Linux Change or Rename User Name and UID (user-id)

September 8, 2019

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How do I change user name (rename user name) or UID under a Linux operating system using command line tools?

You need to use the usermod command to change user name under a Linux operating systems. This command modifies the system account files to reflect the changes that are specified on the command line. Do not edit /etc/passwd file by hand or using a text editor such as vi.


The syntax is as follows to rename by user name:

usermod -l login-name old-name

  • The name of the user will be changed from the old-name to login_name. Nothing else is changed. In particular, the user’s home directory name should probably be changed to reflect the new login name.

The syntax is as follows to rename by a UID (user ID):
usermod -u UID username


  • The numerical value of the user’s ID (UID) . This value must be unique unless the -o option is used. The value must be non-negative. Values between 0 and 99 are typically reserved for system accounts. Any files which the user owns and which are located in the directory tree rooted at the user’s home directory will have the file user ID changed automatically. Files outside of the user’s home directory must be altered

Examples – Linux Change or Rename User Name and UID

Let us see how to rename user login. First, make sure user name is not logged into the server and any other process is not running under the same user name. I also recommend that you backup any data or server files before changing user names.

Task: View current user and group membership for user named tom

First get user identity using the id command:
id tom
Next use the grep command to grab login info about user named tom from the /etc/passwd file
grep '^tom:' /etc/passwd
See group info about user named tom using the groups command:
grep 'tom' /etc/group
groups tom

Find home directory permissions for user named tom, run the following ls command:
ls -ld /home/tom/
Finally, see all Linux process owned by user and group named tom using the ps command:
ps aux | grep tom
ps -u tom

Fig.01: Getting info about user named ‘tom’ on a Linux based system

Task: Change username from tom to jerry on Linux

Type the usermod command as follows:
# id tom
# usermod -l jerry tom
## Verify ###
# id tom
# id jerry
# ls -ld /home/tom

A note about running process

You may see an error as follows if tom is logged in and running jobs:

# usermod -l jerry tom
usermod: user tom is currently used by process 6886

You need to kill all Linux process owned by user named tom and forcefully logged them out of the system:

# pkill -u tom pid
# pkill -9 -u tom
# usermod -l jerry tom

Task: Change primary groupname from tom to jerry

Type the usermod command as follows:
# id tom
# groupmod -n jerry tom
## Verify it ###
# id tom
# ls -ld /home/tom

Sample outputs:

Fig.02: Sample session renaming user on a Linux based server

How to change user home directory from /home/tom/ to /home/jerry

The syntax is as follows:
# usermod -d /home/jerry -m jerry
# id jerry
# ls -ld /home/jerry

Sample outputs:

uid=1001(jerry) gid=1001(jerry) groups=1001(jerry)
drwxr-xr-x 2 jerry jerry 4096 Apr 21 15:53 /home/jerry/

How to change user tom UID from 5001 to 10000

Type the usermod command as follows:
# id tom
# usermod -u 10000 tom
# id tom

Read man pages of usermod(8) and groupmod(8) commands for more information.

Posted by: SXI ADMIN

The author is the creator of SXI LLC and a seasoned sysadmin, DevOps engineer, and a trainer for the Linux operating system/Unix shell scripting. Get the latest tutorials on SysAdmin, Linux/Unix and open source topics via RSS/XML feed or weekly email newsletter.