From Standard to Administrator

This article outlines how to give an account on Mac OS X administrator privileges, without previous knowledge of the root or an administrator’s password.

We’ll be using Single User Mode (SUM) to gain root access to the computer. If you’re still unfamiliar with SUM, it’s a diagnostic boot option built into Unix that automatically logs you in as the root user, or “super-user”, allowing the usage of unrestricted commands.


    • Access to Single User Mode (If you’re locked out, check out our post on how to unlock it.)

1. Power Down

If your computer is on, go ahead and turn it off. To boot into Single User Mode, we need to press a key command as the computer boots up.

2. Power Back Up

Press the power button, and as soon as the computer begins to turn on, immediately and simultaneously hold the Command (Apple) key and the “s” key. This will boot the computer into SUM. Be sure to hold the keys down until the screen turns black and white text scrolls down it.

3. Mount The File System

To make changes to the files, including the “user group” that a user’s account is in (Standard, Managed, or Administrator), we need to mount the file system, because in SUM, the system doesn’t do it automatically. To do this, wait until the white text has stopped scrolling down the screen, then type the following and press enter:

mount -uw /

4. Change The User Group

Once you’ve got the file system mounted, we want to change the GroupMembership of an account. We’ll use the dscl utility to change it with the following command, replacing “username” with the short name of the user you want to give administrator privileges too:

dscl . -append /Groups/admin GroupMembership username

After you’ve executed that command, type:


And hit return.

There you have it! The computer will reboot and start up normally, and you’ve successfully changed the GroupMembership of a Standard user account to an Administrator account.

Additional Information

Just another piece of additional information; in Single User Mode, you can also reset the root password, and be able to use that password as a login when prompted for an administrator password. This will allow you to access things requiring administrator privileges, without your account appearing to be an administrator.

Using the root account can be dangerous, and you can mess up your system if you’re not careful.

Once you’ve booted into Single User Mode, simply enter:


It will then prompt you to enter a new password and confirm it. Do so, and now the root password is reset. You can authenticate any window asking you for an administrator password with the username “root” and whatever you just set the password.

You can now also use the “sudo” command in terminal, or even without the root account if your account is an administrator account (if not, just follow the steps at the top of this article to change it), and change other users passwords with the same command, replacing “user” with the targeted username:

sudo passwd user

If you didn’t make your account an administrator and just changed the root password, but still want to run these kinds of commands, the solution is simple. In terminal, type:

login root

It will then prompt for the root password, and then you will be able to run the above sudo passwd user command, as well as others.

The contents of this guide are for educational use only. For more information, see our Disclaimer.


  1. Kelton



    Really great! Thanks!

  2. sophie



    hey when i try to change the root password it will prompt me for a new one but when i type nothing appears the only thing a can press in return. why?

    • Evan Savage


      Hi Sophie –

      This is to protect the security of the password. You just can’t see that anything is being inputted into password fields in Terminal. All you have to do is type the password and then hit enter (even though you won’t see anything.)

      Hope that helps!

  3. Jack



    Hello, I have a question. under additional info you talk about how you can reset the root password. I am wondering if the current administrator’s password will remain the same.

    • Evan Savage


      Hi Jack –

      The root account and the administrator account are two separate things. If you change the root password, the administrator’s will remain the same.

      Hope that helps!

    • Jack


      Sorry to bother you again, but how can one mess up their system by using a root account?

    • Jeff Browning


      Hey Jack,

      The root account is completely unrestricted, and can (and will) execute any command that you throw at it (including any commands that delete all of your files!).

      We included the warning to make you aware that the safety rail is gone (you can still hop that safety rail on an admin account by typing “sudo” before the command), and that you should make sure you know what you’re doing before running any commands.

      Bottom line: you’ll be fine as long as you’re careful with what you type in a command that you run with the root account.

      And no need for apologies here, it’s a great question! I’m sure a lot of other people are wondering the same thing.

  4. Ryan Weisenfeld



    So I believe Im in single user mode after the restart but this is the process as it appears to me. It displays
    :/ root# to begin with. I enter the mount command and it redisplays the :/ root# and I enter the change user group command. This is where it gives me (for single user mode you must run the folling command to enable the use of dscl.
    launchctl load /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/ dscl localonly

    I enter this and it say already loaded. So I try to redo the command line and I get the same you must load directory message.

