What is the good way to create a user with no password? By no password, I mean an account, that would be usable only by the root account using the su/sudo commands (like the "nobody" user used by Apache or Nginx).

I've read that putting a * in the password field of the /etc/shadow file works but I'd like to know if there is a way to do it with the useradd command.

I thought of doing:

useradd my_new_user -s /sbin/nologin -p '*'

but I'm not sure the useradd command can be used this way. I haven't found any reference about it.

  • "no password" means "don't have password" or "blank password"?
    – cuonglm
    May 17, 2013 at 9:52

2 Answers 2


This works the way you described (of course you can specify whichever shell you'd like in place of /bin/bash):

root# useradd temp_test1 -s /bin/bash -p '*'
root# su temp_test1

After executing the above useradd command, the following entry is in my /etc/shadow file:


When using John Smith Optional's answer, the following will work:

root# useradd temp_test2 -s /sbin/nologin
root# su -s /bin/bash temp_test2

EDIT: I'd like to point out that the difference is that you cannot su into an account which has the shell specified as /sbin/nologin unless you specify a usable shell when issuing the su command:

root# useradd temp_test3 -s /sbin/nologin
root# su temp_test3
This account is currently not available.

(Tested in CentOS 6.4 -- should work in a variety of distros).

useradd my_new_user -s /sbin/nologin

If a password is not specified, one is not created/account disabled.

  • You can't su into a nologin account without specifying a shell with the su command.
    – s.co.tt
    May 17, 2013 at 19:46
  • Sure you can, you just need to specify a different shell: su -s /bin/bash my_new_user
    – Ryan
    Apr 4, 2020 at 13:39

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