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GETPWNAM(3) Library Functions Manual GETPWNAM(3)


getpwnam, getpwuid, getpwnam_r, getpwuid_r, getpwnam_shadow, getpwuid_shadow, setpassentpassword database operations


#include <pwd.h>
struct passwd *
getpwnam(const char *login);
struct passwd *
getpwuid(uid_t uid);
getpwnam_r(const char *login, struct passwd *pwstore, char *buf, size_t bufsize, struct passwd **result);
getpwuid_r(uid_t uid, struct passwd *pwstore, char *buf, size_t bufsize, struct passwd **result);
struct passwd *
getpwnam_shadow(const char *login);
struct passwd *
getpwuid_shadow(uid_t uid);
setpassent(int stayopen);


These functions operate on the password database file which is described in passwd(5). Each entry in the database is defined by the structure struct passwd found in the include file <pwd.h>:
struct passwd { 
	char	*pw_name;	/* user name */ 
	char	*pw_passwd;	/* encrypted password */ 
	uid_t	pw_uid;		/* user uid */ 
	gid_t	pw_gid;		/* user gid */ 
	time_t	pw_change;	/* password change time */ 
	char	*pw_class;	/* user access class */ 
	char	*pw_gecos;	/* Honeywell login info */ 
	char	*pw_dir;	/* home directory */ 
	char	*pw_shell;	/* default shell */ 
	time_t	pw_expire;	/* account expiration */ 
The functions getpwnam() and getpwuid() search the password database for the given login name or user ID, respectively, always returning the first one encountered.
The getpwnam_r() and getpwuid_r() functions both update the passwd structure pointed to by pwstore and store a pointer to that structure at the location pointed to by result. The structure is filled with an entry from the password database with a matching name or uid. Storage referenced by the passwd structure will be allocated from the memory provided with the buf parameter, which is bufsiz characters in size. The maximum size needed for this buffer can be determined with sysconf(_SC_GETPW_R_SIZE_MAX).
setpassent() accomplishes two purposes. First, it causes getpwent(3) to “rewind” to the beginning of the database. Additionally, if stayopen is non-zero, file descriptors are left open, significantly speeding up subsequent accesses for the lookup routines. These file descriptors can be closed by a call to endpwent(3).
It is dangerous for long-running programs to keep the file descriptors open as the database will become out of date if it is updated while the program is running. However the file descriptors are automatically closed when execve(2) is called.
These routines have been written to “shadow” the password file, that is, allow only certain programs to have access to the encrypted password. The default functions will not return the true encrypted password, but instead only the string ‘*’. If the process which calls them has an effective UID of 0 or has the “_shadow” group in its group vector, and wishes to access the encrypted password, it should use the getpwnam_shadow() and getpwuid_shadow() functions.

YP support

If YP is active, the functions getpwnam() and getpwnam_r() also use the master.passwd.byname YP map (if available) or the passwd.byname YP map; and the functions getpwuid() and getpwuid_r() also use the master.passwd.byuid YP map (if available) or the passwd.byuid YP map. This is in addition to the passwd file, and respects the order of both normal and YP entries in the passwd file.


The functions getpwnam() and getpwuid() return a pointer to a passwd structure if a match is found or a NULL pointer if no match is found or an error occurs.
The functions getpwnam_r() and getpwuid_r() update result to point to pwstore if a match is found or set it to NULL if no match is found or an error occurs. They return 0 on success, even if no match is found, or an error number if an error occurs; see ERRORS.
The setpassent() function returns 0 on failure or 1 on success.


insecure password database file
secure password database file
current password file
legacy password file


The getpwnam_r() and getpwuid_r() functions may fail if:
The storage supplied via buf and bufsize is too small and cannot contain all the strings to be returned in pwstore.
The getpwnam(), getpwnam_r(), getpwuid(), and getpwuid_r() functions may also fail for any of the errors specified for dbopen(3) and its get() routine.
If YP is active, they may also fail due to errors caused by the YP subsystem.


getlogin(2), getgrent(3), getgrouplist(3), getpwent(3), pw_dup(3), sysconf(3), passwd(5), Makefile.yp(8), pwd_mkdb(8), vipw(8), yp(8)


The getpwnam(), getpwnam_r(), getpwuid(), and getpwuid_r() functions are compliant with the IEEE Std 1003.1-2008 (“POSIX.1”) specification.
YP support and the setpassent() function are extensions to that specification.


A predecessor to getpwuid(), getpw(), first appeared in Version 4 AT&T UNIX. The getpwnam() and getpwuid() functions appeared in Version 7 AT&T UNIX. The setpassent() function appeared in 4.3BSD-Reno.


The getpwnam() and getpwuid() functions store their results in an internal static buffer and return a pointer to that buffer. Subsequent calls to getpwent(), getpwnam(), or getpwuid() will overwrite the same buffer.
August 14, 2016 OpenBSD-current