might even be the default policy.
    – jsbillings
    Mar 22, 2012 at 0:11
  • is there a source for this solution please?
    – Thufir
    Apr 29, 2020 at 4:10
su - # causes the user to run a login shell aka bash --login
     # the same as if the user had logged in as the root from the login prompt

and sudo su - is the same as sudo su - root specifying root is redundant.

sudo -u root -H /bin/bash again the -u root is redundant, sudo runs as root by default but the -H /bin/bash is run as an sudoer, the env vars SUDO_USER, SUDO_UID and SUDO_COMMAND are set to the callers name/uid and bash respectively.

But in this case, bash is not run as a login shell.


Obviously, they can differ if root shell isn't /bin/bash - this is possible for tiny or embedded Linux environments, or traditional for BSD systems which prefer /bin/[t]csh for root user. Also, `su -' drops all environment except a few variables related to the terminal. sudo's behavior on environment is configurable (see env_reset in /etc/sudoers). So, be careful with details...


The biggest difference between the two commands you listed is that running su - will cause the shell to be a login shell. That means that root's shell's login scripts will be executed (.bash_profile for example, if it's bash), the PWD will be set to $HOME, and certain parts of the user environment will be initialized. sudo bash just runs a new shell as the target user's shell, and the -H just initializes one variable, $HOME, to the target user's home directory. Other variables will not be set, and some will be carried over to the new shell, as defined in your sudo policy.

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