I'm experiencing a problem with chroot...

I'm running on Arch Linux x86_64.

I have a 64 bit chroot and a 32 bit chroot. They are identical except that one is 32 bit and one is 64 bit.

I can enter either of them using chroot /path/to/chroot. No problems.

If I want to do that as a specific user the command is:

chroot --userspec=user:group /path/to/chroot

This also works fine for the 64 bit chroot. However it fails for the 32 bit chroot. It fails with status 125 and the message chroot: invalid user

Also, doing chroot --userspec=uid:gid /path/to/chroot works fine in both 32 and 64 bit chroots (uid and gid are the numeric ids of the required user and group).

I don't know if I am doing something wrong. is there anyone who has a 32 bit chroot and can see if the above can be reproduced ?

All commands are issued as root. The user and group used for the userspec argument need to be defined inside the chroot.

Or if I am missing something please I would appreciate knowing where I am going wrong.

Update: I am using a work around for this problem. Assuming $user has the user:group I want (e.g. john:users), I do this:

u=$(echo $user | awk -F ":" '{print $1}')
g=$(echo $user | awk -F ":" '{print $2}')
uid=$(grep $u /opt/chroot32/etc/passwd | awk -F ":" '{print $3}')
gid=$(grep $g /opt/chroot32/etc/group  | awk -F ":" '{print $3}')
echo "Using $uid:$gid in place of $user"
chroot --userspec="$uid:$gid" /opt/chroot32

This works - it looks up the desired user:group inside the chroot's passwd and group files and then uses those for the chroot. And the above workaround is not necessary when accessing a 64 bit chroot.

  • I asked the coreutils team about this and I have tested a patch to chroot that fixes the problem. I don't as of yet know if/when it will be released.
    – starfry
    May 2, 2012 at 19:47
  • Which patch? does it work? Feel free to answer your own question. May 7, 2012 at 14:01
  • I thought I had answered my own question. Like I said, I was sent a patch by coreutils which I applied and it fixed the problem. I thought I had said that ;) There is no "official patch" and they haven't said anything about if/when there will be one. I haven't posted the patch as it was given to me as "tentative". As soon as I hear more I will update it here.
    – starfry
    May 8, 2012 at 15:20

1 Answer 1


You cannot enter a chroot with a username that is not known to the target chroot environment. Copy all required file for user authentication to each chroot: /etc/passwd, /etc/shadow, /etc/nsswitch.conf, and, eventually all files in /etc/pam.d/*. I

  • I had already covered that point in my original question where I said "The user and group used for the userspec argument need to be defined inside the chroot."
    – starfry
    Mar 15, 2013 at 14:41
  • You are right.I did not correctly understood that sentence. Maybe you could also try a workaround like preceding your commands with a su --command 'sg $group -c "$command"' $user or write a wrapper script that runs inside the chroot.
    – eppesuig
    Mar 16, 2013 at 7:56

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