I installed fishfish(a user-friendly interactive command line shell) on a Linux server, later somebody uninstalled it but I don't know it. After I run chsh -s /usr/local/bin/fish without caution, I cannot login the server now. Error message "login: no shell: No such file or directory" showed up which apparently says that shell fish do not exist anymore.

The server provides only a CLI interface, so how can I change the login shell when I cannot even login?

  • Do you have access to a root account?
    – rahmu
    Jun 8, 2012 at 8:48
  • @rahmu I ran chsh under account root. I changed root's shell.
    – xanpeng
    Jun 8, 2012 at 9:14
  • @xanpeng You did it wrong, its chsh username_to_change from the root account.
    – Tim
    Jun 8, 2012 at 13:57
  • 3
    And this would be why you should ALWAYS set the root account's shell to something basic that never gets undeleted, like sh or bash.
    – Shadur
    Jun 8, 2012 at 14:20
  • @Shadur Yes, I did it wrong, lesson learned: should be more careful when you are root.
    – xanpeng
    Jun 8, 2012 at 15:20

4 Answers 4


If you have access to the root account, you can change the shell for a user from there using chsh -u user -s $SHELL.

If you have access to the boot process, you can append init=$SHELL to be dropped to a single-user shell, where you can fix this, again with chsh -u user -s $SHELL (some systems using a two-stage boot with an initrd image may require you to use real_init instead). You will probably need to remount the filesystem containing /etc/passwd as read-write (using mount -o remount,rw / or similar).

Otherwise, if you can su into the user from another user, try su user -c $SHELL, or if you can ssh into the user, you could try something like ssh user@localhost $SHELL.

You could also boot into a live CD/USB, mount / and fix /etc/passwd manually.

  • Thanks. (1) As I changed login shell for root himself, so I guess method #1 cannot work. (2) For method #2 "change boot process", I'm wondering how to remount the filesystem? I'm out of the shell, I cannot execute mount. I tried init=/bin/bash and `real_init=/bin/bash, neither of them worked. (3) For method #3, it cannot work as we have only one account, root, in the server OS.
    – xanpeng
    Jun 8, 2012 at 10:01
  • @xanpeng I gave the command to remount the root filesystem (which is probably where you have /etc). You should be able to SSH in from another machine.
    – Chris Down
    Jun 8, 2012 at 10:52

i have the same problem, this solution work for me:

  1. Boot with a live cd (i use debían 7.6) in live mode
  2. In live terminal, get root access running the command: passwd root
  3. Mount the disk of the partition of you crash distro
  4. Go to this disk and run this command: cat etc/shells
  5. With nano etc/passwd remove the fish references and put a valid console name of point 4
  6. Reboot and enjoy.

When trying to login I was getting this message: Cannot execute /sbin/nologin: No such file or directory

This is what I did and it worked for me.

  1. I logged in the system with another account with super user privileges
  2. Enter the following command:

sudo chsh -u user -s $SHELL

where user is the account name with the problem

  1. Logout of the system
  2. Login with the account name that had a problem
  • Correction the -u should be taken out Aug 10, 2016 at 10:23

I was also facing the same problem in Elementary OS Loki. To resolve the issue i performed the following

  1. firstly i remove everything related to zsh by sudo apt-get remove zsh && apt-get autoremove
  2. after that i edited the /etc/passwd file and found that shell of root user is not defined so i edited shell /bin/bash and this all help me to resolve the problem.

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