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3 basic Linux group management commands every sysadmin should know

How to use the groupadd, groupmod, and groupdel commands is essential knowledge for Linux sysadmins.
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Groups make it easy to associate users with similar access-control requirements, so managing users and groups is a key responsibility for sysadmins. As I mentioned in my article on managing users, I like simple commands with a logical syntax. Such commands are easier to remember, particularly for new administrators.

The three commands used to manage group accounts on Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) and RHEL-like distributions fit this description nicely:

  • Add a group: groupadd
  • Modify a group: groupmod
  • Delete a group: groupdel

As in my overview on user account administration, these concepts apply to any distribution of Linux.

Groups make it easier to associate users that have similar access control requirements. Tyler Carrigan's article Managing local group accounts in Linux covers some of this content.

groupadd

Sysadmins are likely to add groups that represent specific and varied needs to Linux servers. Most of these needs center on controlling access to files, directories, or other resources. You can even use groups help manage sudo access.

To create a group, use the following command:

$ sudo groupadd projectA

Note: These commands require root or administrative privileges.

This command adds projectA to the /etc/group file. The file contains the group name, password (if any), group ID, and a list of existing members. The group membership is empty by default. The fields are separated by colons.

There are a few options for groupadd, but a common one is --gid (-g for short), to specify a group ID (GID) number.

[ You might also be interested in the Bash shell scripting cheat sheet. ]

groupmod

Creating a group is only the first step. You might also need to modify the group by using the groupmod command. The most common group modifications consist of name changes.

Note: Adding or removing a user from a group modifies the user, not the group, by using the usermod command.

Group modification options include:

  • --gid (-g): Change the GID
  • --new-name (-n): Change the group name

Therefore, if you need to update a group name from projectA to projectZ, use:

$ sudo groupmod --new-name projectZ projectA

The projectA string is the command's argument.

After modifying the group, use the tail or cat commands to check the /etc/group file contents to ensure the desired settings are in place.

groupdel

You may need to delete a group. Deleting a group does not delete the user accounts that are members of the group.

To delete the projectA group, type:

$ sudo groupdel projectA

Other than the --help option for help, the other option sysadmins commonly use is --force, which forces the group deletion.

Wrap up

The three commands used to manage groups are quite similar to the user management commands. There are few options to remember, yet these six commands to manage users and groups are logical and straightforward.

  • Add a group: groupadd
  • Modify a group: groupmod
  • Delete a group: groupdel

To manage users, use:

  • Add a user: useradd
  • Modify a user: usermod
  • Delete a user: userdel

Because user and group management are such common and important tasks for Linux sysadmins, you would be wise to learn and memorize these commands.

Check out these related articles on Enable Sysadmin

Topics:   Linux administration   Authentication  
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Damon Garn

Damon Garn runs Cogspinner Coaction, LLC, a technical writing and IT project company based in Colorado Springs, CO. He has been a technical instructor for nearly 20 years, with a focus on Windows Server, Linux, and security. More about me

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