    If you would be willing to help me that would be amazing

    • Jeff Browning


      Hey Ryan, I actually think that’s Apple’s bad — I’m pretty sure the system is prompting you to use the wrong command.

      They say to enter this:
      launchctl load :System:Library:LaunchDaemons/
      You should be entering this, without the Local at the end:
      launchctl load /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/

      Let me know if that fixed it!

    • Robert


      Hay Jeff , This como and doesn’t works launchtl
      I really need help with that

  5. Richard Robertson



    Could you PLEASE make a tutorial of how to unlock single user mode? I Have it unlocked, but there is a password lock on it so I cannot type anything unless I type the password.

  6. Will



    Will This let you change from a managed user to a admin? or can you switch from a managed user to a standard user by changing it to “dscl . -append /Groups/standard GroupMembership username” ?

    • Jeff Browning


      Yes, that should work. Let me know if you get any errors if you try it out.

    • Will


      it worked well I am now a managed admin

  7. Billy



    When i type passwd it says something along the lines of “socket not found” and says nothing about the password. Help?

    • Jeff Browning


      Are you typing passwd into SUM or Terminal? If you’re in SUM, did you remember to mount the file system?

    • Ashley


      I had the same problem and then it said Unable to open Directory node with name /Local/Default. Node name wasn’t found
      I’m new to this site and all of this, so is there a page for mounting the file systeM? Sorry to ask such newb questions!

  8. Brandon



    Says: Invalid Path.
    Ive done most things right but I get this error D:
    Might donate paypal :D

    • Brandon

      04.27.2011 Already Loaded
      is the new error! Yay! >.>
      Still got paypal cash xD

    • Jeff Browning


      Hey Brandon — What step are you on? Is it the “dscl . -append /Groups/admin GroupMembership username” one?

      Give this command a shot before it (all one line, of course):

      launchctl load /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/

      Let me know if that fixes it — also, any sort of donations are certainly welcome! We don’t have a place for them at the moment (though we do have a Paypal email,, but if you like the site, be sure to subscribe to our newsletter in the sidebar to stay updated!

  9. Fernando



    Hello I need help!!!!

    when I try to change the root password typing “passwd” it ask me to enter the new password but when I finish retyping the password it says this “unable to change the password for record root. eDSRecordNotFound”

    I NEED HELP!!!!

  10. Richard Robertson



    I have used your article on how to unlock the single user mode when locked. But now that it is unlocked there is a password you have to use to be able to type anything in it. Is there a way around this?

    • Jeff Browning


      Are you sure you used our article? That procedure is what you would do to remove that password (it’s called a firmware password).

    • Daniel


      Hi, when type dscl . -append /Groups/admin GroupMembership and then the username, it reply with ‘no such file or directory’ help please thanks

  11. Clive



    Hi guys,

    What I have is a computer that was on display at a store. It’s on a standard account and I’ve tried all the commands you’ve set up but no matter what I do, when i get to the reboot command, it still logs in with the standard account named: Kiosk

    Any thoughts?

    • Jeff Browning


      Clive — May I ask why you have a Kiosk computer? They’re not exactly for sale, and they have a specially modified version of the Operating System to prevent this sort of thing.

      If you actually acquired the computer legally, I’d ask whoever you got it from or bring it to the Apple Store.

    • jeffh38


      can this process be done more than once to the same user?

  12. Noah



    How do I undo this process

    • Jeff Browning


      You go into System Preferences and uncheck the administration box for that user.

  13. Zach



    I did like you said but there was riten “error could not change” i cant remember really and i didn’t become admin

    • Jeff Browning


      Are you logged in as root or in Single-User Mode?

  14. pyon



    hi there.

    when i type in passwd, i dont get a prompt to type a new root pw. this is in single user mode. Does this not work if root account is disabled? I know its disabled by default

    • Jeff Browning


      When you change the password of the root user in Single-User Mode, you are effectively enabling the root account through the command line.

      What comes back when you type “passwd” after mounting the disk drive?

  15. lele



    my mac book pro is not abel to bout in single user mode.
    my single user mode is lockt.
    is there a noter way tow unlock this then tow open my mac????

