FreeBSD Reset or Recover Root Password

by on December 6, 2006 · 22 comments· LAST UPDATED April 9, 2011

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With FreeBSD version 5.4 and above the booting procedure is slightly changed. The older version of FreeBSD uses the boot -s option at Ok prompt. However, with FreeBSD version FreeBSD 5.4+ you don't have to type any commands. Here is the procedure to boot FreeBSD into a single user mode to reset root password.

In this tip I will explain how to boot FreeBSD into a single user mode to reset root password.

Procedure: Reset FreeBSD root user password

Step # 1: Start FreeBSD server/workstation.

Step # 2: Press Enter key at boot loader.

At Welcome to FreeBSD! boot menu press spacebar key to pause default booting

Type number 4 key (type 4 number) to boot into single user mode

(click to enlarge)

Next you will see the following prompt from system:
When prompted Enter full pathname of shell or RETURN for /bin/sh:

Press Enter key to boot into a single user mode. Next, you will be immediately dropped into a single user mode without a root password.

You need to remount / (root) file system in read and write mode with mount command, type the following commands:
# mount -u /
# mount -a

Setup a new password with the passwd command for root user:
# passwd

Next type exit command to boot FreeBSD into multi-user mode environment:
# exit
OR You can just reboot the system:
# sync;sync
# reboot

For more information see man pages of passwd and mount commands.

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{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

1 tamayekiyan March 16, 2007 at 9:47 am

Dear Vivik:

I can execute this instruction with version 6 but doesn’t work with lower versions.

Is there any site that you can provide.



2 nixCraft March 16, 2007 at 7:17 pm

FreeBSD 4.x/5.x

Allow FreeBSD to boot system and mount file system
mount -u /

if /usr is on separate partition, mount /usr too:
mount /usr

Now change password
passwd root


Note that if the console was set as insecure in
/etc/ttys file. If so you will need to boot from a CD / floppy into fixit mode. Next mount your hard-disk read-write to continue the repair.


3 tamayekiyan March 17, 2007 at 3:20 am

Dear nixcraft:

I booted with freebsd 6.1 cd and proceed to sysinstall. I selected FIXIT and I got a root prompt at vty4.

I have done the above instruction, after typing a command in the root # prompt; the system says: command not found.

then I typed mount -u / – still i got command not found error. If i type ls, it will display command not found as well. If I type pwd – system say / (currently in the root directory).

Am able to cd change directory to /usr and other subdirectory with no problems but mounting such device/directory – I have no luck at all.

looking forward for your advises.



4 Artak September 8, 2010 at 10:56 am

I’ve had the same problem, but when tried

/sbin/mount -u /

it worked!


5 andrei November 12, 2007 at 8:55 pm

i followed the stept and it’s telling me that /usr was not properly dismounted

help pls!!!


6 PAVIlIOnX March 24, 2008 at 9:44 pm

i was follow all steps, but when i put in console the command “passwd” or “passwd root”, return me
passwd: unknown user root.

Please!!! help me!!!!!


7 bleuken July 6, 2008 at 4:52 pm

Thanks for this post! I’m glad that I can use this to my problem on FreeBSD. I really forgot my password and I need to access the root (it’s the only user for the server and I need to fix it).


8 MihaKot June 4, 2009 at 9:16 am

When i boot in single mode
he ask me password for root or press ^D to go multi user.
Can help?


9 Kupai September 8, 2009 at 7:17 pm

How can I protect myself against others who want to get root privileges this way?


10 nixCraft September 9, 2009 at 4:29 am

Password protect FreeBSD boot loader


11 Odkhuu March 12, 2010 at 1:47 am

Dont change password
pwd_mkdb: warning, unknown root shell


12 Anonymous June 3, 2010 at 7:43 am

Helped me. Thank you.


13 woronti June 25, 2010 at 7:18 am

Thanks for the post. It saved me alot of headache


14 jay1 March 14, 2011 at 10:53 am

Thanks a lot


15 Paulo April 21, 2011 at 8:48 pm

Thanks, it worked ;-)


16 Deb May 13, 2012 at 3:49 am

It worked like a champ! Thank you !

Now, I am facing with another issue.
This freebsd6.0 VM is not taking DHCP address automatically.
Any cool trick from any one ? Thanks


17 Didzis May 29, 2012 at 11:12 am

Thanks a lot
Helped me.


18 SHANE July 20, 2012 at 4:12 am

I am runnyg freebsd 8.2 on VM. i cant remember my login name. I do have root acces but only readable not writeable. I havent used this machine since november. i am also a newbie at this as well. any advice would be gladly appreciated. thanks in advance.


19 Chrome August 28, 2012 at 7:04 am

It works! Thank you so much! :X
But…. when i boot the option 4th, i had to write “fsck -y”


20 RRR September 7, 2012 at 12:08 am

I got an error

passwd : pam_chauthtok(): error in service module

Please help


21 jim September 17, 2012 at 5:35 pm

make sure you have mounted read/write. If the file system is not clean you nead to run fsck prior to running the mount -a command. I got the same error as a result of bad mount (ie read only mount)


22 mori August 14, 2014 at 6:54 am

many thanks jim for your hint about run the fck


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