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I changed the name of a user home directory, but couldn't specify this as the new home directory for that user with usermod until I logged out of that user.

Not having any other user accounts, I gave root a password and went to reboot into root.

I was told sys admin couldn't log in from the login screen. (Is this because I forgot to unlock root?)

I of course couldn't log in as the old user, with its home directory no longer being found.

I tried logging into recovery mode with root and although I could get in, the filesystem was read-only and usermod -d said it cannot lock /etc/passwd.

There are no .lock files in /etc.

Any chance of salvaging this install?

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up vote 2 down vote accepted

Boot into recovery mode. If the file system is read-only, make it read-write.

mount -o remount,rw /
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One can do that? Wow! Thanks. All good. – jontyc Oct 23 '12 at 6:06

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