FreeBSD Reset or Recover Root Password

Posted on in Categories FreeBSD, Howto, Tips, Troubleshooting, UNIX last updated December 6, 2006

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.

Posted by: Vivek Gite

The author is the creator of nixCraft and a seasoned sysadmin and a trainer for the Linux operating system/Unix shell scripting. He has worked with global clients and in various industries, including IT, education, defense and space research, and the nonprofit sector. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+.

22 comment

  1. 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
    sync;sync

    Hit CTRL+D.

    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.

  2. 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.

    Tamayekiyan.

  3. 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).

  4. 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

  5. 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.

    1. 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)

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