    • Jeff Browning


      Unfortunately, the easiest way is to open up the machine and swap the RAM.

      Check out our other article on unlocking Single-User mode!

  16. Ivan



    Dear Jeff,

    I tried everything in this tutorial and didn’t work unfortunately.

    I did also the Unlocking of the Single User Mode (by taking out the RAM as you said)

    and this is what I got after doing the dscl command paragraph (before rebooting)

    launchctl: Couldn’t start (“System/Library/LaunchDaemons/”): No such file or directory nothing found to load
    Operation failed with error: eServerError
    :/ root#

    I am using Lion and Installed the OS X Server app for the Mac App Store
    then from the accidentally deleted my only Administrator Account while I was currently logged in… then realized from systems preferences / accounts that I wasn’t an Administrator anymore

    I’ve got a mid 2009 Mac Book Pro 17 inch

    thanks for this great tutorial


    • Jeff Browning


      Try running the same command but instead of DirectoryServicesLocal.plist, use DirectoryServices.plist

      Let me know if that fixes it, I haven’t done testing on this guide with Lion yet. I hope to find time this week.

  17. andre c



    how would this be done in OS X Lion?

    • Jeff Browning


      We’re still working on updating our guides for Lion, seeing as Apple has changed the locations of a lot of System files.

  18. maya



    Does this work in Lion? I tried changing an account to admin, but when I typed in the dscl command it says the directory does not exist. I checked this out using ls, and there is no /Groups directory, so there is obviously no /Groups/admin file. I upgraded from Snow Leopard.


    • Jeff Browning


      Apple moved all of the password hashes around and re-encrypted them on us, so I wouldn’t be surprised if they remapped all of the permissions settings too.

      We’ll look into it.

  19. Henry



    Hey HackMac!

    I last checked your site a few months ago. I was so intrigued that I went ahead and learned command line. I now manage web servers and a few other unix based servers. I now know command line, applescript and C. I just came to say thanks, it was this site that got me really interested in computers.

    • Jeff Browning


      That’s awesome! Thanks for checking back in Henry!

  20. ben



    Help after i type passwd it sais Unable to open directory node with name /Local/Default. Node name wasnt found HELP PLEASE

    • Jeff Browning


      Did it prompt you with a command to enter?

    • Ian


      the same thing happened to me, and no, it did not give a command to enter. Help wud be great.

  21. BG13



    k so it says something like “passwd: unable to change password for record root. eDSRecordNotFound.”
    what am i doing wrong?

    • Jeff Browning


      What OS are you running?

    • Josh Fletcher


      Hey BG,
      when you boot into SUM, enter these two commands, one after the other:
      sudo killall -USR1 DirectoryService
      sudo killall -USR2 DirectoryService
      And then you should be good! Run the passwd command again and change the password, you shouldn’t see the error again!

  22. Sam



    When I enter command passwd I get an error saying:

    Launch_msg() : Socket is not connected
    passwd: Unable to open Directory node with name /Local/Default. Unable to open node.

    • Ashley


      This exact thing keeps happening to me. Please help!

  23. Josh



    I am trying to reset the root password. I mounted the disk, but after I do the “passwd” command. It says something about “passwd: The Daemon machine encountered an error while processing the command.” or something like that.

    any help would be great thanks!

    • Jeff Browning


      Would you happen to be running OS X Lion?

      If so, follow the top bit of this article regarding the root account. Apple changed some stuff around for Lion:

    • Jonathan


      (for lion)
      is it possible to spare the time of cracking a password hash and typing
      and using the program to set a new root/admin password?

  24. james



    When I changed the root password, an extra account in the log-in window appeared, titled other. Is this normal? I logged in with the root but I could not use any applications in the account.

  25. AWVDV



    Dear Hackmac / Jeff,

    Been struggling with my computer (iMac 21 inch feb 2010, OS 10.6.8) for 2 days now, time to ask for some help.

    It started by freezing, couldn’t do a force quit so had to turn off with the power button. Next, it has a very hard time starting up, looked/sounded like the HD was done for, but after the Xth time trying to spin it did. Got the startup screen with very slow progress bar, after that a login screen. Normally, I don’t have one. It did not accept my username/password, even though I know they are right. I was locked out. What’s more, after I inserted the install DVD to check with the disk utility, I found under Reset Password that not only was my only (admin)user account gone, I also could not reset the System administrator password.

