userdel - delete a user account and related files
is a low level utility for removing users. On Debian,
administrators should usually use deluser
command modifies the system account files, deleting all
entries that refer to the user name LOGIN
. The named user must exist.
The options which apply to the userdel
This option forces the removal of the user
account, even if the user is still logged in. It also forces userdel
remove the user's home directory and mail spool, even if another user uses the
same home directory or if the mail spool is not owned by the specified user.
is defined to yes
in /etc/login.defs and if a
group exists with the same name as the deleted user, then this group will be
removed, even if it is still the primary group of another user.
This option is dangerous and may leave your system in an
Display help message and exit.
Files in the user's home directory will be
removed along with the home directory itself and the user's mail spool. Files
located in other file systems will have to be searched for and deleted
The mail spool is defined by the MAIL_DIR
variable in the login.defs
, --root CHROOT_DIR
Apply changes in the CHROOT_DIR
directory and use the configuration files from the CHROOT_DIR
Remove any SELinux user mapping for the user's
The following configuration variables in /etc/login.defs change the behavior of
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.
Defines the location of the users mail spool
files relatively to their home directory.
variables are used by useradd
, and userdel
to create, move, or delete the user's mail
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 GID).
The default value is 0, meaning that there are no limits in the number of
members in a group.
This feature (split group) permits 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 in the Shadow
toolsuite). You should not use this variable unless you really need it.
If defined, this command is run when removing
a user. It should remove any at/cron/print jobs etc. owned by the user to be
removed (passed as the first argument).
The return code of the script is not taken into account.
Here is an example script, which removes the user's cron, at and print jobs:
# Check for the required argument.
if [ $# != 1 ]; then
echo "Usage: $0 username"
# Remove cron jobs.
crontab -r -u $1
# Remove at jobs.
# Note that it will remove any jobs owned by the same UID,
# even if it was shared by a different username.
find $AT_SPOOL_DIR -name "[^.]*" -type f -user $1 -delete \;
# Remove print jobs.
# All done.
If set to yes, userdel will
remove the user's group if it contains no more members, and useradd
will create by default a group with the name of the user.
Group account information.
Shadow password suite configuration.
User account information.
Secure user account information.
Per user subordinate group IDs.
Per user subordinate user IDs.
command exits with the following values:
can't update password file
invalid command syntax
specified user doesn't exist
user currently logged in
can't update group file
can't remove home directory
will not allow you to remove an account if there are running
processes which belong to this account. In that case, you may have to kill
those processes or lock the user's password or account and remove the account
later. The -f
option can force the deletion of this account.
You should manually check all file systems to ensure that no files remain owned
by this user.
You may not remove any NIS attributes on a NIS client. This must be performed on
the NIS server.
is defined to yes
will delete the group with the same name as the user. To avoid
inconsistencies in the passwd and group databases, userdel
that this group is not used as a primary group for another user, and will just
warn without deleting the group otherwise. The -f
option can force the
deletion of this group.