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Can't change root password at run level one

holinux asked
Last Modified: 2013-12-16
A Server I support crashed due to system disk space being filled up. I cleared the space, then ran chkdsk to fix the errors on the filesystem. All came up OK, but now X does not start, and I can't log in as root. From the console I type in root and it just goes back to the login prompt without asking for the password.

When I boot into single user mode and try to change the password, I get the error "authentication token manipulation error" and can't change the password.

I searched the internet and tried a few things suggested but to no avail. I want to try an upgrade thinking that will fix the problem, but can't find the drivers for the SATA Controller on the motherboard.

Help!!! :-(
Watch Question

What are the permissions of /usr/bin/passwd file and who are the owner and group for the same?
Artysystem administrator
Top Expert 2007

how exactly do you try to change password?
do you have some external authentication server, like Kerberos?
Top Expert 2007


try mount -a

It could be that root file system is  mounted read only in single user mode.
Top Expert 2005
This one is on us!
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evilrixSenior Software Engineer (Avast)

Have you tried using 'su -' or sudo (if you've set it up and configured it) to assume root identity when logged in as a normal user?

Also, you can normally reset the root password by booting from your distro's recovery CD.

Did you tried booting in RESCUE MODE?
evilrixSenior Software Engineer (Avast)

Didn't I suggest that 3 days ago?


I found out what the problem was. Booted into single user mode and did what ravenpl suggested in doing the strace on the root passwd. A whole bunch of gibberish was outputed to the screen, but what caught my attention was an error saying /var/lib/security/pam_deny.so no such directory or file does not exist. So I went to the directory /var/lib/security to confirm that the files did exist and indeed they did. Then I went to the /etc/pam.d/ directory and had a look at /etc/pam.d/passwd. That was OK. Then I decided to look at the file /etc/pam.d/system-auth and lo and behold the file was empty. Yes I mean empty. Fortunately I had another Linux system running Fedora core 4. So I just copied on a piece of paper what was in /etc/pam.d/system-auth and typed it in the system-auth file in the CentOS 4 server. When I did passwd I was able to change the root password.  I rebooted into run level 5 and was able to log onto the gui session.

Thank God I stumbled onto it because it did have me stumped.


ravenpl pointed me in the right direction with the strace command which helped me "stumble" upon what was wrong. That is why I said the solution was paritally complete and partially accurate but easy to understand.

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