How to Reset Forgotten Root Password in Debian 10

In this brief tutorial, you will learn how to reset a forgotten root password in a Debian 10 system. This will help you regain the ability to log in as the root user and carry out administrative tasks.

So, first power on or reboot your Debian 10 system. You should be presented with a GRUB menu as shown below. On the first option, proceed and press the ‘e’ key on the keyboard before the system starts booting.

Debian Grub Menu

Debian Grub Menu

This ushers you to the screen shown below. Scroll down and locate the line that begins with ‘linux’ that precedes the /boot/vmlinuz-* section that also specifies the UUID.

Grub Kernel Parameters

Grub Kernel Parameters

Move the cursor to the end of this line, just after ‘ro quiet’ and append the parameter init=/bin/bash.

Next hit ctrl + x to enable it to boot in single-user mode with the root filesystem mounted with read-only (ro) access rights.

For you to reset the password, you need to change the access right from read-only to read-write. Therefore, run the command below to remount the root filesystem with rw attributes.

:/# mount -n -o remount,rw /
Mount Debian Filesystem

Mount Debian Filesystem

Next, reset the root password by executing the good old passwd command as shown.

:/# passwd
Reset Root Password in Debian

Reset Root Password in Debian

Provide the new password and retype it to confirm. If all went well and the passwords match you should get a ‘password updated successfully’ notification at the end of the console

Finally press Ctrl + Alt + Del to exit and reboot. You can now log in as the root user using the newly created password that you just defined.

And that’s how you reset a forgotten root password on Debian 10.

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James Kiarie

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2 Responses

  1. David says:

    So now anyone can access your system!

    • James Kiarie says:

      Hey David. Whilst the main purpose of this article is to show users how they can reset the root password, you can also configure your system to disable editing of the grub menu parameters. This effectively locks out anyone who would want to reset the root password.

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