getpwnam, getpwnam_r, getpwuid, getpwuid_r — get password file entry


#include <sys/types.h>
#include <pwd.h>
struct passwd *getpwnam( const char *name);
struct passwd *getpwuid( uid_t uid);
int getpwnam_r( const char *name,
  struct passwd *pwd,
  char *buf,
  size_t buflen,
  struct passwd **result);
int getpwuid_r( uid_t uid,
  struct passwd *pwd,
  char *buf,
  size_t buflen,
  struct passwd **result);
[Note] Note
Feature Test Macro Requirements for glibc (see feature_test_macros(7)):
getpwnam_r(), getpwuid_r():
_POSIX_C_SOURCE || /* Glibc versions <= 2.19:


The getpwnam() function returns a pointer to a structure containing the broken-out fields of the record in the password database (e.g., the local password file /etc/passwd, NIS, and LDAP) that matches the username name.

The getpwuid() function returns a pointer to a structure containing the broken-out fields of the record in the password database that matches the user ID uid.

The passwd structure is defined in <pwd.h> as follows:

struct passwd {
  char * pw_name;
/* username */
  char * pw_passwd;
/* user password */
  uid_t   pw_uid;
/* user ID */
  gid_t   pw_gid;
/* group ID */
  char * pw_gecos;
/* user information */
  char * pw_dir;
/* home directory */
  char * pw_shell;
/* shell program */

See passwd(5) for more information about these fields.

The getpwnam_r() and getpwuid_r() functions obtain the same information as getpwnam() and getpwuid(), but store the retrieved passwd structure in the space pointed to by pwd. The string fields pointed to by the members of the passwd structure are stored in the buffer buf of size buflen. A pointer to the result (in case of success) or NULL (in case no entry was found or an error occurred) is stored in *result.

The call


returns either −1, without changing errno, or an initial suggested size for buf. (If this size is too small, the call fails with ERANGE, in which case the caller can retry with a larger buffer.)


The getpwnam() and getpwuid() functions return a pointer to a passwd structure, or NULL if the matching entry is not found or an error occurs. If an error occurs, errno is set appropriately. If one wants to check errno after the call, it should be set to zero before the call.

The return value may point to a static area, and may be overwritten by subsequent calls to getpwent(3), getpwnam(), or getpwuid(). (Do not pass the returned pointer to free(3).)

On success, getpwnam_r() and getpwuid_r() return zero, and set *result to pwd. If no matching password record was found, these functions return 0 and store NULL in *result. In case of error, an error number is returned, and NULL is stored in *result.


0 or ENOENT or ESRCH or EBADF or EPERM or ...

The given name or uid was not found.


A signal was caught; see signal(7).


I/O error.


The per-process limit on the number of open file descriptors has been reached.


The system-wide limit on the total number of open files has been reached.


Insufficient memory to allocate passwd structure.


Insufficient buffer space supplied.



local password database file


For an explanation of the terms used in this section, see attributes(7).

Interface Attribute Value
getpwnam() Thread safety MT-Unsafe race:pwnam locale
getpwuid() Thread safety MT-Unsafe race:pwuid locale



Thread safety MT-Safe locale


POSIX.1-2001, POSIX.1-2008, SVr4, 4.3BSD. The pw_gecos field is not specified in POSIX, but is present on most implementations.


The formulation given above under "RETURN VALUE" is from POSIX.1-2001. It does not call "not found" an error, and hence does not specify what value errno might have in this situation. But that makes it impossible to recognize errors. One might argue that according to POSIX errno should be left unchanged if an entry is not found. Experiments on various UNIX-like systems show that lots of different values occur in this situation: 0, ENOENT, EBADF, ESRCH, EWOULDBLOCK, EPERM, and probably others.

The pw_dir field contains the name of the initial working directory of the user. Login programs use the value of this field to initialize the HOME environment variable for the login shell. An application that wants to determine its user's home directory should inspect the value of HOME (rather than the value getpwuid(getuid())−>pw_dir) since this allows the user to modify their notion of "the home directory" during a login session. To determine the (initial) home directory of another user, it is necessary to use getpwnam("username")−>pw_dir or similar.


The program below demonstrates the use of getpwnam_r() to find the full username and user ID for the username supplied as a command-line argument.

#include <pwd.h>
#include <stdio.h>
#include <stdlib.h>
#include <unistd.h>
#include <errno.h>

main(int argc, char *argv[])
    struct passwd pwd;
    struct passwd *result;
    char *buf;
    size_t bufsize;
    int s;

    if (argc != 2) {
        fprintf(stderr, "Usage: %s username\n", argv[0]);

    bufsize = sysconf(_SC_GETPW_R_SIZE_MAX);
    if (bufsize == −1)          /* Value was indeterminate */
        bufsize = 16384;        /* Should be more than enough */

    buf = malloc(bufsize);
    if (buf == NULL) {

    s = getpwnam_r(argv[1], &pwd, buf, bufsize, &result);
    if (result == NULL) {
        if (s == 0)
            printf("Not found\n");
        else {
            errno = s;

    printf("Name: %s; UID: %ld\n", pwd.pw_gecos, (long) pwd.pw_uid);


endpwent(3), fgetpwent(3), getgrnam(3), getpw(3), getpwent(3), getspnam(3), putpwent(3), setpwent(3), passwd(5)


This page is part of release 5.04 of the Linux man-pages project. A description of the project, information about reporting bugs, and the latest version of this page, can be found at−pages/.

  Copyright 1993 David Metcalfe (
and Copyright 2008, Linux Foundation, written by Michael Kerrisk

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References consulted:
    Linux libc source code
    Lewine's "POSIX Programmer's Guide" (O'Reilly & Associates, 1991)
    386BSD man pages

Modified 1993-07-24 by Rik Faith (
Modified 1996-05-27 by Martin Schulze (
Modified 2003-11-15 by aeb
2008-11-07, mtk, Added an example program for getpwnam_r().