How to manage root users on Mac

This tutorial shows you how to enable root user on your Mac, log in to it, use it, change its password, and finally disable it.

Root user on Mac

You may be familiar with admin and standard users of your Mac. If you own a Mac, you’re most likely its administrator (if not, you should seriously consider being that). Secondly, if you share your Mac with other people in your family or office, you can create a standard user account for them.

In addition to the above two options, macOS has a lesser know hidden feature to use it as a root user or superuser.

As an administrator on your Mac, you have plenty of privileges like managing other user accounts and changing their settings. But if you need to access additional areas of the system, then you might need to become a root user, which is different than an administrator.

This “superuser” is disabled by default on Mac. So, if you need to enable a root user, we’ll show you how to do that.

Take caution as a root user on Mac

A root user can access system files, additional areas of the system, and comes with a great amount of responsibility. For example, when you’re logged in as a superuser, you can access files even in other macOS user accounts!

Apple recommends the following for root users:

The root user account is not intended for routine use. Its privileges allow changes to files that are required by your Mac. To undo such changes, you might need to reinstall your system software. You should disable the root user after completing your task.

If you still want to enable the root user on your Mac, we’ll now show you how.

Enable root user on Mac

1) Open Directory Utility on your Mac. You can do it in a few different ways:

  • Method 1: Launch Spotlight and type Directory Utility in it.
Directory Utility in Mac Spotlight Search
  • Method 2: Open Finder, and from the top menu bar, click Go > Go to Folder. Now, enter /System/Library/CoreServices/Applications/ and hit the return/enter key. From here, open Directory Utility.
Directory Utility in CoreServices Finder folder
  • Method 3: Open System Settings and go to Users & Groups. Click Edit next to Network account server and then click Open Directory Utility.
Open Directory Utility in Mac System Settings
  • Note: If your Mac is running macOS Monterey or earlier, go to System Preferences > Users & Groups. From here, click the lock button and unlock it. Now choose your admin account and click Login Options. After that, click the Join button next to Network Account Server and hit Open Directory Utility.
Open Directory Utility on Mac

2) After following either one of the above methods, you’ll be in Directory Utility. Click the padlock icon from the bottom left of the Directory Utility window and use Touch ID or your Mac’s admin password to unlock it. Click Modify Configuration if you see it.

Unlock Directory Utility on Mac

3) Once you have unlocked it, click Edit > Enable Root User from the top menu bar.

Enable Root User on Mac

4) When prompted, enter and verify a root user password and click OK. Remember this password, as you’ll need it to log in to the root user.

Set new password for root user on Mac

You’re now a root user on your Mac.

How to log in to root user on Mac

After you enable the root user, follow these steps to log in to it:

1) Click the Apple icon  from the top left and choose Log Out current user.

Log out of current user on your Mac

2) On the login screen, select the Other user, which is the root account.

Select Other root user on Mac login window

3) Enter root as the username.

4) Finally, enter the root user password you created while enabling the root user (step 4 above), and hit the enter/return key.

Log in to root user on Mac using root as username and the created password

You’re now using your Mac as a root user. You’ll notice that it almost appears like a fresh installation of macOS.

You can tweak a few settings, like setting Finder to show the root folder in its sidebar. And then, you can access the files of other users and even add files to their accounts!

Using root user on Mac

Log out of root user on Mac

1) When you’re logged in to the Other user (which is the root user), click the Apple icon , choose Log Out and confirm.

Log out of root user on Mac

2) Select your Mac’s admin account if required and enter its password to log in to it.

Log in to admin account after logging out of root user

You’re now out of the root user and into your admin account. You must now disable the root user on your Mac.

Disable root user on Mac

When you finish your task, you should disable the root user account. And you must never use the root user for your everyday use. You already have admin and standard accounts for everyday use.

To disable the root user on your Mac, follow steps 1 and 2 mentioned above. When you get to step three, select Edit > Disable Root User from the menu bar.

Disable Root User on Mac

Change the root user password on Mac

If you need to keep the root user account open but need to change the password, this is pretty simple. Again, follow the same steps one and two mentioned above. When you get to step three, select Edit > Change Root Password from the menu bar. Finally, enter and verify the new root password and click OK.

Change Root user Password on Mac

Now that you know how to enable a root user and change the password on your Mac, is this something that you’ll be using? If so, let us know what types of tasks you need to perform that require a root user level.

Check out next: How to share files and documents between users of the same Mac