Ubuntu Linux: 5 Steps for resetting a forgotten password

May 12, 2008 – 3:58 PM

It happens to everyone. You have so many usernames and passwords that you can’t remember them all. Fortunately, Facebook, Gmail, and about a billion other online services have a “forgot password” link. Just click it and the web service will either email your password to you or allow you to reset it and enter a new one.

But what happens when you forget the password for your operating system. Not that this has ever happened to us, but hypothetically let’s say we were trying to perform a fresh install of Ubuntu on a laptop this afternoon. We zipped through the installation screens so quickly that we may have accidentally included a typo in our password. So when the installation was complete, our (still hypothetical) computer booted up, loaded a splash screen, and then wouldn’t let us login no matter how many variations of our password we type.

While you might think the easiest thing to do is reinstall Ubuntu, (after all, this is a clean install so it’s not like we’d be losing any data on our hypothetical system), you can save yourself 15-30 minutes by changing the password. It turns out you don’t have login to change your password. As we discovered thanks to a useful post on the Ubuntu forums, you can do it from the bootloader screen. Check out the 5 easy steps after the jump.


  1. Turn on your computer, and as soon as you see the Press Esc to enter grub message, press the escape key.
  2. Select the option that says (recovery mode).
  3. Your PC will boot into a shell. Once you get a command prompt, type “passwd username” where the username is your username. If you can’t remember this, then you can type “ls /home” which should bring it up.
  4. Enter a new password when prompted, and again when prompted again
  5. Type “shutdown -r now” to reboot your system

That’s it. You should now be able to login with your shiny new password.

Source: Download Squad

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