I already know that I need to tune /etc/sudoers file but I would like to see full information and also a solution that would not require me to use vi editor.

Update: never, ever try to edit the file with something else than visudo.

  • 2
    you can set the EDITOR env var while also using visudo:: sudo env EDITOR=nano visudo May 27, 2014 at 17:51

4 Answers 4


Run sudo visudo and add this line:

Defaults    timestamp_timeout=-1

See man 5 sudoers. -1 causes the password to never timeout. You may change the number to whatever you like in minutes.

The man page for sudo says that sudo -v "extends the sudo timeout for another 5 minutes".

Running 'sudo visudo' instead of editing the file directly causes the system to validate the sudoers file before it commits the changes. For instance, if you leave a stray character somwhere, when you save and exit, it will say "there is an error in the sudoers file, what would you like to do?" ... hence giving you a chance to go back in and edit. This actually just happened to me 10 minutes ago.

  • 23
    Yes, but visudo runs some basic sanity checks on the sudoers file before saving. If you mess up the file by using vi directly you may lock yourself out from using sudo making it very difficult to undo the change.
    – nohillside
    Apr 14, 2012 at 17:29
  • 5
    The privileges are like that on other systems, so nothing to do with Apple. visudo wraps around the system default editor (I would guess the root user default if the root has overridden the default), so has nothing to do with vi bar the name. On my system (not apple btw) I get nano. Try export EDITOR='/bin/nano' or whatever editor you like then use visudo.
    – Chris
    May 20, 2012 at 10:27
  • 4
    Um... You can't use root to correct it, because you can't get to root, because you've just stuffed up your sudo file... That's the whole point.
    – daviewales
    Mar 21, 2014 at 15:08
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    In a professional role you may have access to sudo but not have the root password. Your server may be in a datacenter across the country making it hard to access single user mode. But, if you were said professional, you probably wouldn't have the be given such warnings. The point is that you should learn from professionals. Don't look for ways to avoid forming good habits. Then we have to hear your frantic cries on Stack Exchange and IRC. Nov 29, 2016 at 19:56
  • 3
    (Maybe it's obvious to everyone, but adding): timestamp_timeout is in minutes, may include a fractional component.
    – user
    Sep 17, 2017 at 12:42

Be really careful about modifying /etc/sudoers directly!

For instance, I tried the above suggestion directly:

sudo sh -c 'echo "\nDefaults timestamp_timeout=-1">>/etc/sudoers'

which messed up my /etc/sudoers file (on a CentOS Virtualbox VM). Should have been:

sudo sh -c 'echo -e "\nDefaults timestamp_timeout=-1">>/etc/sudoers'

Fortunately, I had access to the root account, logged in as root, used visudo and repaired the problem! So, I agree w/ the above comments to use visudo instead.


All information for sudoers can be found from the terminal with the command

man sudoers

You can even user simple text to edit files, however the privs make that difficult. sudoers is -r--r----- (Octal 0440)

This indicates that Apple really doesn't want you messing with the file. This really is the core security of the OS.

Options for editing are vi, emacs, or my personal favourite BBEdit.

  • 6
    There is a reason those privileges are set. They are set in an attempt to force you to use visudo rather than editing the file yourself. Also, this has nothing to do with OS X. It's standard *nix. Also, if you want to use a non-default editor, just set the $EDITOR environment variable before calling visudo. e.g. EDITOR=nano sudo visudo.
    – daviewales
    Mar 21, 2014 at 15:13

Disable sudo timeout with this command:

sudo sh -c 'echo "\nDefaults timestamp_timeout=-1">>/etc/sudoers'

To re-enable sudo timeout with this method:

sudo sed -i "/Defaults timestamp_timeout=-1/d" /etc/sudoers
  • 13
    From the sudoers man page: The sudoers file should always be edited by the visudo command which locks the file and does grammatical checking. It is imperative that sudoers be free of syntax errors since sudo will not run with a syntactically incorrect sudoers file.
    – Matteo
    May 28, 2014 at 5:53
  • @Matteo Well you can do anything you like on your own property provided you are aware of the consequences. In some situations this is OK, for example I use it on fresh mac builds which have no valuable data on them as part of an automation script. I've suggested an edit to this answer to provide a warning. Ideally sudo should have a one-liner way to change this without having to edit a file!
    – samthebest
    Jul 3, 2017 at 10:06
  • 3
    Beware, this is dangerous advice. Use visudo instead. Jan 15, 2018 at 15:51

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