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How To Add and Delete Users on a CentOS 7 Server

PostedOctober 28, 2014 388.1k views Linux Basics Getting Started CentOS

Introduction

When you first start using a fresh Linux server, adding and removing users is one of the most basic tasks that you should know how to do. When you create a new server, you are only given the root account by default. While this gives you a lot of power and flexibility, it is also dangerous to regularly use an account with so much power; for example, a root user is more vulnerable to security exploits, since any commands run under that account can affect the server's entire filesystem.

It is almost always a better idea to add an additional, unprivileged user to do common tasks. You should also create additional accounts for any other users that need access to your server. Each user should have an additional account so that their activities can be monitored and managed. You can still acquire administrative privileges, when needed, through a mechanism called sudo. In this guide, we will cover how to create user accounts, assign sudo privileges, and delete users on a CentOS 7 server.

Adding Users

If you are signed in as the root user, you can create a new user at any time by typing:

adduser username

If you are signed in as a non-root user who has been given sudo privileges, as demonstrated in the next section of this tutorial, you can add a new user by typing:

sudo adduser username

Next, you'll need to give your user a password so that they can log in. To do so, use the passwd command:

passwd username

Note: Remember to add sudo ahead of the command if you are signed in as a non-root user with sudo privileges.

You will be prompted to type in the password twice to confirm it. Now your new user is set up and ready for use! You can now log in as that user, using the password that you set up.

Granting Sudo Privileges to a User

If your new user should have the ability to execute commands with root (administrative) privileges, you will need to give the new user access to sudo.

We can do this by adding the user to the wheel group (which gives sudo access to all of its members by default) through the gpasswd command. This is the safest and easiest way to manage sudo user rights.

If you are currently signed in as the root user, type:

gpasswd -a username wheel

If you are signed in using a non-root user with sudo privileges, type this instead:

sudo gpasswd -a username wheel

Now your new user is able to execute commands with administrative privileges. To do so, simply type sudo ahead of the command that you want to execute as an administrator:

sudo some_command

You will be prompted to enter the password of the regular user account that you are signed in as. Once the correct password has been submitted, the command you entered will be executed with root privileges.

Managing Users with Sudo Privileges

While you can add and remove users from a group (such as wheel) with gpasswd, the command doesn't have a way to show which users are members of a group. In order to see which users are part of the wheel group (and thus have sudo privileges by default), you can use the lid function. lid is normally used to show which groups a user belongs to, but with the -g flag, you can reverse it and show which users belong in a group:

sudo lid -g wheel

The output will show you the usernames and UIDs that are associated with the group. This is a good way of confirming that your previous commands were successful, and that the user has the privileges that they need.

Deleting Users

If you have a user account that you no longer need, it's best to delete the old account. You have a couple of methods to do so, though the choice of which method to use depends on your own situation.

If you want to delete the user without deleting any of their files, type this command as root:

userdel username

If you want to delete the user's home directory along with the user account itself, type this command as root:

userdel -r username

Note: Remember to add sudo ahead of the command if you are signed in as a non-root user with sudo privileges.

With either command, the user will automatically be removed from any groups that they were added to, including the wheel group if they were given sudo privileges. If you later add another user with the same name, they will have to be added to the wheel group again to gain sudo access.

Conclusion

You should now have a good grasp on how to add and remove users from your CentOS 7 server. Effective user management will allow you to separate users and give them only the access that is needed for them to do their job. You can now move on to configuring your CentOS 7 server for whatever software you need, such as a LAMP or LEMP web stack.

For more information about how to configure sudo, check out our guide on how to edit the sudoers file.

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