su - run a shell with substitute user and group IDs
su [-flmp] [-c command] [-s shell] [--login] [--fast] [--preserve-environment] [--command=command] [--shell=shell] [-] [--help] [--version] [user [arg...]]
This documentation is no longer being maintained and may be inaccurate or incomplete. The Texinfo documentation is now the authoritative source. This manual page documents the GNU version of su. su allows one user to temporarily become another user. It runs a shell with the real and effective user ID, group ID, and supplemental groups of USER. If no USER is given, the default is root, the super-user. The shell run is taken from USER's password entry, or /bin/sh if none is specified there. If USER has a password, su prompts for the password unless run by a user with real user ID 0 (the super-user). By default, su does not change the current directory. It sets the environment variables `HOME' and `SHELL' from the password entry for USER, and if USER is not the super- user, sets `USER' and `LOGNAME' to USER. By default, the shell is not a login shell. If one or more ARGs are given, they are passed as addi tional arguments to the shell. su does not handle /bin/sh or other shells specially (set ting argv to "-su", passing -c only to certain shells, etc.). On systems that have syslog, su can be compiled to report failed, and optionally successful, su attempts using sys log. This program does not support a "wheel group" that restricts who can su to super-user accounts, because that can help fascist system administrators hold unwarranted power over other users. OPTIONS -c COMMAND, --command=COMMAND Pass COMMAND, a single command line to run, to the shell with a -c option instead of starting an interactive shell. -f, --fast Pass the -f option to the shell. This probably only makes sense with csh and tcsh, for which the -f option prevents reading the startup file (.cshrc). With Bourne-like shells, the -f option disables filename pattern expansion, which is not a generally desirable thing to do. --help Print a usage message on standard output and exit successfully. -, -l, --login Make the shell a login shell. This means the fol lowing. Unset all environment variables except `TERM', `HOME', and `SHELL' (which are set as described above), and `USER' and `LOGNAME' (which are set, even for the super-user, as described above), and set `PATH' to a compiled-in default value. Change to USER's home directory. Prepend "-" to the shell's name, to make it read its login startup file(s). -m, -p, --preserve-environment Do not change the environment variables `HOME', `USER', `LOGNAME', or `SHELL'. Run the shell given in the environment variable `SHELL' instead of USER's shell from /etc/passwd, unless the user run ning su is not the superuser and USER's shell is restricted. A restricted shell is one that is not listed in the file /etc/shells, or in a compiled-in list if that file does not exist. Parts of what this option does can be overridden by --login and --shell. -s, --shell shell Run SHELL instead of USER's shell from /etc/passwd, unless the user running su is not the superuser and USER's shell is restricted. --version Print version information on standard output then exit successfully.
Why GNU su does not support the wheel group (by Richard Stallman)
Sometimes a few of the users try to hold total power over all the rest. For example, in 1984, a few users at the MIT AI lab decided to seize power by changing the operator password on the Twenex system and keeping it secret from everyone else. (I was able to thwart this coup and give power back to the users by patching the kernel, but I wouldn't know how to do that in Unix.) However, occasionally the rulers do tell someone. Under the usual su mechanism, once someone learns the root pass word who sympathizes with the ordinary users, he can tell the rest. The "wheel group" feature would make this impossible, and thus cement the power of the rulers. I'm on the side of the masses, not that of the rulers. If you are used to supporting the bosses and sysadmins in whatever they do, you might find this idea strange at first.
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