Linux useradd command

Updated: 11/06/2021 by Computer Hope
useradd command

On Unix-like operating systems, the useradd command creates a new user or sets the default information for new users.

This page covers the Linux version of useradd.


useradd is a low-level utility for adding users to a system. In general, the more friendly adduser should be used instead.

Your operating system may come with a slightly different version of useradd; check your documentation before using it to create new accounts. This documentation refers to some options frequently used on Debian-based variants of Linux, but is representative of useradd's general use.

When invoked without the -D option, the useradd command creates a new user account using the values specified on the command line plus the default values from the system. Depending on command line options, the useradd command updates system files and may also create the new user's home directory and copy initial files.

By default, a group is also created for the new user (see the -g, -N, -U options, and the USERGROUPS_ENAB variable, below).


useradd [options] LOGIN
useradd -D
useradd -D [options]


-c, --comment COMMENT COMMENT can be any text string. It is generally a short description of the login, and is currently used as the field for the user's full name.
-d, --home HOME_DIR The new user is created using HOME_DIR as the value for the user's login directory. The default is to append the LOGIN name to BASE_DIR and use that as the login directory name. The directory HOME_DIR does not have to exist but is not created if it's missing.
-D, --defaults Set new default values. See the section on changing new user default values, below.
-e, --expiredate EXPIRE_DATE The date on which the user account will be disabled. The date is specified in the format YYYY-MM-DD.

If not specified, useradd uses the default expiry date specified by the EXPIRE variable in /etc/default/useradd, or an empty string (no expiry) by default.
-f, --inactive INACTIVE The number of days after a password expires until the account is permanently disabled. A value of 0 disables the account as soon as the password has expired, and a value of -1 disables the feature.

If not specified, useradd uses the default inactivity period specified by the INACTIVE variable in /etc/default/useradd, or -1 by default.
-g, --gid GROUP The group name or number of the user's initial login group. The group name must exist. A group number must refer to an already existing group.

If not specified, the behavior of useradd will depend on the USERGROUPS_ENAB variable in /etc/login.defs. If this variable is set to yes (or -U/--user-group is specified on the command line), a group is created for the user, with the same name as her loginname. If the variable is set to no (or -N/--no-user-group is specified on the command line), useradd sets the primary group of the new user to the value specified by the GROUP variable in /etc/default/useradd, or 100 by default.
--groups GROUP1[,GROUP2,...[,GROUPN]]]
A list of groups containing the user as a member. Each group is separated from the next by a comma, with no intervening whitespace. The groups are subject to the same restrictions as the group given with the -g option. The default is for the user to belong only to the initial group.
-h, --help Display a help message, and exit.
-k, --skel SKEL_DIR SKEL_DIR is the skeleton directory, which contains files and directories to be copied in the user's home directory, when the home directory is created by useradd.

This option is only valid if the -m (or --create-home) option is specified.

If this option is not set, the skeleton directory is defined by the SKEL variable in /etc/default/useradd or, by default, /etc/skel.

If possible, the ACL and extended attributes are copied.
-K, --key KEY=VALUE Overrides /etc/login.defs defaults (UID_MIN, UID_MAX, UMASK, PASS_MAX_DAYS and others).

Example: -K PASS_MAX_DAYS=-1 can be used when creating system account to turn off password aging, even though system account has no password at all. Multiple -K options can be specified, for example: -K UID_MIN=100 -K UID_MAX=499
-l, --no-log-init Do not add the user to the lastlog and faillog databases.

By default, the user's entries in the lastlog and faillog databases are resetted to avoid reusing the entry from a previously deleted user.

For the compatibility with previous versions of useradd, the -O option is also supported for this purpose.
-m, --create-home Create the user's home directory if it does not exist. The files and directories contained in the skeleton directory (which can be defined with the -k option) is copied to the home directory.

By default, if this option is not specified and CREATE_HOME is not enabled, no home directories are created.
-M Do no create the user's home directory, even if the system wide setting from /etc/login.defs (CREATE_HOME) is set to yes.
-N, --no-user-group Do not create a group with the same name as the user, but add the user to the group specified by the -g option or by the GROUP variable in /etc/default/useradd.

