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The Root Account

An administrator’s account isn’t exactly a skeleton key that gives unfettered access to every corner of the Mac. Even an administrator isn’t allowed to remove files from the System folder or other files whose removal could hobble the machine.

It turns out that Standard and Administrator aren’t the only kinds of accounts. There’s one account that wields ultimate power, one person who can do anything to any file anywhere. This person is called the superuser.

Unix fans speak of the superuser account—also called the root account—in hushed tones, because it offers absolutely unrestricted power. The root account holder can move, delete, rename, or otherwise mangle any file on the machine, no matter what folder it’s in. One wrong move—or one Internet hacker who manages to seize the root account—and you’ve got yourself a $2,500 doorstop. That’s why Mac OS X’s root account is completely hidden and, in fact, deactivated.


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