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getpwnam - Man Page

get password file entry


Standard C library (libc, -lc)


#include <sys/types.h>
#include <pwd.h>

struct passwd *getpwnam(const char *name);
struct passwd *getpwuid(uid_t uid);

int getpwnam_r(const char *restrict name, struct passwd *restrict pwd,
               char buf[restrict .buflen], size_t buflen,
               struct passwd **restrict result);
int getpwuid_r(uid_t uid, struct passwd *restrict pwd,
               char buf[restrict .buflen], size_t buflen,
               struct passwd **restrict result);

Feature Test Macro Requirements for glibc (see feature_test_macros(7)):

getpwnam_r(), getpwuid_r():

        || /* glibc <= 2.19: */ _BSD_SOURCE || _SVID_SOURCE


The getpwnam() function returns a pointer to a structure containing the broken-out fields of the record in the password database (e.g., the local password file /etc/passwd, NIS, and LDAP) that matches the username name.

The getpwuid() function returns a pointer to a structure containing the broken-out fields of the record in the password database that matches the user ID uid.

The passwd structure is defined in <pwd.h> as follows:

struct passwd {
    char   *pw_name;       /* username */
    char   *pw_passwd;     /* user password */
    uid_t   pw_uid;        /* user ID */
    gid_t   pw_gid;        /* group ID */
    char   *pw_gecos;      /* user information */
    char   *pw_dir;        /* home directory */
    char   *pw_shell;      /* shell program */

See passwd(5) for more information about these fields.

The getpwnam_r() and getpwuid_r() functions obtain the same information as getpwnam() and getpwuid(), but store the retrieved passwd structure in the space pointed to by pwd. The string fields pointed to by the members of the passwd structure are stored in the buffer buf of size buflen. A pointer to the result (in case of success) or NULL (in case no entry was found or an error occurred) is stored in *result.

The call


returns either -1, without changing errno, or an initial suggested size for buf. (If this size is too small, the call fails with ERANGE, in which case the caller can retry with a larger buffer.)

Return Value

The getpwnam() and getpwuid() functions return a pointer to a passwd structure, or NULL if the matching entry is not found or an error occurs. If an error occurs, errno is set to indicate the error. If one wants to check errno after the call, it should be set to zero before the call.

The return value may point to a static area, and may be overwritten by subsequent calls to getpwent(3), getpwnam(), or getpwuid(). (Do not pass the returned pointer to free(3).)

On success, getpwnam_r() and getpwuid_r() return zero, and set *result to pwd. If no matching password record was found, these functions return 0 and store NULL in *result. In case of error, an error number is returned, and NULL is stored in *result.


0 or ENOENT or ESRCH or EBADF or EPERM or ...

The given name or uid was not found.


A signal was caught; see signal(7).


I/O error.


The per-process limit on the number of open file descriptors has been reached.


The system-wide limit on the total number of open files has been reached.


Insufficient memory to allocate passwd structure.


Insufficient buffer space supplied.



local password database file


For an explanation of the terms used in this section, see attributes(7).

getpwnam()Thread safetyMT-Unsafe race:pwnam locale
getpwuid()Thread safetyMT-Unsafe race:pwuid locale
getpwnam_r(), getpwuid_r()Thread safetyMT-Safe locale


The pw_gecos field is not specified in POSIX, but is present on most implementations.




POSIX.1-2001, SVr4, 4.3BSD.


The formulation given above under "Return Value" is from POSIX.1-2001. It does not call "not found" an error, and hence does not specify what value errno might have in this situation. But that makes it impossible to recognize errors. One might argue that according to POSIX errno should be left unchanged if an entry is not found. Experiments on various UNIX-like systems show that lots of different values occur in this situation: 0, ENOENT, EBADF, ESRCH, EWOULDBLOCK, EPERM, and probably others.

The pw_dir field contains the name of the initial working directory of the user. Login programs use the value of this field to initialize the HOME environment variable for the login shell. An application that wants to determine its user's home directory should inspect the value of HOME (rather than the value getpwuid(getuid())->pw_dir) since this allows the user to modify their notion of "the home directory" during a login session. To determine the (initial) home directory of another user, it is necessary to use getpwnam("username")->pw_dir or similar.


The program below demonstrates the use of getpwnam_r() to find the full username and user ID for the username supplied as a command-line argument.

#include <errno.h>
#include <pwd.h>
#include <stdint.h>
#include <stdio.h>
#include <stdlib.h>
#include <unistd.h>

main(int argc, char *argv[])
    struct passwd pwd;
    struct passwd *result;
    char *buf;
    long bufsize;
    int s;

    if (argc != 2) {
        fprintf(stderr, "Usage: %s username\n", argv[0]);

    bufsize = sysconf(_SC_GETPW_R_SIZE_MAX);
    if (bufsize == -1)          /* Value was indeterminate */
        bufsize = 16384;        /* Should be more than enough */

    buf = malloc(bufsize);
    if (buf == NULL) {

    s = getpwnam_r(argv[1], &pwd, buf, bufsize, &result);
    if (result == NULL) {
        if (s == 0)
            printf("Not found\n");
        else {
            errno = s;

    printf("Name: %s; UID: %jd\n", pwd.pw_gecos,
           (intmax_t) pwd.pw_uid);

See Also

endpwent(3), fgetpwent(3), getgrnam(3), getpw(3), getpwent(3), getspnam(3), putpwent(3), setpwent(3), passwd(5)

Referenced By

aliases.sendmail(5), archive_read_disk(3), archive_write_disk(3), b(1), basic_getpwnam_auth(8), capsh(1), chown(2), ckpasswd(8), clifm(1), debchange(1), fetchmail(1), fgetpwent(3), getent(1), getgrent_r(3), getgrnam(3), getpw(3), getpwent(3), getpwent_r(3), getspnam(3), getutent(3), git-daemon(1), gitweb(1), innbind(8), ksh93(1), libuv(1), mh-profile(5), mon(8), nscd(8), org.freedesktop.home1(5), pam_canonicalize_user(8), passwd(5), passwdqc.conf(5), perlfunc(1), pmSetProcessIdentity(3), procenv(1), putpwent(3), pwcache.3bsd(3), readers.conf(5), since(1), smtpd.conf(5), sssd.conf(5), sssd-ifp(5), strace(1), sulogin(8), swaks(1), tmux(1), x11vnc(1), xmris(6).

The man pages getpwnam_r(3), getpwuid(3) and getpwuid_r(3) are aliases of getpwnam(3).

2024-05-02 Linux man-pages 6.8