Software & AppsOperating SystemLinux

Why Can’t I Use My Password with Sudo?

Ubuntu 9

Understanding and troubleshooting sudo password issues in Linux

If you’ve been using Linux, you’ve likely come across the sudo command, which stands for “superuser do”. This command allows you to run programs with the security privileges of another user (by default, the superuser). However, sometimes you might find that you can’t use your password with sudo. This article aims to help you understand why this might be happening and how to troubleshoot it.

The Importance of sudo

Before we delve into the issues, it’s essential to understand why sudo is crucial. sudo is a powerful command that allows you to execute commands as the superuser or another user. It’s a vital tool for system administration, providing a way to perform administrative tasks securely.

Common Issues with sudo and Passwords

There are several reasons why you might not be able to use your password with sudo. Here are some common issues:

1. Blank Password

If your password is blank, i.e., you just press Enter when asked for your password, sudo will not accept it. You can change your password in System Settings or use the gnome-admin-tools package to change it graphically. If that doesn’t work, you can reset your password using the command pkexec passwd $USER. Here, pkexec allows an authorized user to execute passwd (the command that changes user password) as another user, and $USER is a variable that represents the current user.

2. Weird Characters in Password

If your password contains characters other than numerals, capital and lowercase letters, and common punctuation, sudo might not accept it. Avoid using spaces in your password as they can cause issues. Change your password to something simpler and try again.

3. Password Storage Issue

Sometimes, the way the password is stored can cause authentication issues. If changing the password fixes the problem, it could be related to how the password was stored.

4. Keyboard Layout

Make sure your keyboard layout is correct when entering your password. Sometimes, typing on a different layout can result in incorrect password entry.

5. Terminal Input Interpretation

It’s possible that the password being seen by sudo is not what you are actually entering. To test this, try entering your password in the terminal without running any command and see if it matches what you typed. You can also try a different terminal application or a virtual console to see if the issue persists.

6. sudo Works from GUI but Not Command Line

If sudo works when invoked from a graphical application but not from the command line, it suggests a problem with how sudo takes input from command-line interfaces. You can check this by running gksudo xclock and see if it prompts for your password and displays the clock application.

7. CLI Password Authentication Issue

If both sudo and su fail to authenticate in the terminal, it could indicate a common problem preventing password authentication on the command line. You can test this by running su $USER -c 'echo Success' and see if it prompts for your password and displays “Success”.

8. sudo is Broken

If sudo is broken, you can try using pkexec as a workaround. Run pkexec echo Success and see if it prompts for your password and displays “Success”. If this works, you can use pkexec instead of sudo until the issue with sudo is resolved. You can also try reinstalling sudo, checking the configuration files, or fixing any misconfigurations in /etc/sudoers or /etc/sudo.conf.


While the sudo command is a powerful tool, it can sometimes cause confusion when it doesn’t accept your password. The reasons for this can vary, but by following the steps outlined in this article, you should be able to troubleshoot and resolve most common issues. Remember, the key to effective troubleshooting is understanding the problem, so take the time to read error messages and understand what your system is telling you.

How do I change my password in Linux?

To change your password in Linux, you can use the passwd command. Simply open a terminal and type passwd, followed by your username. You will then be prompted to enter your new password.

Can I use a blank password with `sudo`?

No, sudo does not accept blank passwords. You must have a password set for your user account in order to use sudo. If you don’t have a password set, you can change it using the passwd command.

What characters can I use in my password for `sudo`?

For sudo, it is recommended to use only numerals, capital and lowercase letters, and common punctuation characters in your password. Avoid using special characters or spaces, as they can cause issues with password entry.

How can I check if my keyboard layout is correct?

To check if your keyboard layout is correct, you can open a text editor or a terminal and type random characters. If the characters appear as expected, your keyboard layout is likely correct. If not, you may need to change your keyboard layout settings.

What should I do if `sudo` works from a GUI but not from the command line?

If sudo works when invoked from a graphical application but not from the command line, it suggests a problem with how sudo takes input from command-line interfaces. You can try using gksudo instead of sudo for command-line operations or investigate any misconfigurations in /etc/sudoers or /etc/sudo.conf.

How do I reinstall `sudo`?

To reinstall sudo, you can use the package manager of your Linux distribution. For example, in Ubuntu, you can use the command sudo apt-get install --reinstall sudo. Make sure to also check the configuration files in /etc/sudoers and /etc/sudo.conf for any misconfigurations that might be causing issues.

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