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CompTIA Linux+ XK0-005 - 2.2 - Account Management: /etc/login.defs

Identity management is an essential aspect of Linux system administration, enabling you to control and manage user accounts effectively. In this guide, we will explore the configuration file /etc/login.defs and how it can be utilized for identity management purposes. The /etc/login.defs file contains various settings that govern user account properties and behaviors.

Understanding /etc/login.defs

The /etc/login.defs file is a configuration file that defines default settings and parameters related to user accounts and authentication. It plays a role in identity management by providing a centralized location to manage various aspects of user accounts.

Usage of /etc/login.defs

The settings specified in the /etc/login.defs file are used during user account creation and password-related operations. When a new user account is created, the system checks /etc/login.defs for default values to assign to attributes such as password expiration, minimum and maximum UID and GID, and more.

Additionally, utilities such as passwd and chage consult the /etc/login.defs file to determine certain behaviors. For example, when a user changes their password using the passwd command, the password policy defined in /etc/login.defs, such as the maximum password age and minimum password days, is enforced.

It's important to note that changes to the /etc/login.defs file do not affect existing user accounts directly. Modifying the file only impacts new user accounts or password changes made after the modifications are made. Therefore, it is recommended to carefully plan and document any changes to the file to ensure consistency across user accounts.

Configuration Settings

The /etc/login.defs file includes a range of configuration settings. Here are some common settings and their explanations:

  • PASS_MAX_DAYS: This setting determines the maximum number of days a password is valid before it must be changed. It helps enforce password expiration policies and enhances security.

  • PASS_MIN_DAYS: Specifies the minimum number of days that must pass before a user can change their password again. It helps prevent users from frequently changing their passwords.

  • PASS_WARN_AGE: Sets the number of days before the password expiration when users receive a warning message. It helps remind users to change their passwords before they expire.

  • LOGIN_RETRIES: Determines the maximum number of login retries permitted before an account is locked. It helps prevent brute-force attacks by locking out accounts after repeated failed login attempts.

  • LOGIN_TIMEOUT: Defines the duration (in seconds) for which the system waits for user input during the login process. If no input is received within this timeframe, the login attempt is terminated.

  • UID_MIN and UID_MAX: These settings define the range of UIDs (user IDs) that are allocated for regular user accounts. The UID_MIN setting specifies the minimum UID, while UID_MAX specifies the maximum UID.

  • GID_MIN and GID_MAX: Similar to UID_MIN and UID_MAX, these settings define the range of GIDs (group IDs) allocated for regular groups.

These are just a few examples of the settings available in /etc/login.defs. It's essential to review the file and understand the purpose of each setting before making any modifications.


The /etc/login.defs file serves as a central configuration file for managing various aspects of user accounts and authentication. By understanding the settings in this file and how it is used during user account creation and password-related operations, you can tailor the identity management policies and behaviors to meet your specific needs.

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