Everybody seemed very confused by the story and extra information I gave so I will simply ask a very straightforward question. Irrespective of your personal opinion on the utility of doing so; how does a person change the root password?

Also, the apple help page that I linked originally, and that some of you additionally linked to does not actually say how to change the root password, it only says that it can be done.

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    Do you want to change the root password (as in Unix) or the password of the Administrator account? – nohillside Jan 25 '13 at 17:46
  • I want to change the root password. – AdamRedwine Jan 25 '13 at 17:53
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    I'm with patrix on this one. It's difficult to see how changing a root password helps you sort out the mess. There are utilities for changing account passwords and "root" isn't generally used for Mac administration purposes. – jaberg Jan 25 '13 at 18:00
  • FWIW, I would recommend just format the drive and reinstall the OS. It's the least time-consuming way of removing all the cruft. I also concur with patrix and jaberg: I'm not sure why you would need to enable the root account or change its password; you don't normally need it (says a guy with four macs on the network and one of them with OS X server). – Alan Shutko Jan 25 '13 at 18:37
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    I think it goes without saying, disabling the root user is far better than having a secure root password since no ability to log in as or use root trumps all cases where you can try to keep one step ahead of someone guessing your root password once you set one. – bmike Jan 28 '13 at 17:36

If you can already log in on an account with administrator privileges (normal OS X account) and know its login password, you can reset the passwords of other admin accounts in System Preferences > Accounts. If you can't, you can reset the passwords of admin accounts in single user mode. See this question.

If you actually mean the password of the root user, it can be changed from /System/Library/CoreServices/Directory Utility.app/, but you have to be logged in on an admin account and know its login password.


If you don't have the password to the current admin account, there'll be no way to reset anything without a) calling your dad and asking for the old admin password, or b) restarting the computer in an alternate mode of some sort.

However, to expand on what @patrix and @jaberg said, you should not reset (/set) the root password. Resetting the root password is both more difficult and less useful than resetting a regular admin account's password. On OS X, the root account is generally disabled for login because you do not need (or want) to log into it. If you need to do root-like things in the GUI, there may be a padlock to click on & then enter your admin name & password, or you may just be prompted directly. At the command line, you can run commands as root with sudo (note that it'll prompt for your admin password, not the root password).

You can either change the password to your dad's admin account (in System Preferences -> Users & Groups), or create a new clean admin account for yourself (also System Preferences -> Users & Groups, then click the padlock and authenticate with your dad's admin password, then click "+", choose "Administrator" from the New Account pop-up menu, enter the rest of the account info you want).

You may still run into other leftover password issues, like the Apple ID account & password that was used to buy apps from the App Store; this has nothing to do with local accounts on your computer, so the root/admin/etc passwords are irrelevant here.

  • I appreciate the information that the sudo command requests the admin password and not the root password. Nonetheless, I would downvote this answer (if I had the rep to do so) because it does not actually answer the question. Irrespective of what your personal opinion on whether or not it is good to change the root password, the question was, how do you do it. So far, the answers you all are giving me are exactly what I've come to expect from Mac; "This is how you should do things and if you don't like it, tough luck." This is why I don't buy macs. – AdamRedwine Jan 25 '13 at 19:32
  • Ways to change the root password are in some of the answers by now. Nevertheless there is hardly a reason to use the root account on OS X so don't be too surprised if you get answers which (for all practical purposes) get you all the benefits of being root. If in a bind you can always run sudo -s. – nohillside Jan 25 '13 at 22:11
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    @AdamRedwine: I can understand your frustration, but I'll stick with my answer. Thing is, you said your goal is to clean up the password mess, and want to set a root password as a step towards that goal. But setting a root password doesn't get you any closer to that goal - it actually takes you further from it by adding yet another password to the mess. Essentially, you're in a hole and have asked for help digging yourself in deeper, and I'm giving advice instead of handing you a shovel. – Gordon Davisson Jan 25 '13 at 22:38

If you have Admin on the box try this in a terminal window:

Adminuser$ sudo passwd root

Adminuser$ Password (enter your Admin password)

Adminuser$ Changing password for root.

New Password: *****

Retype New Password: *****

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    I have learned so much from this post going through all the ways how not to change the root password until the last post. I, too, have reasons to change the root password so thank you chip for finally posting the direct answer to the question and good luck Adam. – user55563 Aug 21 '13 at 18:11

Root is deactivated by default, so no need to activate it or change the password. If you run Lion (10.7) or Mountain Lion (10.8) (you don't mention that - or I overlooked it) restart the Mac and boot using the recovery disc (hold down the option or alt key). There you can use the password utility to change the password of every account (including admins). This doesn't work if FileFault is on. But if you are lucky, then you can set a new password for the account of your father / brother.

  • Most useful answer I've come across so far. Thanks. Unfortunately, I do not have a recovery disc. I was given the Mac mini and a couple of peripherals like a USB hub, a harddrive (missing a power cord), a keyboard, and a mouse. I realize most mac users get all of their stuff shiny and new, but I'm trying to rehab an old system with very few tools available to me. – AdamRedwine Jan 25 '13 at 19:32
  • Which OS version you had on your Mini 10.6, 10.7, 10.8 ... the recovery disc is a partition of the internal harddisk (only 10.7 and 10.8). – NaWi at Mac Jan 25 '13 at 20:19

Have you tried to eg. Google with the words "os x enable root" ??

If you have, then you'll get a link to Apple's description - http://support.apple.com/kb/ht1528 - about enable/disable the root user - and you reset the password at the same place.

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    Nope, that page does not describe how to change the root password as I asked; it only describes how to enable it. I did, in fact, link to exactly that page in my original question and explained why it wasn't satisfactory. – AdamRedwine Jan 26 '13 at 11:19

Here you go. Note that the procedure is different depending on the OS you are running.


There are, or at least were, valid reasons for needing the root user enabled. I was writing kernel level USB drivers and this was needed for development. Since I stopped writing USB drivers I have not had a need for this.

Good Luck.

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    Nope, that page does not describe how to change the root password as I asked; it only describes how to enable it. I did, in fact, link to exactly that page in my original question and explained why it wasn't satisfactory. – AdamRedwine Jan 26 '13 at 11:20

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