Mac OS X and root access

Q: I'm developing on Mac OS X, and some tasks such as running kextload require me to have root privileges. But when I try the usual UNIX command su root the system rejects my password. How can I get root access on Mac OS X?

A: The client version of Mac OS X ships with the root account disabled. This is an intentional security feature to limit the support problems that could arise from casual use of the root user's privileges. However, it is sometimes necessary for developers to obtain root privileges, such as when developing kernel extensions.

There are a couple of ways to obtain root privileges. The best approach is especially good for those situations where you need only occasional access to root privileges and you wish to maintain the security of your system. In this case, use the sudo command in Terminal to either execute a single command as root or to get a root login prompt. Details are in the man page for sudo.

The other option is to permanently enable the root account. This approach might make sense on development systems where there is a frequent need for root privileges. Detailed instructions are given in this support article.

Document Revision History

Date Notes
2008-09-16 Modernized and made minor editorial changes.
2001-03-13 Describes how to enable root access in Mac OS X.

Posted: 2008-09-16

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