    Online on another computer, I found your article to create a new admin account. Intention was to create a new account to log in, then in Sys prefs accounts click the +, make a new account with the exact same name as my original one, after which i should get a prompt would I like the existing folder, click yes and have everything restored (see this thread with further links

    Instead of creating a new admin account, following the steps of your tutorial, a new STANDARD account was created (see also reaction to your article by Kevin 19 feb 2011). This allowed me to log in to a fresh account, but not to create a new account in sysprefs (admin status needed). So, I came to this article, followed the steps and got the same result as Ryan Weisenfeld (12 march 2011). I followed your suggestion and scrapped the ‘local’ bit and did the command again. I then got: Already loaded
    append: Invalid Path
    DS Error: -14009 (eDSUnknownNodeName)

    Now I’m stuck. There should be something better to do rather than just install again and lose what I did not back up. It should be possible to get admin status for my new account, so that I can get my old one back.

    Trying to get acces by logging in as root did not work so far either. Cannot reset the root passwd from the install DVD as it cannot see the system administrator (i can see only my fresh standard account). Also did not succeed to do it in SUM: “passwd root” gives unknown user name ‘root’, just “passwd” gives “you don’t have a login”.

    By the way, i also typed the command: ls /Users/myoldusername and all my old folders still seem to be there…

    Hope you can find the time to help me with this, sorry for the long post and thanks in advance!

  26. Mo Malelader



    Whenever i try to change the root password it says -unable to change the password for record root. eDSRecordNotFound.

    • Ian



  27. Mo Malelader



    and when i type in mount -uw / it says hfs: Removed 6 orphaned / unlinked files and 0 directories. is that what it’s supposed to say?

    • Jeff Browning


      Are you running Lion?

    • Jonathan


      that should only come up after a file system check (fsck -fy [which if your a nice hacker you run before you mount]) if it does come up after you mount it you should still be able to change the group all it means is that 6 corrupt files/ unlinked files have been removed and 0 directories have been removed. carry on wth the group command and if that doesnt work go for the alternative
      mount -uw /
      ls /users/ <— this will list the users of the computer select the admin user
      type passwd
      passwd root <— not sure if that works

      and then reboot

      hope this helps

    • Person


      I got that same reply and I’m running Snow Leopard

  28. sarath



    could u tell me which key is the apple command

    • Jeff Browning


      The command key. It either looks like the Apple logo or says the word “command” on it, depending on how old your keyboard is.

  29. Mac user



    Does the authentication using the root password still work on Network accounts? Also is there a way to change network accounts from standard to admin because when I do “ls /users” it only shows the local accounts.

    • Jeff Browning


      Hmm, I don’t have much experience with network accounts, but I don’t think it would work, just because the network users are stored on a server instead of the local computer.

  30. Daniël



    I’m running Lion and I lost administrator rights on my main user. I changed the root password so I can use root if my mac asks for administrator rights. But I can’t change my original user back to an admin.
    Could you help me?

  31. Clayton



    Hello, I was attempting this process when at Step:4 I entered the command and it came up with something like “run this command: launchctl load /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/”
    I entered the command and the computer told me that the file could not be found. I rebooted and came back to this website for help. I found the fix of the same command but without the “Local” I went back in to SUM, redoing all the steps and entered the command that it told me to enter except without “Local”. It again said that the file could not be found.

    Any solutions?

  32. Scott Smith



    So, can you change back to a Standard account by using “dscl . -append /Groups/standard GroupMembership username” ?

  33. Josh



    Do you know how to change your account back to standard? I just want to know for future reference in case I have to change it back.

    • Josh


      Would I just type “dscl . -append /Groups/standard GroupMembership username”
      instead of “dscl . -append /Groups/admin GroupMembership username”

  34. Johnny D.



    Do you know if there is there any process to change a admin account into a standard account?

    • Johnny D.


      Assuming that you do not have access to the admin account.

  35. Mac Noob



    Hey! I did everything you said, but my account is still standard..
    I just bought a used MacBook Pro 10.4.11, and I have 4 accounts.
    Is this why I can’t get any Admin accounts? This is serious, I’m having a mental breakdown.

