userdel(8) — Linux manual page


USERDEL(8)             System Management Commands             USERDEL(8)

NAME         top

       userdel - delete a user account and related files

SYNOPSIS         top

       userdel [options] LOGIN

DESCRIPTION         top

       The userdel command modifies the system account files, deleting
       all entries that refer to the user name LOGIN. The named user
       must exist.

OPTIONS         top

       The options which apply to the userdel command are:

       -f, --force
           This option forces the removal of the user account, even if
           the user is still logged in. It also forces userdel to 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. If USERGROUPS_ENAB 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.

           Note: This option is dangerous and may leave your system in
           an inconsistent state.

       -h, --help
           Display help message and exit.

       -r, --remove
           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 manually.

           The mail spool is defined by the MAIL_DIR variable in the
           login.defs file.

       -R, --root CHROOT_DIR
           Apply changes in the CHROOT_DIR directory and use the
           configuration files from the CHROOT_DIR directory. Only
           absolute paths are supported.

       -P, --prefix PREFIX_DIR
           Apply changes in the PREFIX_DIR directory and use the
           configuration files from the PREFIX_DIR directory. This
           option does not chroot and is intended for preparing a
           cross-compilation target. Some limitations: NIS and LDAP
           users/groups are not verified. PAM authentication is using
           the host files. No SELINUX support.

       -Z, --selinux-user
           Remove any SELinux user mapping for the user's login.


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

       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.
           The parameter CREATE_MAIL_SPOOL in /etc/default/useradd
           determines whether the mail spool should be created.

       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

       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 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.

       USERDEL_CMD (string)
           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:

               #! /bin/sh

               # Check for the required argument.
               if [ $# != 1 ]; then
                    echo "Usage: $0 username"
                    exit 1

               # 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.
               lprm $1

               # All done.
               exit 0

       USERGROUPS_ENAB (boolean)
           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.

FILES         top

           Group account information.

           Shadow password suite configuration.

           User account information.

           Secure user account information.

           Run-part files to execute during user deletion. The
           environment variable ACTION will be populated with userdel
           and SUBJECT with the username.  userdel-pre.d will be
           executed prior to any user deletion.  userdel-post.d will
           execute after user deletion. If a script exits non-zero then
           execution will terminate.

           Per user subordinate group IDs.

           Per user subordinate user IDs.

EXIT VALUES         top

       The userdel 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

CAVEATS         top

       userdel 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.

       If USERGROUPS_ENAB is defined to yes in /etc/login.defs, userdel
       will delete the group with the same name as the user. To avoid
       inconsistencies in the passwd and group databases, userdel will
       check 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.

SEE ALSO         top

       chfn(1), chsh(1), passwd(1), login.defs(5), gpasswd(8),
       groupadd(8), groupdel(8), groupmod(8), subgid(5), subuid(5),
       useradd(8), usermod(8).

COLOPHON         top

       This page is part of the shadow-utils (utilities for managing
       accounts and shadow password files) project.  Information about
       the project can be found at 
       ⟨⟩.  If you have a bug
       report for this manual page, send it to  This page was obtained
       from the project's upstream Git repository
       ⟨⟩ on 2023-12-22.  (At that
       time, the date of the most recent commit that was found in the
       repository was 2023-12-15.)  If you discover any rendering
       problems in this HTML version of the page, or you believe there
       is a better or more up-to-date source for the page, or you have
       corrections or improvements to the information in this COLOPHON
       (which is not part of the original manual page), send a mail to

shadow-utils 4.11.1            12/22/2023                     USERDEL(8)

Pages that refer to this page: getsubids(1)newgidmap(1)newuidmap(1)subgid(5)subuid(5)groupadd(8)groupdel(8)groupmems(8)groupmod(8)useradd(8)usermod(8)