Single User Mode: Resetting/Recovering Forgotten Root User Account Password in RHEL/CentOS 7

Have you ever encountered a situation when you missed your user account password on a Linux System? And the situation can be worse if you forgot the root password. You cannot perform any system wide changes. If you forget user password, you can easily reset it using root account.

What if you forget your root password? You cannot reset root account password using user account. Since user account is not permitted to perform such task in general.

Reset Forgotten root Password in CentOS 7 and RHEL 7
Resetting/Recovering Forgotten Root User Account Password

Well here is the guide which will take you out of any such situation if you ever get into it. Here in this article we will be taking you to the journey of resetting your RHEL 7 and CentOS 7 root password.

This very morning I turned my RHEL 7 Linux server to find out that it has been locked. Either I messed up with password I changed last night or I have really forgotten it.

Forgotten root Password
Forgotten root Password

So what should I do now? Should I login using my user account and try changing root password?

Only Root User Can Set Password
Only Root User Can Set Password

Oops I got “Only root can specify a user name” and I lost my control over root account. So I planned to boot into single user mode. To do this reboot the Server as soon as you get the below screen press 'e' (stands for edit) from keyboard.

Press 'e' to Edit Boot Menu
Press ‘e’ to Edit Boot Menu

After you press 'e' from keyboard you would see a lot of text which may be clipped as per the size of your screen.

Grub Configuration
Grub Configuration

Search for the text “rhgb quiet” and replace it with “init=/bin/bash” without quotes.

Enable Shell
Enable Shell

Once done editing press 'ctrl+x' and it will start booting with specified parameter. And you will get bash prompt.

Booting System
Booting System

Now check the status of root partition by running following command on the single user mode.

# mount | grep root
Check Root Mount Status
Check Root Mount Status

You may notice that root partition is reported to be 'ro' (Read Only). We need to have read-write permission on root partition to change the root password.

# mount -o remount,rw /

Also cross check, if the root partition is mounted with read-write permission mode.

# mount | grep root
Set Permissions on Root Partition
Set Permissions on Root Partition

Now you can change the root password by typing the passwd command. But that is not done. We need to relabel SELinux context. If we skip relabeling the whole SELinux context we would be able to login using using password.

# passwd root
[Enter New Password]
[Re-enter New Password]
# touch /.autorelabel
Reset root Password
Reset root Password

Reboot and login again to root account and see if everything works ok or not?

# exec /sbin/init
Login root User
Login root User

Clear in the above image that we have successfully log-in to RHEL 7 box by resetting root password from single user mode.

The above steps clearly showed how to login to RHEL 7 and CentOS 7 machine by resetting root password from single user mode.

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26 thoughts on “Single User Mode: Resetting/Recovering Forgotten Root User Account Password in RHEL/CentOS 7”

  1. Thank you so much
    you helped me … my server was down and I wasn’t able to login in root password

    I tried many techniques to recover root password but I failed

    and your topic helped me so that I want to thank you from the deep of my hart <3

    Reply
  2. Procedure works OK. The only one comment.:In grub configuration change:

    root=/dev/mapper/rhel-root ro
    into:
    root=/dev/mapper/rhel-root rw

    After boot, root partition will be already mounted as rw. Then follow procedure
    – change password
    – touch relabel file
    – reboot

    Reply
  3. I don’t really reply to these generally but this is very misleading and incorrect from what I really had to do to make the system boot to single user mode

    Reply
  4. Okay guys, I need some help here. I have tried the above example several times. All new minimal install vms. Every time I do it I still cant log in. what could I possible be doing wrong. Im using Centos 7. I tried it dmaraid s way as well.

    Reply
  5. instead of init=/bin/bash you could also just type single at the end of that line to boot to the single user mode ;-)

    Reply
  6. The official training for RHSCA 7 describes the “change root password” procedure as below:

    Append “rd.break” to the kernel command line that starts with linux16 (this will break just before control is handed from the initramfs to the actual system) (sometimes it is needed to delete also everything after “…mapper/rhel-root ro” and append here)

    mount -o remount,rw /sysroot

    chroot /sysroot

    passwd

    touch /.autorelabel

    “exit” and again “exit” and you are done.

    Reply

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