  36. tip



    i put in mount -uw / . .. it started over like new.. i went to the admin, that was locked. i unlocked it an put me as admin.. but for some reason i messed up an put the other , back again. i tried doing the
    mount -uw /
    rm /var/db/.AppleSetupDone
    shutdown -h now
    .. Soon as i put mount -uw /.. it say operation not permitted… what do i do? im running mac os x ver. 10.5.8.. pls help

  37. Other Mac User



    not sure about changing an account from standard to admin, but if you changed the root password on your computer to, say, ILIKEPIE, then you should still be able to authorize using the root account with user:root and password: ILIKEPIE.

  38. Alex



    Hi I type in

    dscl . -append /Groups/admin Groupmembership username

    after activating the

    launchctl load /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/

    and it just says already loaded or activated and then does not work when I reboot
    it says already loaded and goes back to #root

    Any Help would be appreciated

  39. Andrew



    Hi, i am running Snow Leopard, and am trying to set the root password.

    Everything works until i actually try to set the password, after which it tells me eDSRecordNotFound.


  40. Orion Brock



    Ok so my computer has a firmware password so i cant go into verbose or single user mode, is there a way to reset the firmware password so i can enter single user mode to make me an administrator?

  41. Takota



    It won’t go to the black screen, could it be because I have school computer?

  42. lion user



    i am currently using lion 10.7.2 and i know that this may not work for lion and only for snow leopard and lower but my main problem is i have a really strict dad he checks my mac monthly to check i haven’t hacked it or anything (which admit idly i have with previous windows computers) and my problem is that i need to be an admin secretly so i can do the stuff i want without him knowing please tell me if this is or is not possible btw i have tried using daveGhrol to find out his password on a tempory admin which got deleted and his password is like 17 characters one with numbers and stuff please see if you can help me

  43. Jim



    So I’ve read through this and all the comments. I’ve done launchctl load and tried DirectoryServicesLocal.plist and DirectoryServices.plist with the response “Permission Denied” for both, and thats while I’m in single user mode having done the initial lines of commands.

    The only thing I can think of is that I deleted some file because now when I reboot it just goes to the white screen with the apple logo and then reboots its self again and again.

    Any thoughts? Its a macbook air that had its admin account bumped into standard account mode somehow and I don’t have the resources to do a clean install and would prefer not to lose everything.

    BTW Jeff – I can’t believe how helpful you’ve been to people on this thread, thanks for that.

  44. Ludo



    Hi Jeff,
    1st, thxs a lot for all those tutorials.
    I’m a noob and I better understand how those machines are made now^^
    A question about Gain root in SUM :
    Everything is ok until passwd (even after trying Josh Fletcher’s advice about sudo killall..)
    I get a message : “unable to change pw for record root. Account is disabled”.
    i’m running on 10.5.8
    Could u help me to understand this pliz ?

  45. Mike



    Can’t login to Default admin account (SeventhGrade). won’t accept password after upgrading from 10.4 to 10.5. Whacked my user account access. Seems that it was a known bug. The solutions out there have all failed.

    Need some new prespective.

    Like to create a new user login account with admin priv so I can logon to the mackbook. Need a process to use SUM to create a new user that only had an admin account creatred.

    mount -uw
    launchctl load /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/

    gives me an error msg: socket not loaded. I was able to remove the HD from the computer I can’t log into, connect as a USB device and copy/paste/delete/modify from another macbook.
    Maybe I need to reset my master password?

    Any ideas would be userful.


  46. Mike



    Forgot: ultimately want to be able to login to existing user account SeventhGrade (admin acct) to access all docs, bookmarks, email, etc as before the upgrade to 10.5.

    un:Seventh Grade (shortname:SeventhGrade)
    pw: (not working)

    Problem: can’t login to admin account.
    Solution: ?????

  47. nik



    When single user mode is blocked.. and I open it. Do I need to get a new RAM? or what do you mean by swapping the RAM? I don’t really understand that part of unlocking single user mode. And another thing how do I find out if tacking software is installed in my computer?

  48. That one anonymous guy



    Will going into single user mode slow down my computer? If so do you know how to speed it up again?