The default behavior (if the -g, -N, and -U options are not specified) is defined by the USERGROUPS_ENAB variable in /etc/login.defs.
-o, --non-unique Allow the creation of a user account with a duplicate (non-unique) UID.

This option is only valid in combination with the -u option.
-p, --password PASSWORD The encrypted password, as returned by crypt. The default is to disable the password.

Note: This option is not recommended because the password (or encrypted password) will be visible by users listing the processes (for example, with the ps command).

You should make sure the password respects the system's password policy.
-r, --system Create a system account.

System users are created with no aging information in /etc/shadow, and their numeric identifiers are chosen in the SYS_UID_MIN-SYS_UID_MAX range, defined in /etc/login.defs, instead of UID_MIN-UID_MAX (and their GID counterparts for the creation of groups).

Note that useradd will not create a home directory for such an user, regardless of the default setting in /etc/login.defs (CREATE_HOME). You have to specify the -m options if you want a home directory for a system account to be created.
-R, --root CHROOT_DIR Apply changes in the CHROOT_DIR directory and use the configuration files from the CHROOT_DIR directory.
-s, --shell SHELL The name of the user's login shell. The default is to leave this field blank, which causes the system to select the default login shell specified by the SHELL variable in /etc/default/useradd, or an empty string by default.
-u, --uid UID The numerical value of the user's ID. This value must be unique, unless the -o option is used. The value must be non-negative. The default is to use the smallest ID value greater than or equal to UID_MIN and greater than every other user.

See also the -r option and the UID_MAX description.
-U, --user-group Create a group with the same name as the user, and add the user to this group.

The default behavior (if the -g, -N, and -U options are not specified) is defined by the USERGROUPS_ENAB variable in /etc/login.defs.
-Z, --selinux-user SEUSER The SELinux user for the user's login. The default is to leave this field blank, which causes the system to select the default SELinux user.

Changing new user default values

When invoked with only the -D option, useradd displays the current default values. When invoked with -D plus other options, useradd updates the default values for the specified options.

Valid default-changing options are:

-b, --base-dir BASE_DIR The path prefix for a new user's home directory. The user's name will be affixed to the end of BASE_DIR to form the new user's home directory name, if the -d option is not used when creating a new account.

This option sets the HOME variable in /etc/default/useradd.
--expiredate EXPIRE_DATE
The date on which the user account is disabled.

This option sets the EXPIRE variable in /etc/default/useradd.
-f, --inactive INACTIVE The number of days after a password has expired before the account will be disabled.

This option sets the INACTIVE variable in /etc/default/useradd.
-g, --gid GROUP The group name or ID for a new user's initial group (when the -N/--no-user-group is used or when the USERGROUPS_ENAB variable is set to no in /etc/login.defs). The named group must exist, and a numerical group ID must have an existing entry.

This option sets the GROUP variable in /etc/default/useradd.
-s, --shell SHELL The name of a new user's login shell.

This option sets the SHELL variable in /etc/default/useradd.


The system administrator is responsible for placing the default user files in the /etc/skel/ directory (or any other skeleton directory specified in /etc/default/useradd or on the command line).


You may not add a user to a NIS or LDAP group. This must be performed on the corresponding server.

Similarly, if the username already exists in an external user database such as NIS or LDAP, useradd will deny the user account creation request.

It is usually recommended to only use usernames that begin with a lowercase letter or an underscore, followed by lowercase letters, digits, underscores, or dashes. They can end with a dollar sign. The regular expression describes a valid username is:


The only constraints are that usernames must neither start with a dash ('-') nor plus ('+') nor tilde ('~') nor contain a colon (':'), a comma (','), or a whitespace (space: ' ', end of line: '\n', tab: '\t', etc.). Note that using a slash ('/') may break the default algorithm for the definition of the user's home directory.

Usernames may only be up to 32 characters long.


