Arch manual pages


userdbctl - Inspect users, groups and group memberships

userdbctl [OPTIONS...] {COMMAND} [NAME...]

userdbctl may be used to inspect user and groups (as well as group memberships) of the system. This client utility inquires user/group information provided by various system services, both operating on JSON user/group records (as defined by the JSON User Record[1] and JSON Group Record[2] definitions), and classic UNIX NSS/glibc user and group records. This tool is primarily a client to the User/Group Record Lookup API via Varlink[3].

The following options are understood:


Choose the output mode, takes one of "classic", "friendly", "table", "json". If "classic", an output very close to the format of /etc/passwd or /etc/group is generated. If "friendly" a more comprehensive and user friendly, human readable output is generated; if "table" a minimal, tabular output is generated; if "json" a JSON formatted output is generated. Defaults to "friendly" if a user/group is specified on the command line, "table" otherwise.


Controls which services to query for users/groups. Takes a list of one or more service names, separated by ":". See below for a list of well-known service names. If not specified all available services are queried at once.


Controls whether to include classic glibc/NSS user/group lookups in the output. If --with-nss=no is used any attempts to resolve or enumerate users/groups provided only via glibc NSS is suppressed. If --with-nss=yes is specified such users/groups are included in the output (which is the default).


Controls whether to synthesize records for the root and nobody users/groups if they aren't defined otherwise. By default (or "yes") such records are implicitly synthesized if otherwise missing since they have special significance to the OS. When "no" this synthesizing is turned off.


This option is short for --with-nss=no --synthesize=no. Use this option to show only records that are natively defined as JSON user or group records, with all NSS/glibc compatibility and all implicit synthesis turned off.


Do not pipe output into a pager.


Do not print the legend, i.e. column headers and the footer with hints.

-h, --help

Print a short help text and exit.


Print a short version string and exit.

The following commands are understood:

user [USER...]

List all known users records or show details of one or more specified user records. Use --output= to tweak output mode.

group [GROUP...]

List all known group records or show details of one or more specified group records. Use --output= to tweak output mode.

users-in-group [GROUP...]

List users that are members of the specified groups. If no groups are specified list all user/group memberships defined. Use --output= to tweak output mode.

groups-of-user [USER...]

List groups that the specified users are members of. If no users are specified list all user/group memberships defined (in this case groups-of-user and users-in-group are equivalent). Use --output= to tweak output mode.


List all services currently providing user/group definitions to the system. See below for a list of well-known services providing user information.


This operation is not a public, user-facing interface. It is used to allow the SSH daemon to pick up authorized keys from user records, see below.

The userdbctl services command will list all currently running services that provide user or group definitions to the system. The following well-known services are shown among this list:


This service is provided by the system service manager itself (i.e. PID 1) and makes all users (and their groups) synthesized through the DynamicUser= setting in service unit files available to the system (see systemd.exec(5) for details about this setting).


This service is provided by systemd-homed.service(8) and makes all users (and their groups) belonging to home directories managed by that service available to the system.


This service is provided by systemd-machined.service(8) and synthesizes records for all users/groups used by a container that employs user namespacing.


This service is provided by systemd-userdbd.service(8) and multiplexes user/group look-ups to all other running lookup services. This is the primary entry point for user/group record clients, as it simplifies client side implementation substantially since they can ask a single service for lookups instead of asking all running services in parallel. userdbctl uses this service preferably, too, unless --with-nss= or --service= are used, in which case finer control over the services to talk to is required.


This service is (also) provided by systemd-userdbd.service(8) and converts classic NSS/glibc user and group records to JSON user/group records, providing full backwards compatibility. Use --with-nss=no to disable this compatibility, see above. Note that compatibility is actually provided in both directions: nss-systemd(8) will automatically synthesize classic NSS/glibc user/group records from all JSON user/group records provided to the system, thus using both APIs is mostly equivalent and provides access to the same data, however the NSS/glibc APIs necessarily expose a more reduced set of fields only.

Note that userdbctl has internal support for NSS-based lookups too. This means that if neither io.systemd.Multiplexer nor io.systemd.NameSeviceSwitch are running look-ups into the basic user/group databases will still work.

The userdbctl tool may be used to make the list of SSH authorized keys possibly contained in a user record available to the SSH daemon for authentication. For that configure the following in sshd_config(5):
AuthorizedKeysCommand /usr/bin/userdbctl ssh-authorized-keys %u
AuthorizedKeysCommandUser root

On success, 0 is returned, a non-zero failure code otherwise.

Pager to use when --no-pager is not given; overrides $PAGER. If neither $SYSTEMD_PAGER nor $PAGER are set, a set of well-known pager implementations are tried in turn, including less(1) and more(1), until one is found. If no pager implementation is discovered no pager is invoked. Setting this environment variable to an empty string or the value "cat" is equivalent to passing --no-pager.


Override the options passed to less (by default "FRSXMK").

Users might want to change two options in particular:


This option instructs the pager to exit immediately when Ctrl+C is pressed. To allow less to handle Ctrl+C itself to switch back to the pager command prompt, unset this option.

If the value of $SYSTEMD_LESS does not include "K", and the pager that is invoked is less, Ctrl+C will be ignored by the executable, and needs to be handled by the pager.


This option instructs the pager to not send termcap initialization and deinitialization strings to the terminal. It is set by default to allow command output to remain visible in the terminal even after the pager exits. Nevertheless, this prevents some pager functionality from working, in particular paged output cannot be scrolled with the mouse.

See less(1) for more discussion.


Override the charset passed to less (by default "utf-8", if the invoking terminal is determined to be UTF-8 compatible).


The value must be a boolean. Controls whether colorized output should be generated. This can be specified to override the decision that systemd makes based on $TERM and what the console is connected to.


The value must be a boolean. Controls whether clickable links should be generated in the output for terminal emulators supporting this. This can be specified to override the decision that systemd makes based on $TERM and other conditions.

systemd(1), systemd-userdbd.service(8), systemd-homed.service(8), nss-systemd(8), getent(1)

JSON User Record
JSON Group Record
User/Group Record Lookup API via Varlink
systemd 246