  49. Steigy



    Hey MACHACK does it work on Lion yet? And is it 100% safe to execute, without damaging the computer? Lastly, are there any other steps I should know of?

  50. Aron



    Hi, I had the same problem as Ryan Weisenfeld, and the same thing is happening to me even though I tried the command line without the “local” part. It just keeps saying already loaded, and I am already in single user mode. Any help would be amazing, thanks in advance!

  51. Gamergrl09



    Can I demote an admin to standard? If so, what’s the command

  52. MIke



    Hey, I am trying to recover adminstrator status according to your tutotial. I managed to make a new user, I believe that I chose do not transfer files. When I looked at an earlier post you suggested that in a sharing & connections (or something) folder there would be an icon with a lock on it and you could open this somehow and transfer files. I cannot find this locked folder or any way to obviously transfer files.

    Further I don’t know whether I made the new user an administrator and by following the tutorial above, when I enter the command:
    mount – uw /
    I get a message:

    usage: mount [-dfurvw] [-o options] [-t ufs I external_type] special node
    mount [-adfruvw] [-t ufs I external_type]
    mount [-dfruvw] special I node

    So then I enter dscl . -append /Groups/admin GroupMembership username
    I get the reply:

    Launch_msg() : Socket is not connected

    If I enter:
    launchctl load /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/

    I end up with the same error message (note this also happens is I enter the DirectoryServicesLocal.plist):
    Launch_msg() : Socket is not connected

    I am running snow leopard operating system.

    This is a work computer and that a group of us use. If you could help us to get back into the system we would be grateful.


  53. David



    Hi. I haven’t started this yet, but I have one question. Does a new Mac have SUM locked by default? Is the RAM hack required for this password hack?


  54. Person



    I have the same problem as the guy almost near the top Ryan Weisenfeld but even when i type in the command you told him I get an error message that says “launch_msg(): Socket is not connected” help?

  55. JB723



    I have tried to type in this command as instructed without “Local” after “DirectoryServices”, However, I still get an error which says.

    “Couldn’t stat (“/System/Library/LaunchDaemons/”) : No such file or directory
    nothing found to load”

    I am stuck

  56. Alec Main



    Does this work for a MacBook OSX?

  57. John



    what happens if you can’t mount the system
    the message it gave me was
    illegal option and then it listed some usages

  58. Merlijn



    MASSIVE thnx
    And keep up the good work
    Again thank you
    Greatings, Merlijn

  59. Ellimace



    Hi, the other day I noticed that there were a ton of members in my user groups.(I looked because my computer was acting really odd-i’ll ask about that later) well with the advice of my husband I erased them. Now there is no administer account. I followed the instructions to create one and it was turned into a standard account. So there’s no admin and i can’t make one, I have no access to anything but my basic users stuff….help

  60. Jeff



    How do you customize the parental controls for the account that has been changed to admin from that account?

  61. Andrew



    Is there a way to do this for mountain lion yet?

  62. Kat



    So, the point of this is to basically upgrade your account status so you can have the same permissions (if I am understanding this correctly.) But would this work (upgrading account status from standard to admin) if you had a limited/managed account and had no access to the admin account? (Don’t freak out. I’m “hacking” into my school computer as a project for my school with permission from my IT guy.)

  63. Yaz



    Will the school’s tech team know about the root password? they are pretty smart…

  64. Nate Wydd



    Hey, This is Pretty cool! Thanks for the Bonus Info on Root. I Need to get Past Authorization windows. If i change the root password, will anyone know about it but me? What i mean is, Will it create A New account on the login screen, or a “Other” Button, Or Show up in system preferences? What I need Is Un-detectable Clearances. Please Help?

  65. that one Mountain Lion user




  66. OP



    Is there a way to change from admin to standard using this method?

  67. Luis



    I have a school laptop. Mac OS X Version 10.7.4 MacBook Air. Command+S is not working. Just want to install Chrome is all.

  68. Aria



    Hey I did this and the black and white writing came up and I did everything but when it came to actually changing username to the short name of the user you want to become an administrator I think I stuff up…. Am I supposed to click return and then type the user name or type it on the same line!? Cuz I tried both and I said reboot and everything and it rebooted and it turned on but everything was the same I have still got parental controls and everything and I don’t understand the

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