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Can somebody please explain to me the exact differences between useradd -b and useradd -d in [Debian] Linux? Both seem to work quite similar to me, but then I spot differences that confuse me.

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-b specifies the location of users' home directories. On your average Debian box, this will be /home; you can change the default by editing /etc/default/useradd. useradd will add the new username to this path to get the home directory. This means that if you do

useradd -b /somewhere ian

the new user's directory will be /somewhere/ian.

-d sets the home directory explicitly, irrespective of defaults. So

useradd -d /somewhere-else/ian ian

then the user's home directory will be set to /somewhere-else/ian.

Note that the directory will be set in the password file, but won't actually be created unless -m is also specified (or the CREATE_HOME setting is enabled in the defaults file).

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    Your explanation is (mostly) correct, but to better stress the difference between the switches, you could have used something other than "ian" as the home directory in the -d example. That's the main point of using -d rather than -b. Also, in the -d example you're missing the username, so that command wouldn't work. – Paulo Almeida Jul 22 '13 at 9:19
  • Oops, I fixed my typo, thanks for pointing it out. – Flup Jul 22 '13 at 9:21
  • In connection with the -m option - the difference between -b and -d is that -d allows to set an actual name, possibly differing from the user's name [e.g. /somewhere/ians_new_home] and that -b creates a new directory with the user's name [/somewhere/ian as you already described :) ]. Using neither -b` nor -d [in connection with -m] will create a new user with a home directory in /home. Could this really have been all that is about that difference? Another case of 'overseen because too obvious?' – erch Jul 23 '13 at 17:02

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