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How To Temporarily Login as Another User in Terminal on Ubuntu

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In this tutorial, we will guide you on how to temporarily login as another user in the Terminal on Ubuntu. This can be useful in a variety of situations, such as when you need to execute specific commands with different user privileges, or when you’re troubleshooting user-specific issues.

Quick Answer

To temporarily login as another user in Terminal on Ubuntu, you can use the su command followed by the username of the account you want to switch to. For example, su - username. If the user does not have shell access, you can still execute commands as that user using the sudo -u command.

Understanding the Basics

In Linux, the su and sudo commands are used to run tasks with different user privileges. The su command stands for ‘Substitute User’, and it is used to switch between different user accounts. On the other hand, sudo stands for ‘Super User Do’, and it is used to execute commands with superuser privileges.

Using the su Command

To temporarily switch to another user account in your terminal session, you can use the su command followed by the username of the account you want to switch to.

su - username

In the command above, replace username with the actual username of the account you want to switch to. The - parameter is used to indicate that you want to log in to the user’s environment, which includes the user’s home directory and path settings.

For example, if you want to switch to a user account named ‘testuser’, you would use the following command:

su - testuser

You will be prompted to enter the password for the ‘testuser’ account. Once you enter the correct password, you will be logged in as ‘testuser’ in your current terminal session.

Checking the User’s Shell

If you encounter issues when using the su command, such as the command not changing the prompt or the home directory correctly, it could be because the user does not have a valid shell assigned.

You can check the shell assigned to a user by looking at the /etc/passwd file. This file contains a list of all user accounts on the system, along with their assigned shells.

cat /etc/passwd

If the shell for the user is incorrect or missing, you can change it using the chsh command, which stands for ‘Change Shell’.

chsh -s /bin/bash username

In the command above, -s stands for ‘shell’, /bin/bash is the path to the Bash shell, and username is the username of the account you want to change the shell for.

Executing Commands as Another User with sudo

If the user does not have shell access, you can still execute commands as that user using the sudo -u command.

sudo -u username command

In the command above, -u stands for ‘user’, username is the username of the account you want to run the command as, and command is the command you want to execute.

For example, if you want to list the contents of the ‘testuser’ home directory, you would use the following command:

sudo -u testuser ls ~testuser

In this tutorial, we have covered how to temporarily login as another user in the Terminal on Ubuntu using the su and sudo commands. We hope you find this information useful for managing and troubleshooting user accounts on your Ubuntu system.

How do I switch back to my original user account after temporarily logging in as another user?

To switch back to your original user account, you can simply type exit or logout in the Terminal. This will log you out of the current user account and return you to your original user account.

Can I switch to the root user using the `su` command?

Yes, you can switch to the root user by using the command su -. This will prompt you to enter the root password. However, it is generally recommended to use the sudo command instead, as it provides a more secure way to execute commands with superuser privileges.

Can I use the `su` command without specifying a username?

Yes, you can use the su command without specifying a username. If you simply type su without any additional parameters, it will switch to the root user account by default. However, you will still be prompted to enter the root password.

Can I use the `su` command to switch to a user account that has a disabled password?

No, you cannot use the su command to switch to a user account that has a disabled password. The user account must have a valid password in order to be able to switch to it using the su command. If the user account has a disabled password, you can use the sudo -u command to execute commands as that user.

How can I list all available user accounts on my Ubuntu system?

You can list all available user accounts on your Ubuntu system by using the command cut -d: -f1 /etc/passwd. This command will display a list of usernames, each on a separate line.

Can I switch to a user account that is currently logged in?

No, you cannot switch to a user account that is currently logged in. The su command can only be used to switch to user accounts that are not currently active. If you need to perform tasks on another user’s behalf while they are logged in, you can use the sudo -u command to execute commands as that user.

How can I see the current user I am logged in as?

You can see the current user you are logged in as by using the whoami command. Simply type whoami in the Terminal, and it will display the username of the current user.

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