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(Originally posted on Stack Overflow. They suggested I try here instead. Here's the original post:

See title. I want a command that lets me query sudo. Ideally it would return success if I still have sudo and false if sudo has expired. Getting the time left might also be useful (although if I was concerned I could just do sudo -v to revalidate.) Oh and it shouldn't have to ask for a password.

The closest thing I've found is "sudo -n true", but the -n option is only present on my Centos 5 machine at work. -n fails if it has to ask for a password. Is there any other way to get this functionality? Assume I don't actually have root on all the machines I work with, so I can't install new versions of sudo to my liking.

For what it's worth I'm doing this so I can get my prompt to indicate sudo status. I like knowing which terminals are actively sudo-able. I also have a prompt that changes colors when I'm root, but I don't use root very often so that's of limited use.

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8 Answers 8

up vote 9 down vote accepted

The -n option is available in newer versions of sudo, but as you stated that's not an option. There's no real way to do what you're looking for short of just trying sudo and seeing if it comes back with a password. If your concern is you want a visual indication, why not start do sudo /bin/bash to start a root bash session? Note that this is insecure, but it's also somewhat insecure if someone realizes your prompt changes on sudo.

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+1 for the security ramifications of a visual indicator! – Dennis Williamson Oct 4 '10 at 19:50
That part hadn't occurred to me. What I'm hoping the indicator does is remind me to run sudo -K, instead of forgetting I left sudo active and leaving some potentially dangerous terminals open. Not that I often forget to lock my screen, but I like the extra insurance. – valadil Oct 4 '10 at 20:11
At the moment I'm leaning toward checking sudo -V, and if it's sufficiently new enough to have -n, checking -n to get the notification. Seems like it shouldn't break anything anywhere. – valadil Oct 4 '10 at 20:12
@valadil: It occurs to me that a subtle indicator wouldn't introduce too much security risk. Turn on underlining for the username in the prompt, for example. – Dennis Williamson Oct 4 '10 at 21:05
@Dennis: Exactly. I wasn't going to change my prompt into "OMG_YOU_HAVE_SUDO_NOW!_user@host" or something like that. I'd probably just change the color a little. I don't expect anybody to know what that means unless they sit down and get intimate with my .bashrc. – valadil Oct 4 '10 at 23:42


Acording to Bugzilla sudo Bug ID=590 the call to sudo -n true 2&>/dev/null ; echo $? will become buggy around sudo -V 1.7.10

Read Bugzilla [here]("Bug ID=590")

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The command below will show a colored indication that you have sudo granted, so you remember to do a sudo -k before going away from the machine. It is useful also on non colored terminals.

As we can have sudo active and inactive on different terminal sessions, I created this that you can put at the end of your ~/.bashrc

function FUNCpromptCommand () { 
    sudo -n uptime 2>/dev/null 1>/dev/null
  local bSudoOn=`if(($?==0));then echo true; else echo false; fi`

    history -a; # append to history at each command issued!!!
    local width=`tput cols`;
    local half=$((width/2))
    local dt="[EndAt:`date +"%Y/%m/%d-%H:%M:%S.%N"`]";
  if $bSudoOn; then dt="!!!SUDO!!!$dt"; fi
    local sizeDtHalf=$((${#dt}/2))
    #printf "%-${width}s" $dt |sed 's" "="g'; 
    output=`printf "%*s%*s" $((half+sizeDtHalf)) "$dt" $((half-sizeDtHalf)) "" |sed 's" "="g';`

    local colorLightRed="\e[1;31m"
  local colorNoColor="\e[0m"
    if $bSudoOn; then
        echo -e "${colorLightRed}${output}${colorNoColor}"
        echo -e "${output}"
export PROMPT_COMMAND=FUNCpromptCommand

At terminal type bash to test it. It will also add a whole line each time you execute a command, that has the information of the time the last command ended, so you can go lunch and know when the last command ended :).

You can play with this code to fit your needs. There is the PS1 variable also (that is the actual small prompt single line), but I think it is better to not mess with it.

PS.: for OS-X, look for the comment below by @nwinkler.

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Checking the exit code of sudo -n does not seem to work on OS X. See my question here:… – nwinkler Apr 17 at 15:38
well, the test I propose is sudo -n, do you believe there could have any other test that could be used to determine if user has sudo access active? or maybe OS-X requires some update? I never used OS-X btw. – Aquarius Power Apr 17 at 23:05
I'm using the latest version of OS X. It's possible that sudo -n on BSD (which OS X is based on) has a different behavior than the GNU version. I just added my comment to let people know that this version of the check does not seem to work on OS X. I have used a check from another answer (sudo -n uptime 2>&1|grep "load"|wc -l), and this seems to work fine on OS X. It's not as elegant, but it works. – nwinkler Apr 20 at 6:07
@nwinkler oh, so it actually depends on the output it generates (not the return value), interesting workaround – Aquarius Power Apr 20 at 22:24
@nwinkler but it is as near as possible. Or even better because sudo -n becomes buggy in sudo -V 1.7.9 – Marco M. von Hagen Jun 11 at 22:08

simple answer ...

sudo echo
if [[ "$isSudo" -ne 0 ]]; then
  echo "This script must be run by root or a sudo'er"
  exit 1

# do stuff

exit 0
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This will prompt for a password, if the user doesn't already have an active sudo session – Slizzered Apr 20 at 23:15

This is a simpler solution:

# check root permissions
if [[ $UID != 0 ]]; then
    echo "Please start the script as root or sudo!"
    exit 1
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This doesn't really address my question. – valadil May 29 '13 at 13:18

I know this is a really old question but here is I did in a script today:

CAN_I_RUN_SUDO=$(sudo -n uptime 2>&1|grep "load"|wc -l)
if [ ${CAN_I_RUN_SUDO} -gt 0 ]
    echo "I can run the sudo command"
    echo "I can't run the Sudo command"
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perfect, thank you very much! – SeriousM Apr 17 '13 at 12:49
This code fragment is just what I was looking for. Thanks. – David Medinets May 10 '13 at 23:08

According to the sudo manual, the sudo session is determined according to the time stamp file (/usr/lib/sudo/<username>), so you may be able to figure out how much time is left by checking the date/time of the time stamp file. However, in my system, the time stamp file is in fact a directory, and there are three files with cryptic content in them (and also some weird time stamps, but /usr/lib/sudo/<username> seemed to have a timestamp that coincided with the time I gave sudo my password. I think /usr/lib/sudo/<username>/0 has the time stamp of the most recent sudo execution.

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On my system, the timestamp files are in a directory which can't be read without using sudo, which prompts for a password and thus wouldn't work for the OP's needs. – Dennis Williamson Oct 4 '10 at 21:04
Good point. I didn't check ownership of these files. You are right, it would be useless. – Dysaster Oct 4 '10 at 21:07

How about the man page

man sudo

List your available commands:

sudo -l

sudo itself has no time or date limits... see:

man sudo
man sudoers
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sudo -l gives me a password prompt. I need it to tell me I have no active sudo session. – valadil Oct 4 '10 at 19:36
sudo status times out, but you're correct if you mean that it doesn't have a schedule feature. – Dennis Williamson Oct 4 '10 at 19:53
Yes - it times out - but no schedule. – Andreas Rehm Oct 7 '10 at 22:04

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