I frequently create new user accounts and change or set password for these accounts on a batch of Linux boxes. The create new user can be done by one command line. The problem is to change the password. In Linux, we use passwd to change password, but passwd requires input from stdin to get the new password. With the help of pipe and a little tricky, we can change user’s password in one command line. This will save much time especially when creating a batch of user accounts.

We use one example to introduce how to change Linux user’s password in one command line. Suppose we login as root and want to change user linuxuser‘s password to linuxpassword.

The passwd command asks for the new password twice. And these two inputs (the same password) is separated by one “Enter”. We can emulate this by the echo command with ‘-e’ option set. When ‘-e‘ is in effect, ‘n‘ in echo’s input is echoed as “new line”.

So to change the password in our example, we just execute this one command:

# echo "linuxpassword" | passwd --stdin linuxuser

on modern Linux. (Thanks to DAVID for this tip)


# echo -e "linuxpassword\nlinuxpassword" | passwd linuxuser

This can also be put into one bash script or executed on remote node by the

ssh command. For example, we can change the password of linuxuser on a batch of servers (100 servers: to by:

# for ((i=1;i<=100;i++)); do ssh 10.1.0.$i 'echo -e "linuxpassword\nlinuxpassword" | passwd linuxuser'; done;

Even further, we can create one user and set its initial password remotely by:

# ssh remoteserver 'useradd newuser; echo -e "passwdofuser\npasswdofuser" | passwd newuser'

Eric Zhiqiang Ma

Eric Zhiqiang Ma is interested in operating systems and distributed computing and processing systems. Find Eric on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+. The views or opinions expressed here are solely Eric's own and do not necessarily represent those of any third parties.


  1. I got a problem,

    when I was trying to changing the password of aaa,

    sudo echo -e "abcd1234\nabcd1234" | passwd aaa

    however, error pumps up,

    passwd: You may not view or modify password information for aaa

    I think there are some security setting with the system, which did not allow me to do so,

    how to solve this out.

    thanks a lot.

  2. Neither solution works for /bin/sh
    Enter new UNIX password: Retype new UNIX password: passwd: Authentication token manipulation error
    passwd: password unchanged

    They work only for /bin/bash
    Any solution to /bin/sh?

    Thanks in advance

    1. Did it work for you under /bin/bash? That’s interesting.

      What’s your exact command and the output?

      And which OS are you working on? I believe my OS (Fedora 22) has quite different messages printed out from yours:

      $ passwd
      Changing password for user zma.
      Changing password for zma.
      (current) UNIX password:

      Showing us `passwd –help` will also be helpful to answer your question.

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