userdel [options] LOGIN
userdel is a low level utility for removing users. On Debian,
administrators should usually use deluser(8) instead.
The userdel command modifies the system account files, deleting all
entries that refer to the user name LOGIN. The named user must exist.
The options which apply to the userdel command are:
This option forces the removal of the user account, even if the
user is still logged in. It also forces userdel to remove the
user's home directory and mail spool, even if another user uses the
same home directory or if the mail spool is not owned by the
specified user. If USERGROUPS_ENAB is defined to yes in
/etc/login.defs and if a group exists with the same name as the
deleted user, then this group will be removed, even if it is still
the primary group of another user.
Note: This option is dangerous and may leave your system in an
Display help message and exit.
Files in the user's home directory will be removed along with the
home directory itself and the user's mail spool. Files located in
other file systems will have to be searched for and deleted
The mail spool is defined by the MAIL_DIR variable in the
The following configuration variables in /etc/login.defs change the
behavior of this tool:
The mail spool directory. This is needed to manipulate the mailbox
when its corresponding user account is modified or deleted. If not
specified, a compile-time default is used.
Defines the location of the users mail spool files relatively to
their home directory.
The MAIL_DIR and MAIL_FILE variables are used by useradd, usermod, and
groups are not larger than 1024 characters.
If you need to enforce such limit, you can use 25.
Note: split groups may not be supported by all tools (even in the
Shadow toolsuite). You should not use this variable unless you
really need it.
If defined, this command is run when removing a user. It should
remove any at/cron/print jobs etc. owned by the user to be removed
(passed as the first argument).
The return code of the script is not taken into account.
Here is an example script, which removes the user's cron, at and
# Check for the required argument.
if [ $# != 1 ]; then
echo "Usage: $0 username"
# Remove cron jobs.
crontab -r -u $1
# Remove at jobs.
# Note that it will remove any jobs owned by the same UID,
# even if it was shared by a different username.
find $AT_SPOOL_DIR -name "[^.]*" -type f -user $1 -delete \;
# Remove print jobs.
# All done.
If set to yes, userdel will remove the user's group if it contains
no more members, and useradd will create by default a group with
the name of the user.
Group account information.
Shadow password suite configuration.
can't update password file
invalid command syntax
specified user doesn't exist
user currently logged in
can't update group file
can't remove home directory
userdel will not allow you to remove an account if there are running
processes which belong to this account. In that case, you may have to
kill those processes or lock the user's password or account and remove
the account later. The -f option can force the deletion of this
You should manually check all file systems to ensure that no files
remain owned by this user.
You may not remove any NIS attributes on a NIS client. This must be
performed on the NIS server.
If USERGROUPS_ENAB is defined to yes in /etc/login.defs, userdel will
delete the group with the same name as the user. To avoid
inconsistencies in the passwd and group databases, userdel will check
that this group is not used as a primary group for another user, and
will just warn without deleting the group otherwise. The -f option can
force the deletion of this group.
chfn(1), chsh(1), passwd(1), login.defs(5), gpasswd(8), groupadd(8),
groupdel(8), groupmod(8), useradd(8), usermod(8).
System Management Commands 09/12/2012 USERDEL(8)
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