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The Root Account

During the discussion on Mac OS X’s file structure in Hour 2, you learned that the folders at the top level of the hard drive can’t be modified, which has been done to preserve system order and stability. The technical reason that even administrative users can’t make these changes is that those folders are owned by another account called the root, or superuser, account. This account exists on a completely different level, one that most users of Mac OS X never need to see. Although the administrator account works for most Mac OS X system administration, the root account is much more powerful.

Let’s talk about that power. The root account is an addition to the Mac OS that comes from the UNIX operating system. Traditionally, the root account has been reserved for the people who control the invisible workings of networks and are responsible for providing stable and usable systems for many users. From the root account, you can change any file or use the identity of another user without having to know his or her password. Basically, the root account can do whatever it chooses.


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