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How To Fix “User is not in sudoers file” Error on Ubuntu

Fix "User is not in sudoers file" Error on Ubuntu

Ubuntu, a popular Linux distribution, provides a robust and efficient environment for various computing tasks. However, encountering the dreaded “User is not in sudoers file” error can be a frustrating roadblock for many users. This error essentially tells you that the user attempting to run a command with superuser privileges via sudo is not allowed to do so. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore this error in-depth, offering a step-by-step approach to fix it, complete with additional tips, troubleshooting advice, and best practices for a more secure and efficient Ubuntu system.

Understanding Sudo and User Privileges

What is Sudo?

Sudo, short for “superuser do,” is a critical component of Unix-based operating systems, including Ubuntu. It allows authorized users to execute commands with superuser privileges, making system management more secure and controlled.

User Privileges in Ubuntu

Ubuntu classifies its users into different privilege levels. Standard users have limited access to the system, whereas administrative users have the ability to perform system-wide tasks using sudo. This distinction ensures that users don’t inadvertently damage the system.

The Role of the sudoers File

At the heart of this error is the sudoers file, which is responsible for controlling who can use sudo it and under what conditions. The sudoers file defines user privileges, commands allowed, and any restrictions, creating a granular access control system.

Diagnosing the Problem

Identifying the Affected User

To address this issue, first, identify the user encountering the error. Ensure that you have the necessary administrative access to make changes.

Verifying the Error Message

The error message itself provides valuable clues. It usually reads: “User is not in the sudoers file. This incident will be reported.” Carefully noting the error message helps in troubleshooting.

Checking for Administrative Privileges

Before proceeding, confirm that the affected user is indeed not a member of the sudo group. You can do this by running the following command, replacing <username> with the affected username:

groups <username>

If the output does not include “sudo,” the user is not in the sudo group.

Fixing the Error

Method 1: Using the Root User

When you encounter this error, you might find it convenient to use the root account to grant the user sudo privileges. Here’s how you can do it:

  1. Accessing the Root Account:
    • Open a terminal window.
    • Type the following command to access the root account: sudo su.
  2. Modifying the sudoers File:

    • Edit the sudoers file with the visudo command: visudo.

At this point, the system opens the sudoers file in your default text editor. Look for the following line:

  1. Adding the User to the sudo Group:

Below the aforementioned line, add the following line, replacing <username> with the affected username:

<username> ALL=(ALL:ALL) ALL

Save and exit the file. You can now exit the root account by typing exit.

Method 2: Utilizing an Existing sudo User

Alternatively, if another user with sudo privileges exist on the system, you can use this account to modify the sudoers file and grant access to the affected user:

  1. Identifying an Existing sudo User: You need to identify a user with an existing sudo privileges. If you are unsure, check with other administrators or use the sudo group as a reference.
  2. Modifying the sudoers File with Visudo:
    • Open a terminal window.
    • Execute the visudo command, which will open the sudoers file in your default text editor.
  3. Adding the User to the sudo Group:

Below is the line containing the sudo user (e.g., root), add a similar line for the affected user:

<username> ALL=(ALL:ALL) ALL

Save and exit the file.

Method 3: Booting into Recovery Mode

In some situations, you might need to boot into recovery mode to rectify the “User is not in sudoers file” error. Here’s how:

  1. Accessing Recovery Mode:
    • Reboot your system.
    • During the boot process, when the GRUB menu appears, select “Advanced options for Ubuntu” and then choose the recovery mode option.

Fix "User is not in sudoers file" Error on Ubuntu

  1. Editing sudoers File in Recovery Mode:
  • After selecting recovery mode, you will be presented with a menu. Choose “Enable networking” to ensure that you have an internet connection.
  • Select “Drop to root shell prompt” to access the root account.

Fix "User is not in sudoers file" Error

At this point, you’ll have a root shell prompt, and you can edit the sudoers file with the visudo command, following the same steps as in Method 1 or Method 2.

Common Pitfalls and Troubleshooting

  1. Typos and Syntax Errors: When editing the sudoers file, any typos or syntax errors can lead to issues. Double-check your changes for accuracy.
  2. Locking Yourself Out: Be cautious when modifying the sudoers file. A mistake could lead to locking yourself out of the system. Ensure you have a backup or another means of access.
  3. Recovery Mode Not Working: If recovery mode fails to work or access the root shell, consult the Ubuntu documentation or seek assistance in Ubuntu forums and communities.

Best Practices and Additional Tips

Creating a Separate Admin User

To enhance security and mitigate potential issues, consider creating a separate administrative user. This user can serve as a fallback in case of emergencies.

Regularly Backing Up the sudoers File

Prevent critical errors by regularly backing up your sudoers file. This ensures that you can quickly recover in the event of issues.

Using SSH Key-Based Authentication

For an extra layer of security, consider setting up SSH key-based authentication, reducing the reliance on passwords for remote access.

Ensuring Security and Monitoring

Regularly Auditing User Privileges

Continuously monitor and audit user privileges to ensure that only authorized users have access to the sudo command.

Implementing Strong Password Policies

Strong password policies are a fundamental aspect of security. Enforce these policies to safeguard your system from unauthorized access.

Setting Up Fail2Ban for Brute Force Protection

Implement Fail2Ban to protect your system from brute force attacks, enhancing security and reducing the likelihood of unauthorized access.


In this comprehensive guide, we’ve explored the “User is not in sudoers file” error on Ubuntu, delving into the intricacies of user privileges and the sudoers file. By understanding the error’s root causes and employing the methods described, you can effectively grant the necessary privileges to users, ensuring the smooth operation of your Ubuntu system.

Whether you choose to use the root account, an existing sudo user, or recovery mode, remember to proceed with caution and double-check your changes to avoid unintended consequences. Additionally, implementing best practices, such as creating a separate admin user, regularly backing up the sudoers file, and enhancing security with SSH key-based authentication, contributes to a more robust and secure system.

By following these guidelines, you empower yourself to maintain an Ubuntu system that is not only efficient but also resilient against potential security threats. Resolve the “User is not in sudoers file” error today and enjoy a more trouble-free Ubuntu experience.

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