userdel - delete a user account and related files
The userdel command modifies the system account files, deleting all
entries that refer to the user name LOGIN. The named user must exist.
The options which apply to the userdel command are:
This option forces the removal of the user account, even
if the user is still logged in. It also forces userdel
to remove the
user's home directory and mail spool, even if another user uses the same home
directory or if the mail spool is not owned by the specified user. If
is defined to yes
in /etc/login.defs and if a
group exists with the same name as the deleted user, then this group will be
removed, even if it is still the primary group of another user.
Note: This option is dangerous and may leave your system in
an inconsistent state.
Display help message and exit.
Files in the user's home directory will be removed along
with the home directory itself and the user's mail spool. Files located in
other file systems will have to be searched for and deleted manually.
The mail spool is defined by the MAIL_DIR variable in the
-R, --root CHROOT_DIR
Apply changes in the CHROOT_DIR directory and use
the configuration files from the CHROOT_DIR directory.
-P, --prefix PREFIX_DIR
Apply changes in the PREFIX_DIR directory and use
the configuration files from the PREFIX_DIR directory. This option does
not chroot and is intended for preparing a cross-compilation target. Some
limitations: NIS and LDAP users/groups are not verified. PAM authentication is
using the host files. No SELINUX support.
Remove any SELinux user mapping for the user's
The following configuration variables in /etc/login.defs change the behavior of
The mail spool directory. This is needed to manipulate
the mailbox when its corresponding user account is modified or deleted. If not
specified, a compile-time default is used.
Defines the location of the users mail spool files
relatively to their home directory.
The MAIL_DIR and MAIL_FILE variables are used by
useradd, usermod, and userdel to create, move, or
delete the user's mail spool.
If MAIL_CHECK_ENAB is set to yes, they are also used
to define the MAIL environment variable.
Maximum members per group entry. When the maximum is
reached, a new group entry (line) is started in /etc/group (with the same
name, same password, and same GID).
The default value is 0, meaning that there are no limits in the
number of members in a group.
This feature (split group) permits to limit the length of lines in
the group file. This is useful to make sure that lines for NIS groups are
not larger than 1024 characters.
If you need to enforce such limit, you can use 25.
Note: split groups may not be supported by all tools (even in the
Shadow toolsuite). You should not use this variable unless you really need
If defined, this command is run when removing a user. It
should remove any at/cron/print jobs etc. owned by the user to be removed
(passed as the first argument).
The return code of the script is not taken into account.
Here is an example script, which removes the user's cron, at and
# Check for the required argument.
if [ $# != 1 ]; then
echo "Usage: $0 username"
# Remove cron jobs.
crontab -r -u $1
# Remove at jobs.
# Note that it will remove any jobs owned by the same UID,
# even if it was shared by a different username.
find $AT_SPOOL_DIR -name "[^.]*" -type f -user $1 -delete \;
# Remove print jobs.
# All done.
Enable setting of the umask group bits to be the same as
owner bits (examples: 022 -> 002, 077 -> 007) for non-root users, if the
uid is the same as gid, and username is the same as the primary group name.
If set to yes, userdel will remove the user's group
if it contains no more members, and useradd will create by default a
group with the name of the user.
Group account information.
Shadow password suite configuration.
User account information.
Secure user account information.
Per user subordinate group IDs.
Per user subordinate user IDs.
The userdel command exits with the following values:
can't update password file
invalid command syntax
specified user doesn't exist
user currently logged in
can't update group file
can't remove home directory
userdel will not allow you to remove an account if there are running
processes which belong to this account. In that case, you may have to kill
those processes or lock the user's password or account and remove the account
later. The -f option can force the deletion of this account.
You should manually check all file systems to ensure that no files
remain owned by this user.
You may not remove any NIS attributes on a NIS client. This must
be performed on the NIS server.
If USERGROUPS_ENAB is defined to yes in
/etc/login.defs, userdel will delete the group with the same name as
the user. To avoid inconsistencies in the passwd and group databases,
userdel will check that this group is not used as a primary group for
another user, and will just warn without deleting the group otherwise. The
-f option can force the deletion of this group.
chfn(1), chsh(1), passwd(1), login.defs(5),
gpasswd(8), groupadd(8), groupdel(8), groupmod(8),
subgid(5), subuid(5), useradd(8), usermod(8).