How to Create a Sudo User on Debian

April 24, 2024


The sudo command grants elevated privileges to a regular user, enabling them to temporarily execute programs with root permissions.

In this guide, you will learn how to create a user with sudo privileges in Debian, add a user to the sudo group, edit the sudoers file, and verify the user's sudo access.

How to create a sudo user on Debian.


  • A system running Debian (this tutorial uses Debian 12).
  • Access to an account with sudo or root privileges.
  • Access to the terminal.

Steps to Create a Sudo User on Debian

Standard user accounts are restricted from executing sensitive operations. For instance, attempting to list the /root directory contents using the ls command without elevated privileges results in an error:

ls /root

ls root terminal output

To use sudo and gain access to elevated privileges, take the steps below.

Step 1: Switch to the Root User

To create and modify users, you need root or sudo access. To switch to the root user, run the su command:

su root
su root terminal output on Debian

Step 2: Create a New User on Debian (adduser)

As the root user, create a new user with the adduser command. Append the desired user account name to the command:

adduser username

Note: If you already have an account you'd like to use, skip this step and go to Step 3.

For example, add user1 with the command:

adduser user1

The output looks like this:

Debian adduser user1 terminal output

To complete the process, enter the password for the user account and retype to confirm it.

adduser user1 password terminal output

The terminal also prompts you to change the user information. Fill in the details or hit Enter to leave the fields blank.

Debian user setup terminal output

Step 3: Grant Sudo Privileges

Users with root privileges can grant sudo privileges to any account. There are two ways to do this: via the usermod command or by editing the sudoers file. The following text elaborates on both options.

Add Debian User to Sudo Group Using usermod

All sudo group users have sudo privileges. To add a user to the sudo group via the usermod command, use the following:

usermod -aG sudo username

The command consists of the following parts:

  • usermod. Modifies a user account.
  • -aG. Tells the command to add the user to a specific group. The -a option adds a user to the group without removing it from current groups. The -G option states the group in which to add the user. In this case, these two options always go together.
  • sudo. The group we append to the above options. In this case, it is sudo, but it can be any other group.
  • username. The name of the user account you want to add to the sudo group.

For example, add user1 to the sudo group with:

usermod -aG sudo user1

The command has no output. However, to verify the new Debian sudo user was added to the group, run the command:

getent group sudo

The output lists all users in the group.

getent group sudo terminal output Debian

Edit the Sudoers File

To grant sudo privileges by editing the sudoers file, take the following steps:

1. Access the sudoers file with:

sudo visudo
sudo visudo terminal output Debian

2. Go to the section called User privilege specification.

3. Add a user and the appropriate permissions. For example, for user1:

editing sudoers file terminal output Debian

This means user1 is allowed to run any command on any host, as any user and any group.

4. Save and exit the file.

Test Sudo Access

To make sure the new user has sudo privileges:

1. Switch to the user account you want to test (in this case, user1):

su - user1
su user1 terminal output Debian

2. Run any command that requires superuser access. For example, execute:

sudo whoami
sudo whoami terminal output Debian

The sudo whoami command outputs root because a user with elevated privileges executes it.

How to Use Sudo on Debian

To run a command with root access, type in sudo and enter the desired command.

For example, to view details for the root directory, run the ls tool:

sudo ls /root
sudo ls /root terminal output Debian

Enter the password, and the terminal shows the root directory contents.


This article explained how to create a sudo user on Debian using two different methods. Next, learn the differences between sudo and su.

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Sara Zivanov
Sara Zivanov is a technical writer at phoenixNAP who is passionate about making high-tech concepts accessible to everyone. Her experience as a content writer and her background in Engineering and Project Management allows her to streamline complex processes and make them user-friendly through her content.
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