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I am using ubuntu 10.04.

I notice that after I run "sudo -s" in terminal, the prompt changed from




seems it changed to root privilege.

But when I check the documentation of "sudo" command here, it explains another story of "sudo -s", can anyone explain to me what is "sudo -s" doing exactly?

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migrated from stackoverflow.com Jul 6 '11 at 7:37

This question came from our site for professional and enthusiast programmers.

You should ask this over at askubuntu.com –  Ocaso Protal Jul 6 '11 at 7:26
Why askubuntu.com? sudo is hardly Ubuntu-specific... –  Dave Sherohman Jul 6 '11 at 8:21
possible duplicate of Difference between comands "su -s" and "sudo -s" –  Linker3000 Jul 6 '11 at 8:26

6 Answers 6

The two aren't really inconsistent - the sudo command always changes user, either to root, or to the user you specify with the -u switch. All the -s does is provide a shortcut for starting a shell as that user. It is really equivalent to:

sudo $SHELL

except that it will likely fallback to /bin/sh or something if SHELL is not set.

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sudo -s runs the shell specified in your $SHELL environment variable as the superuser/root. You can specify another user using -u.

The $SHELL environment variable contains the path to the user's default login shell. The actual setting for the default shell program is usually in etc/passwd. Depending on what you've done in your current session, the $SHELL variable may not contain the shell program you're currently using. If you login automatically with zsh for instance, but then invoke bash, $SHELL won't change from /bin/zsh.

Show the current user and shell program: echo $(whoami) is logged in and shell is $0

  • whoami prints out the username the user is working under.
  • $0 contains the name/path of the currently running program (shell program in this case).
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Have a look at this post from superuser:


By the way, your post should be moved to superuser (or askubuntu as said in comments)!

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From the manual:

sudo allows a permitted user to execute a command as the superuser or another user, as specified in the sudoers file.

-s Shell, runs the shell specified by the SHELL environment variable if it is set or the shell as specified in passwd(5).

More seriously, the sudo -s run a shell environment variable. Since you didn't add any variable it run as specified in passwd, and so connect you as root.

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It is not obvious from the manual that if you don't provide a user, it defaults to root. You would have to read the description for -u option to learn that. But for someone who is not familiar with sudo, they wouldn't know to look at -u. –  wisbucky Mar 18 at 23:20

It sounds like it is creating another instance of the shell on top of the current shell, but with root privileges. I'll bet that after you do sudo -s if you type exit, you will go back to the original shell.

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sudo -s let you run a command for which you're pre-authorized [see /etc/sudoers], possibly by asking you to confirm your current ID.

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