When I run sudo as a normal unprivileged user, it asks for my password, not the root password. That's often convenient, but it reduces the amount of information someone would have to have in order to run commands as root. So how can I make sudo ask for the root password instead of the invoking user's password?

I know it'd be done with a line in /etc/sudoers, but I can never seem to properly parse the BNF grammar in the man page to figure out exactly what to write.

  • I recommend you restrict the commands that are permissible as the non-root user so that you need not worry about exposing arbitrary commands. – Slartibartfast Jul 9 '10 at 5:02
  • @slartibartfast: but then what happens when I need to run a command as root that is not in the preapproved list? – David Z Jul 9 '10 at 5:46

Ok, here it is again so you can set the checkmark.

In /etc/sudoers, add this line:

Defaults rootpw

to turn on the rootpw flag, making sudo ask for the root password.

  • 5
    You should always use the visudo command instead of manually editing the /etc/sudoers file. visudo validates the file to make sure it's correct before saving, so you don't get locked out of sudo if you make a syntax error... askubuntu.com/a/81054/166411 – Colin D Bennett Nov 26 '13 at 21:22

You need to turn the rootpw flag on.

  • As I said, I haven't been able to work through the BNF notation in the man page - so what line would I insert into /etc/sudoers to enable this flag? – David Z Jul 9 '10 at 5:48
  • 2
    Defaults rootpw – Florian Diesch Jul 9 '10 at 9:57
  • @Florian: whaddya know, it's that easy :-) If you post that as an answer you get the checkmark. – David Z Jul 9 '10 at 20:11

I know this question is old, but it is the most concise question I've found for this use case (which is a minor percentage, true, but nonetheless legitimate and helpful in the right scenario).

After putting all the steps together from various sources - including multiple answers to this question, these steps work on Ubuntu-Gnome 16.04 LTS:

  1. Set a password for root
    • This is CRITICAL to do FIRST! (Ubuntu automatically has no password for the ROOT user due to the standard security configuration.
    • If you do not do this first, you will lock yourself out from accessing root privileges. This can be overcome by booting in with a Live Disk, mounting the hard drive, and editing the sudoers file, but it's best to avoid that.
    • Open a terminal and enter: sudo passwd
    • Set your new password for the ROOT user.
  2. Change the SUDO configuration to require the root password
    • SUDO requires the user requesting root privileges
    • Setting the "rootpw" flag instead tells SUDO to require the password for the root user.
    • Open a terminal and enter: sudo visudo
    • This will open the "/etc/sudoers" file
    • After the other "Defaults" line, add: Defaults rootpw
    • Save it (assuming you are in nano, which is the default, this is CTRL+O)
    • Close the file (CTRL+X) & exit the terminal
  3. You're done!

Just a quick note - I also wanted to make sure that the root user couldn't be used to login from the graphical login, and so was looking into ways to excluded. Apparently, the root user is excluded by default, and cannot be used to login through the Gnome graphical login - which is a very good thing!

  • Could you suggest improvements to reverse a downvote? – SRDC Nov 9 '16 at 16:05
  • Doesn't seem to be wrong. – Ruslan Mar 8 '17 at 13:30

You could just turn off sudo and use su -c.

  • Inconvenient because I have to enter my password every time I run it. The use case here is having to run multiple commands as root in quick succession. – David Z Jul 9 '10 at 5:45


sudo su

will let you run as many commands as you want in succession.

  • 2
    Good idea, but unless I change sudo to prompt for the root password, this would still allow someone to gain root access by presenting only one password (not root's). So it doesn't really address the security concern that prompted my question. – David Z Jul 9 '10 at 20:14
  • Instead of using sudo's capacity to limit access by user you are exposing your root password to a number of users. You are also removing the capability of securing your server by removing the password from root. – BillThor Jul 10 '10 at 2:53

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