Apparently I can't sudo on my Mac any more.

Piers-MacBook-Air:~ piersb$ sudo ls
Sorry, user piersb is not allowed to execute '/bin/ls' as root on Piers-MacBook-Air.local.
Piers-MacBook-Air:~ piersb$ 

It worked before the most recent El Capitan update (the upgrade to 10.11.4), and I'm on a mid-2013 MacBook Air. The account is an admin account, and I was able to sudo before then. My first thought was to add myself into /etc/sudoers but, haha, of course you need sudo for that.

Piers-MacBook-Air:~ piersb$ ls -al /etc/sudoers
-r--r-----  1 root  wheel  272  5 Apr 11:15 /etc/sudoers
Piers-MacBook-Air:~ piersb$ groups
staff com.apple.sharepoint.group.1 everyone localaccounts _appserverusr admin _appserveradm _lpadmin _appstore _lpoperator _developer com.apple.access_ftp com.apple.access_screensharing com.apple.access_ssh

I'm able to create a new admin user, but that user has the same problem.

Piers-MacBook-Air:~ testuser$ sudo ls

We trust you have received the usual lecture from the local System
Administrator. It usually boils down to these three things:

#1) Respect the privacy of others.
#2) Think before you type.
#3) With great power comes great responsibility.

Sorry, user testuser is not allowed to execute '/bin/ls' as root on 

So. How do I give myself access to sudo again? And is this a common problem?


Looks like it only co-incidentally appeared at the 10.11.4 update; the problem was actually when I installed vagrant. Somewhere along the line either I or a script I used overwrote /etc/sudoers with the following rather than appending it:

Cmnd_Alias VAGRANT_EXPORTS_ADD = /usr/bin/tee -a /etc/exports
Cmnd_Alias VAGRANT_NFSD = /sbin/nfsd restart
Cmnd_Alias VAGRANT_EXPORTS_REMOVE = /usr/bin/sed -E -e /*/ d -ibak /etc/exports

So /etc/sudoers was toast. Here's how to fix it if this happens to you.

  • Go to System Preferences
  • Go to Users & Groups
  • Click on the lock
  • Authenticate with an admin account
  • Choose Network Account Server: Join...
  • Click Open Directory Utility
  • Click on the lock
  • Authenticate with an admin account
  • Choose Edit / Enable Root User
  • Choose a root password
  • Open a Terminal
  • Type su
  • Type your root password and hit return
  • Type visudo

You should now be safely editing /etc/sudoers. Or at least as safely you as you can do anything while logged in as root.

Replace whatever nonsense you have in there with a properly safe file. Here's the one I used:

# This file MUST be edited with the 'visudo' command as root.
# Failure to use 'visudo' may result in syntax or file permission errors
# that prevent sudo from running.
# See the sudoers man page for the details on how to write a sudoers file.

# Host alias specification

# User alias specification

# Cmnd alias specification

# Defaults specification
Defaults    env_reset
Defaults    env_keep += "BLOCKSIZE"
Defaults    env_keep += "COLORFGBG COLORTERM"
Defaults    env_keep += "__CF_USER_TEXT_ENCODING"
Defaults    env_keep += "LINES COLUMNS"
Defaults    env_keep += "LSCOLORS"
Defaults    env_keep += "SSH_AUTH_SOCK"
Defaults    env_keep += "TZ"
Defaults    env_keep += "EDITOR VISUAL"
Defaults    env_keep += "HOME MAIL"

# Runas alias specification

# User privilege specification
root    ALL=(ALL) ALL
%admin  ALL=(ALL) ALL

# Uncomment to allow people in group wheel to run all commands
# %wheel    ALL=(ALL) ALL

# Same thing without a password
# %wheel    ALL=(ALL) NOPASSWD: ALL

# Samples
# %users  ALL=/sbin/mount /cdrom,/sbin/umount /cdrom
# %users  localhost=/sbin/shutdown -h now
  • Hit ESC, then type :wq! to save and quit the file
  • type exit to get out of the root shell
  • Go back to Directory Utilities
  • Choose Edit/Disable Root User

And - huzzah! - your sudo command should be back up-and-running again.

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