The following configuration variables in /etc/login.defs change the behavior of this tool:

name type description
CREATE_HOME boolean Indicate if a home directory should be created by default for new users.

This setting does not apply to system users, and can be overridden on the command line.
GID_MAX, GID_MIN number Range of group IDs used for the creation of regular groups by useradd, groupadd, or newusers.

The default value for GID_MIN is 1000; the default for GID_MAX is 60000.
MAIL_DIR string The mail spool directory. This is needed to manipulate the mailbox when its corresponding user account is modified or deleted. If not specified, a compile-time default is used.
MAIL_FILE string Defines the location of the users mail spool files relatively to their home directory.

The MAIL_DIR and MAIL_FILE variables are used by useradd, usermod, and userdel to create, move, or delete the user's mail spool.

MAX_MEMBERS_PER_GROUP number Maximum members per group entry. When the maximum is reached, a new group entry (line) is started in /etc/group (with the same name, same password, and same group ID).

The default value is 0, meaning that there are no limits in the number of members in a group.

This feature (split group) helps to limit the length of lines in the group file. This is useful to make sure that lines for NIS groups are not larger than 1024 characters.

If you need to enforce such limit, you can use 25.

Note: split groups may not be supported by all tools, even advanced tools like the Shadow toolsuite. You should not use this variable unless it's needed.
PASS_MAX_DAYS number The maximum number of days a password may be used. If the password is older than this, a password change will be forced. If not specified, -1 will be assumed (which disables the restriction).
PASS_MIN_DAYS number The minimum number of days allowed between password changes. Any password changes attempted sooner than this will be rejected. If not specified, -1 will be assumed (which disables the restriction).
PASS_WARN_AGE number The number of days warning given before a password expires. A zero means warning is given only upon the day of expiration, a negative value means no warning is given. If not specified, no warning is provided.
SYS_GID_MAX, SYS_GID_MIN number Range of group IDs used for the creation of system groups by useradd, groupadd, or newusers.

The default value for SYS_GID_MIN is 101; the default value for SYS_GID_MAX is GID_MIN minus 1.
SYS_UID_MAX, SYS_UID_MIN number Range of user IDs used for the creation of system users by useradd or newusers.

The default value for SYS_UID_MIN is 101; the default value of SYS_UID_MAX is UID_MIN minus 1.
UID_MAX, UID_MIN number Range of user IDs used for the creation of regular users by useradd or newusers.

The default value for UID_MIN (resp. UID_MAX) is 1000 (resp. 60000).
UMASK number The file mode creation mask is initialized to this value. If not specified, the mask will be initialized to 022. useradd and newusers use this mask to set the mode of the home directory they create. It is also used by pam_umask as the default umask value.
USERGROUPS_ENAB boolean If set to yes, userdel removes the user's group if it contains no more members, and useradd creates a group with the name of the user by default.


/etc/passwd User account information.
/etc/shadow Secure user account information.
/etc/group Group account information.
/etc/gshadow Secure group account information.
/etc/default/useradd Default values for account creation.
/etc/skel/ Directory containing default files.
/etc/login.defs Shadow password suite configuration.

Exit status

useradd exits with the following status, depending on what occurred:

0 Everything was completed successfully.
1 Couldn't update the password file.
2 The syntax of the command was invalid.
3 One or more options were given an invalid argument.
4 User ID is already in use, and -o was not specified.
6 Specified group doesn't exist.
9 Username already in use.
10 Couldn't update the group file.
12 Couldn't create the home directory.
14 Couldn't update SE Linux user mapping.



For these commands to work you must have root privileges.

useradd -D

Displays the defaults for new users. Output resembles the following:

useradd newperson

Creates newperson as a new user. Once the new user is added, you would need to use the passwd command to assign a password to the account.

Once a user is created, you can modify any of the user settings, such as the user's home directory, using the usermod command.

groupadd — Add a group to the system.
passwd — Change a user's password.
userdel — Remove a user from the system.
usermod — Modify a user's account.