It's known that all users are members of the 'staff' group. If you setup a standard user and create any file, a list of that file in the terminal with 'ls -la' shows the user group to be 'staff'.

Using the dscacheutil command, we can see information about groups. For example: -

dscacheutil -q group -a name admin

This returns information about the admin group, including all the members.

However, when used to look at the 'staff' group, I expected to see standard users as members of the group, but this is not the case: -

dscacheutil -q group -a name staff

name: staff
password: *
gid: 20
users: root

So, if all standard users are members in the staff group, why do they not appear here?

Is there another command which can show the real members of the staff group?

  • 7
    Great question. I'll probably want to bounty this if it doesn't get enough attention. I was thinking it was somehow coded to only show the primary group members, but all my named users (above hid 500) are all primary group as staff and still not listed by the cache util as in the group (where oddly root with GID of wheel is listed...) Odd sauce indeed...
    – bmike
    May 14, 2014 at 14:32
  • Thanks @bmike, interestingly, the same can be seen in the Directory Utility app, which is in /System/Library/CoreServices. May 14, 2014 at 14:42
  • Oh I thought that only root was a member of staff. Like /etc/group shows: staff:*:20:root May 14, 2014 at 15:58
  • @ScottWalter, admin users are members of 'staff' and 'admin' while non-admin are members of only the 'staff' group. See the section "Owner, group, Others" here: support.apple.com/kb/HT2963 May 14, 2014 at 16:03
  • Also see Repair disk permissions with Disk Utility.
    – user83961
    Sep 7, 2018 at 18:25

3 Answers 3


There's only one reliable way to get all members of a group in OS X and the reply from 2DD8847 covers that. As for "why" I can't offer a logical explanation. All I can tell you is what differentiates the results.

These approaches fail to include users that are only members of the group via PrimaryGroupID. One way to think of it is that these users not listed weren't officially added to the staff group. They were just given a PrimaryGroupID that matches the staff gid. Therefore they're not officially listed with some commands. I know, it's absurd.


dscl . -read /Groups/[groupname]
dscl . -read /Groups/[groupname] GroupMembership
dscacheutil -q group -a name [groupname]


dscl . -list /Users PrimaryGroupID | grep [gid]

All I can really tell you is that without looking up group members by their PrimaryGroupID (instead of listing members of a group) it won't give you complete results. Chalk it up to the oddities of Unix. There are many.

Hope that helps!


  • "these users not listed weren't officially added to the staff group. They were just given a PrimaryGroupID that matches the staff gid" - Now that makes sense. I wonder if there's a valid security attack vector with this; if it's possible to set a user's PrimaryGroupId without actually adding them to the admin group, would that give them admin rights? I shall investigate. May 15, 2014 at 9:07
  • I didn't mean to suggest anything is wrong. Don't worry, staff members do not have admin rights on your machine. In OS X almost everything has the owner set to staff, but remember that other permissions override the misuse of this reality. Every user folder is "readable" by every other user, but inside every user folder you'll see individual item is set to have read access revoked. So /Users/username/Desktop has user everyone set to No Access - It's not clean permission management, but it works and you're secure.
    – selliott
    May 15, 2014 at 17:13
  • 8
    Maybe you meant Chalk it up to the oddities of OS X. There are many. Mar 12, 2016 at 22:17
  • i was looking at a disc from another machine and yeah, the usernames get renamed, i became "steve" as user 502 or maybe 501. anyhow. my theory is that "staff" should probably have been called "macosx" and it's used by the Finder to do "rooty" stuff on the regular users behalf. just a random theory.
    – Tomachi
    Sep 24, 2018 at 8:26
  • 2
    @Tomachi staff could not be macosx it was set up any years before OsX when the system was NeXT
    – mmmmmm
    Nov 19, 2018 at 14:32

What exactly do you want to achieve/do?

This command lists all users in the staff group:

dscl . -list /Users PrimaryGroupID | grep ' 20$'


Explanation: The staff group has the PrimaryGroupID of 20.

  • I'm trying to understand why the staff group doesn't show its member list via dscacheutil and the Directory Utility. My main goal is to retrieve the list of members from a group using C++, without calling a separate process. During this process, I came across the issue of the group not displaying its members and I want to know why this is the case. May 14, 2014 at 15:43
  • Why dscacheutil doesn't list the staff group...i don't know. developer.apple.com/library/mac/documentation/Darwin/Reference/… It's an implementation, and somehow they decided not to show them.
    – ohboy21
    May 14, 2014 at 15:47
  • 2
    Sorry, but saying "it's an implementation" and linking to the man pages of dscacheutil does not answer the question. May 14, 2014 at 15:49
  • For C++, you can call a shell function. I found this site very helpful: blog.earth-works.com/2012/09/13/… I don't think there is any reason why they don't show it. They built a function and you are missing something..what should i say. They prevent you from showing you the members because they like it?
    – ohboy21
    May 14, 2014 at 15:50
  • 2
    Calling a shell function spawns a separate process. For various reasons, this is not viable for the project I'm working on. I'm now looking at the Identity Services: developer.apple.com/library/mac/documentation/networking/… May 14, 2014 at 15:55

Why everyone here sticks to those cumbersome dscl and dscacheutil commands?

Why not use the much simpler id command (and its even simpler group friend command) ?

id - Gn <user> 

will give you what you want for any Mac user, including those 50x "normal" Mac users.


> id -Gn 501     staff everyone localaccounts
_appserverusr admin _appserveradm _lpadmin com.apple.sharepoint.group.2 com.apple.sharepoint.group.1 _appstore
_lpoperator _developer _analyticsusers com.apple.access_ftp com.apple.access_screensharing com.apple.access_ssh com.apple.access_remote_ae

or, if you want the group ids instead:

> id -G myusername
20 12 61 79 80 81 98 702 701 33 100 204 250 395 398 399 400
  • 2
    How can this be used to show all users which are part of the group staff?
    – nohillside
    Dec 30, 2020 at 13:32
  • Now I see I got it upside down... you can easily see the groups (first is the primary group) of a specific user, but these commands can't do it over all users. Dec 30, 2020 at 15:49

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