pwd — UNIX Password Database

Purpose:Read user data from UNIX password database.

The pwd module can be used to read user information from the UNIX password database (usually /etc/passwd). The read-only interface returns tuple-like objects with named attributes for the standard fields of a password record.

Index Attribute Meaning
0 pw_name The user’s login name
1 pw_passwd Encrypted password (optional)
2 pw_uid User id (integer)
3 pw_gid Group id (integer)
4 pw_gecos Comment/full name
5 pw_dir Home directory
6 pw_shell Application started on login, usually a command interpreter

Querying All Users

This example prints a report of all of the “real” users on a system, including their home directories (where “real” is defined as having a name not starting with “_”). To load the entire password database, use getpwall(). The return value is a list with an undefined order, so it needs to be sorted before the report is printed.

import pwd
import operator

# Load all of the user data, sorted by username
all_user_data = pwd.getpwall()
interesting_users = sorted(
    (u for u in all_user_data
     if not u.pw_name.startswith('_')),

# Find the longest lengths for a few fields
username_length = max(len(u.pw_name)
                      for u in interesting_users) + 1
home_length = max(len(u.pw_dir)
                  for u in interesting_users) + 1
uid_length = max(len(str(u.pw_uid))
                 for u in interesting_users) + 1

# Print report headers
fmt = ' '.join(['{:<{username_length}}',
                 'Home Dir',
print('-' * username_length,
      '-' * uid_length,
      '-' * home_length,
      '-' * 20)

# Print the data
for u in interesting_users:

Most of the example code above deals with formatting the results nicely. The for loop at the end shows how to access fields from the records by name.

$ python3

User               UID Home Dir          Description
---------- ----------- ----------------- --------------------
Guest              201 /Users/Guest      Guest User
daemon               1 /var/root         System Services
daemon               1 /var/root         System Services
dhellmann          501 /Users/dhellmann  Doug Hellmann
nobody      4294967294 /var/empty        Unprivileged User
nobody      4294967294 /var/empty        Unprivileged User
root                 0 /var/root         System Administrator
root                 0 /var/root         System Administrator

Querying User By Name

To read information about one user it is not necessary to read the entire password database. Use getpwnam(), to retrieve the information about a user by name.

import pwd
import sys

username = sys.argv[1]
user_info = pwd.getpwnam(username)

print('Username:', user_info.pw_name)
print('Password:', user_info.pw_passwd)
print('Comment :', user_info.pw_gecos)
print('UID/GID :', user_info.pw_uid, '/', user_info.pw_gid)
print('Home    :', user_info.pw_dir)
print('Shell   :', user_info.pw_shell)

The passwords on the system where this example was run are stored outside of the main user database in a shadow file, so the password field, when set, is reported as all *.

$ python3 dhellmann

Username: dhellmann
Password: ********
Comment : Doug Hellmann
UID/GID : 501 / 20
Home    : /Users/dhellmann
Shell   : /bin/bash

$ python3 nobody

Username: nobody
Password: *
Comment : Unprivileged User
UID/GID : 4294967294 / 4294967294
Home    : /var/empty
Shell   : /usr/bin/false

Querying User By UID

It is also possible to look up a user by their numerical user id. This is useful to find the owner of a file:

import pwd
import os

filename = ''
stat_info = os.stat(filename)
owner = pwd.getpwuid(stat_info.st_uid).pw_name

print('{} is owned by {} ({})'.format(
    filename, owner, stat_info.st_uid))
$ python3 is owned by dhellmann (501)

The numeric user id is can also be used to find information about the user currently running a process:

import pwd
import os

uid = os.getuid()
user_info = pwd.getpwuid(uid)
print('Currently running with UID={} username={}'.format(
    uid, user_info.pw_name))
$ python3

Currently running with UID=501 username=dhellmann

See also