Going Linux

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Linux Concepts - Users and Permissions

Updated: 14-Nov-2008

If you have used Microsoft's Windows you may or may not know about user accounts. In this article we will introduce you to why these accounts are important. Some of this information will also help Windows users to understand the importance of user accounts.

Unlike Windows, Linux requires each user to have an account. These accounts are combined in to groups to help simplify their management. Members of a group can be given extra permissions that will help with the accessing files.

This article is the first in the Linux Concepts - Users, Permissions and Groups on the Going Linux site. The second article be found here: http://goinglinux.com/articles/Groups_en.htm

How Linux handles users

Linux has two categories of user. These categories determine what powers are available to a user.

The standard user has limited powers available to them. As a standard user, you are essentially restricted to working with files of your own creation. The other option for an account is "root." The root account enables you to do all most anything you want, to your system, as you will be administrating the system. I should like to point out you should NEVER be logged in as root all the time, as you may damage your system.

Every time Linux creates an account for a user it will create a directory for that account. For example, when we add a user named "paul," Linux creates a directory /home/paul. This is where all your files will be stored.

Passwords and account security

The password is the key part of protecting your computer. I would like to suggest that when choosing passwords, do not make them easy to guess. Stay away from using birthdays as passwords, as they will be easy to guess. Please note that Linux passwords are case sensitive. That means Linux will treat "Mypass" and "mypass" as different passwords. If you have spent a lot of time on Windows this may take a while to get used to.

This description has been a simplification of the concept of users. What you can actually do as a normal user largely depends on how your system is configured. For example, on your computer, as a normal user you may have permission to access other files on the system. However, the root user is the only one who is able to add new users to the system. When adding a user to a system you will be asked for your root i.d. and password. As you can see, it's never a good idea to have only the root user account.

I hope this has explained why Linux users tend not to like Windows and their user account system, which, by default makes every user the equivalent of root.

Author: Paul Hardy
Originally posted on the Going Linux website: http://goinglinux.com/articles/UsersAndPermissions_en.htm

Paul has granted you the right to reprint this article, but the title and content (including this notice) must remain unchanged and the author's name and contact information must be included.

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