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How to add a user to a group in Linux?

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Linux based OSs use groups to organise and administer users on a machine. The main objective is to define a set of privileges such as reading, writing or executing permissions for a given set of users.

There are two types of groups in Linux.

  • Primary group: This is configured when a new user account is set up and recorded in the ?etc?passwd file. This group is assigned to all files a particular user creates.
  • Secondary group: These groups show up in the ?etc/group file and specifies one or more groups to which a user belongs.

Note that only the root user or users with sudo access can assign or modify group settings.

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Adding an existing user to a group

Existing users can be added to one or more secondary groups using the usermod -a -G command. Here’s how.

sudo usermod -a -G groupname username

You can also mention as many groups as you want after the -G flag separated by commas. Make sure to add the append (-a) flag as well otherwise the user will be removed from all other groups not mentioned after the -G flag. 

For example, if you want to add a user dexter to groups lab and house this is the command you’ll use.

sudo usermod -a -G lab, house dexter

Note that the usermod command doesn’t show any output on successful execution. However, you will see an error if the specified group(s) or the user doesn’t exist. 

To see what groups a user is a member of, use the id command followed by the username.

id euclid

To see only secondary groups, use the group command followed by the username. 

Removing a user from a group

Users can be removed for groups using the gpasswd command. Here’s how. 

sudo gpasswd -d username groupname

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Creating/Deleting a group

Creating and deleting groups is rather easy as well. You’re going to have to use the groupadd and groupdel commands respectively. 

sudo groupadd NewGroup

Or if you want to delete a group,

sudo groupdel NewGroup

Changing a user’s primary group

Changing a user’s primary group involves using the usermod command with the -g flag. 

sudo usermod -g groupname username

Creating a new user and assigning groups in one command

Lastly, here’s how you can create a new user and assign primary and secondary groups to them in one command.

sudo useradd -g <Primary Group> -G <Secondary Group(s)> <Username>

Also read: RM command in Linux explained with examples

Yadullah Abidi

Yadullah is a Computer Science graduate who writes/edits/shoots/codes all things cybersecurity, gaming, and tech hardware. When he's not, he streams himself racing virtual cars. He's been writing and reporting on tech and cybersecurity with websites like Candid.Technology and MakeUseOf since 2018. You can contact him here:

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