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Create Home Directory For Existing User In Linux

By sk
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This brief guide explains how to create home directory for existing user in Linux and Unix-like operating systems using mkhomedir_helper command.

As you know already, we can create a new user in Linux and Unix-like systems using adduser command, right? Yes, that's right! When we add a new user, the home directory for the respective user is automatically created by default.

There is also another command to create users in Linux. It is useradd. After I created a few users using useradd command in Alpine Linux, I noticed that the $HOME directories for the users are not created. I didn't know it before. After reading the useradd command's man pages, I came to realize that I should have included -m (or --create-home) option to create new users with $HOME directory like below:

$ sudo useradd -m user_name

Or,

$ sudo useradd --create-home user_name

But, I forgot to include this option and went on to create a few new users. If you are anything like me, don't delete the existing users and recreate them with -m option. You could easily create home directory for an existing user in Linux using mkhomedir_helper command, without deleting and recreating the user.

Create Home Directory For Existing User In Linux

The mkhomedir_helper is a helper program for the pam_mkhomedir module. The pam_mkhomedir PAM module will create a user's home directory if it does not exist when the session begins. First, this module creates the home directories and then populates them with contents of the specified skel directory. The default value of umask is 0022 and the default value of path-to-skel is /etc/skel.

Allow me to show you an example to explain how to create the home directory for an existing user with the help of mkhomedir_helper command.

First, let us create a new user named ostechnix using useradd command:

$ useradd ostechnix

Set password to the user:

$ passwd ostechnix

Now switch to the new user:

$ su - ostechnix

You will encounter with the following error message:

su: warning: cannot change directory to /home/ostechnix: No such file or directory
warning: cannot change directory to /home/ostechnix: No such file or directory
warning: cannot change directory to /home/ostechnix: No such file or directory

As you see in the above output, the home directory for the user ostechnix does not exists, hence this error.

Let us verify it by looking into the /home directory:

$ ls -l /home/
total 0
drwx------ 1 vagrant vagrant 72 Dec 15 13:19 vagrant

Well, it is true that there is no home directory for the user ostechnix.

So let us create the home directory for the existing user (i.e. ostechnix in our case) with mkhomedir_helper command.

To do so, first log out from the user ostechnix if you already logged in:

$ exit

And run the following command to create home directory for the user called ostechnix:

$ sudo mkhomedir_helper ostechnix

Please note that you must run the above command as root user or different sudo user.

Now switch to the user ostechnix:

$ su - ostechnix

This time you will not get any warning message, because the home directory for the user called ostechnix has been created with mkhomedir_helper command.

[[email protected] ~]$ pwd
/home/ostechnix
Create home directory for existing user in Linux using mkhomedir_helper command
Create home directory for existing user in Linux using mkhomedir_helper command

For more details, refer man pages:

$ man mkhomedir_helper

You know now how to create home directories after creating the users. This can be useful when you forgot to include -m option while creating users with useradd command.

Instead of using useradd, you can use adduser command which will create user's home directories automatically without any options.

Related read:

Featured image by FreeCliparts from Pixabay.

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1 comment

Ievgen January 10, 2021 - 1:25 pm

Thanks for the tip about using `mkhomedir_helper`.

Reply

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