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We've recently run into a situation at a group-happy site where some group memberships are not being picked up. I seem to remember that there is an upper limit to the number of groups that a user can be a member of.

While I am specifically interested in modern Linux systems, I also remember that for some older versions of some OSs that number is lower?

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up vote 13 down vote accepted

The specific answer seems to be:

...which explains our problem, we've recently crossed the 16-group boundary for some users.

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Interesting, wasn't aware of that limitation. – theotherreceive Aug 21 '09 at 3:22
The 16 groups per user limit is part of the sunRPC mechanism used for NFS (<4?). See RFC1057 "9.2 UNIX Authentication" – ikrabbe Jun 2 at 5:45

For Linux Kernel 2.6.3 and above the limit is 64k groups per user.

If you are using NFSv4 the limit is higher than 16, too. (not sure about exact numbers here)

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Look for NGROUPS_MAX in limits.h to find the value on your system.

I think this is a tunable parameter in a modern Linux kernel. (Used to be 16 on Solaris, I don't know if they have fixed that yet.)

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