So leaving details aside last night i stumbled across "administrator root" in a live instance of Zorin.

First off, is Administrator Root even a thing? If so, where does it fall into the hierarchy? As i understood it there were three users in linux - root, admin, and user.

Picture is attached.

top lefthand corner

Thank you.

  • 20
    "As i understood it there were three users in linux - root, admin, and user" - in the general sense that's wrong. The standard name for the administrative user account is "root". There may be zero or more system accounts that exist to help manage separation of privilege. There is usually at least one non-privileged user account, which is available for day to day activities
    – roaima
    Jun 27 at 18:13
  • Ok, so... root, system, user then?? Have you ever seen an administrator root?
    – M3038
    Jun 27 at 19:19
  • 7
    No, not root, system, user.
    – roaima
    Jun 27 at 19:36
  • 11
    Does this answer your question? What is the admin:// prefix and how to make it work?
    – muru
    Jun 27 at 23:21
  • 8
    From your screenshot it looks that "Administrator Root" is just a "descriptive" name used by some GUI file browser you are using to describe a particular directory. Probably that directory is just the filesystem root directory (/)
    – raj
    Jun 28 at 13:43

3 Answers 3


Administrator Root does not mean a privilege here, but a special access to folders whose prefix URI is admin:// and stands for a GVFS scheme.

The expression admin:///tmp/b-i-s-DNkGOLqG designates /tmp/b-i-s-DNkGOLqG/ accessed through a privileged driver provided that an application uses a scheme capable interface.

So the word root means common parent directory, and the word administrator means privileged role. And IMHO this is not a good semantic for a working temporary directory.

  • 6
    This is the correct answer to the question.
    – iBug
    Jun 29 at 15:36

On unix, there are two kinds of users:

  1. root
  2. everyone else.

root is any username with a UID of 0. The username is typically root, but doesn't have to be, and it is possible to have more than one root account with a different username (e.g. FreeBSD systems have root with /bin/csh as its shell, and toor with /bin/sh instead. They are both root, because they are both UID 0 - it is the UID which is important, not the name. There is only one root, but root can have aliases).

Ignoring security environments like SELINUX (which can limit what root is able to do), root (UID 0) can do anything on the system that the system is capable of - read, write, delete any file or directory, change ownership or permissions of files etc, bind a network socket to ports 0-1023, shutdown or reboot the system, etc.

All other users can only do what their permissions and group memberships allow. And programs like sudo or su, can give them some access to some root capabilities by temporarily elevating them to root, or via other mechanisms such as capabilities on Linux.

NOTE: There is a sub-class of non-root users that are often called "system users". Despite what the name suggests, they are ordinary users. They just happen to be created for special purposes like running a particular daemon and owning that daemon's files and directories. e.g. user lp for a printer daemon, ftp for ftpd, postgres for the postgresql database, and many more. They usually have a disabled password and their shell set to /bin/false or /usr/sbin/nologin or similar (user postgres is a notable exception because it's fairly common to su to user postgres to run psql for maintenance tasks).

Quite often, system users have a matching or associated "system group", and sometimes a "system group" exists without an associated "system user" (e.g. group disk has group ownership of device nodes for disks and partitions in /dev, and those devices are RW by group - meaning that any member of the disk group can read & write and even re-partition or re-format those block devices).

Most Linux systems reserve UIDs and GIDs 1 to 1000 (or 1 to 500, or similar) for system users (and most, but not all, system users have uids & gids within that reserved range). Non-system users, i.e. normal login accounts, get UIDs and GIDs above that reservation. This is a matter of OS vendor or even local site policy, not inherent to unix itself.

  • 14
    This is a good answer in that it explains the basics. Unfortunately, the OP's question is indicative of a generation of sysadmins who learn UNIX/Linux from the confines of a GUI that hides the actual OS from them.
    – mikem
    Jun 28 at 8:15
  • 2
    Obligatory anonymous internet quote: "To err is human, to really screw things up requires root." Jun 28 at 16:15

tl;dr; Administrator Root may be the full name of root, just as John Smith may be the full name of smith.

The /etc/passwd file (or whatever it replaces it, e.g. LDAP) has fields for both a short (the first) and a for a long username / comment (the fifth, also called "GECOS field"):

smith:x:12007:12007:John &:/home/smith:/bin/sh

Some utilities will replace the & with the capitalized short name when displaying info about user, etc, turning John & into John Smith.

Traditionally on unix, root was Charlie & -> Charlie Root, but people don't like that anymore so they changed it to simply root (or Administrator &).

  • 2
    I just used vipw to give my root a name! If my baloney can have a first name, why not my super user?! I had never even fingered root before... Thanks for the history lesson!
    – Engineer
    Jun 28 at 17:56

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