PASSWD(5) File Formats Manual PASSWD(5)

passwd, master.passwdformat of the password file

The /etc/passwd file is a legacy BSD 4.3 format file. It is mostly unused, but is updated by some utility programs. Its format is similar to the /etc/master.passwd file, except that it does not contain the class, change, and expire fields described below.

The /etc/master.passwd file comprises newline separated records, one per user. Each line contains ten colon (``:'') separated fields. These fields are as follows:

User's login name.
User's encrypted password.
User's id.
User's login group id.
User's general classification (unused).
Password change time.
Account expiration time.
User's full name.
User's home directory.
User's login shell.

The name field is the login used to access the computer account, and the uid field is the number associated with it. They should both be unique across the system (and often across a group of systems) since they control file access.

While it is possible to have multiple entries with identical login names and/or identical user id's, it is usually a mistake to do so. Routines that manipulate these files will often return only one of the multiple entries, and that one by random selection.

The login name must never begin with a hyphen (``-''); also, it is strongly suggested that neither upper-case characters or dots (``.'') be part of the name, as this tends to confuse mailers. No field may contain a colon (``:'') as this has been used historically to separate the fields in the user database.

The password field is the encrypted form of the password. If the password field is empty, no password will be required to gain access to the machine. This is almost invariably a mistake. Because these files contain the encrypted user passwords, they should not be readable by anyone without appropriate privileges.

The group field is the group that the user will be placed in upon login. Since this system supports multiple groups (see groups(1)) this field currently has little special meaning.

The class field is currently unused.

The change field is the number in seconds, GMT, from the epoch, until the password for the account must be changed. This field may be left empty to turn off the password aging feature.

The expire field is the number in seconds, GMT, from the epoch, until the account expires. This field may be left empty to turn off the account aging feature.

The gecos field normally contains the user's full name. Note that Mac OS X differs from some other operating systems, where the gecos field may contain other comma-separcted information about the user.

The home_dir field is the user's home directory. This is the full path name where the user will be placed on login.

The shell field is the command interpreter the user prefers. If there is nothing in the shell field, the Bourne shell (/bin/sh) is assumed.

Processes generally find user records using one of the getpwent(3) family of functions. On Mac OS X, these functions interact with the DirectoryService(8) daemon, which reads the /etc/master.passwd file as well as searching other directory information services to find user accounts.


chpass(1), login(1), passwd(1), getpwent(3), netgroup(5), DirectoryService(8), pwd_mkdb(8), vipw(8)

A passwd file format appeared in Version 6 AT&T UNIX.

July 18, 1995 macOS 14.4