Linux List Users: How to Display All Users in the Terminal?

Listing users in Linux is an essential system administration task, especially if multiple developers work on the same virtual private server (VPS) environment. It helps simplify account auditing and permission management to ensure optimal security.

In Linux, list users by applying commands via Terminal, like cut, getent, and awk. However, these utilities have different outputs, making them suitable for particular management tasks and scenarios.

This article will explain how to show users in a Linux operating system using different commands. We will explore the prerequisites and best practices to ensure smooth system administration.

Prerequisites for Listing Linux Users

Before listing Linux users, ensure you have access to the system’s command-line interface. For remote machines like a VPS, connect using an SSH client like PuTTY, Terminal, or Hostinger’s Browser terminal.

SSH access tab in hPanel's VPS overview menu

Also, you must log in as the root user since managing all the users requires an administrative privilege. Hostinger’s VPS hosting users can find the login information by going to hPanelVPSManage SSH Access tab.

Warning! Use root carefully as you might accidentally run destructive Linux commands. For security, log in as other users with administrative privileges and run the commands with sudo instead.

How to List Users in Linux

In Linux distributions, users are accounts that can interact with and manage the operating system. They are divided into two types – normal and system users.

System users are created automatically when you install the operating system or a package. Meanwhile, you set up a regular account manually using the useradd command.

Aside from the origin, they also have different IDs. A normal user typically has four-digit numbers, while the system account commonly uses 1-999.

Every Linux distribution stores all the users and their information within the /etc/passwd file, which comprises lines with the following syntax:


Each line represents a regular or system user account. Here’s what it means:

  • username – the account’s name.
  • x – the user’s encrypted password. The actual value is in /etc/shadow.
  • userID – the user’s identification number.
  • groupID – the group ID number the user belongs to.
  • Userinfo – extra information about the user.
  • /homedir – the user’s home directory.
  • /bin/bash – the user’s default login shell.

How to List Users Using the cat Command

The cat or concatenate command reads and merges the content of multiple files. It also lets you list users in Linux by printing the /etc/passwd file entries like so:

cat /etc/passwd

By default, this Linux command will print all lines, showing multiple users and their details.

cat prints all users and their details from the passwd file

Querying the /etc/passwd file will show both regular and system accounts, regardless of their statuses. To list all the connected users, run the users command instead.

How to List Linux Users Using the getent Command

The getent command queries entries from system databases configured in /etc/nsswitch.conf, including passwd. To list all users, enter the following command:

getent passwd optional-user

If you specify the user, getent will show detailed information about that particular account. Otherwise, it displays all users similar to the cat command’s output.

The getent command lists all users and their details from the passwd database

You can also use gentent to query other databases, like group that contains system groups. In addition, this utility is cross-compatible with other UNIX operating systems.

How to List Users With awk and cut Commands for Custom Output

If you want to output only usernames, use the awk command. This text-processing utility lets you set a character as a delimiter to divide each line in the /etc/passwd file into multiple fields.

We will set the colon (:) as the delimiter using the -F option and print the first column from each line, which contains only the usernames:

awk -F':' '{ print $1}' /etc/passwd
awk prints usernames from the passwd file

You can also do so using the cut command. It works similarly to awk but has a different syntax:

cut -d: -f1 /etc/passwd

Aside from the usernames, you can use the awk or cut command to print custom outputs. For example, if you want to list all user IDs, run either of the following:

awk -F':' '{ print $3}' /etc/passwd
cut -d: -f3 /etc/passwd

Both commands use the colon as the delimiter and print the third field from each line, which contains the unique user ID.

awk prints user IDs from the passwd file

Best Practices for Effective User Listing

To help improve your system administration efficiency, consider the following best practices when listing users in Linux.

Combine Commands With Pipes for Advanced User Listing

In a Linux system, a pipe (|) lets you pass output from a command to another utility. It is helpful for manipulating data and printing specific information.

Suppose you want to check a particular user ID number. You can do so by printing all the data using cat and passing the output into grep for filtering. Here’s how the command looks:

cat /etc/passwd | grep JohnDoe

The same command also lets you check whether a specific user exists.

cat and grep commands query a line from passwd containing a particular username

You can also combine the awk command with the Linux find utility to retrieve all user accounts that own a file:

find / -type f -exec stat -c "%U %n" {} + | awk '{print $1}' | sort -u

Use a GUI for User Management

If you are unfamiliar with commands, use a graphical user interface (GUI) to list and manage users in a Linux-based system. While desktop distributions offer it by default, you need a third-party tool for a server.

The most common web-based utility for managing Linux system users is a control panel like Webmin, Virtualmin, and Plesk. While their features vary, they should be sufficient for listing and managing users.

Operating system and panel installation menu in hPanel

Depending on your web hosting provider, the steps to install them differ. At Hostinger, you can do so in a few clicks by going to hPanel VPSSettings OS & Panels Operating System. Click OS with Control Panel, select a template, and hit Change OS.

Clearing the cookies will log you out of previously-visited websites. Thus, we recommend saving your login information before following this method.

Manage User Information Securely

Proper user management is crucial for system safety and data integrity. Here are several tasks to consider:

  • Assign minimal privileges. Only grant superuser privileges to a Linux system administrator to prevent unauthorized parties from viewing user information.
  • Set proper permissions. Limit important files and directory permissions only to authorized users, especially those containing personal data.
  • Enforce strong passwords. Ensure all system and normal users in the VPS use strong passwords with uppercase letters, numbers, and symbols.
  • Regularly audit users. Periodically check all regular user accounts in your system to catch potentially malicious or compromised ones.

Write Simple Bash Scripts for Repetitive Tasks

Security audits require you to regularly display users to check for suspicious ones. Instead of doing so manually, Linux system administrators use a bash script to automate the process.

For example, you can create a script to list all user accounts in a TXT file using a single command execution. Then, use a cron job to run the task automatically at a specific interval or schedule.

Hostinger VPS AI Assistant generates bash script for a user administration task

Since the script will vary depending on your task, use Hostinger’s VPS AI assistant to generate it automatically. Access this tool by clicking AI Assistant on the VPS overview page’s sidebar.


Listing users in a Linux system is crucial for server administrations. You can do so by outputting the /etc/passwd file’s content using the cat command. It will print all usernames with details like their ID, default home directory, and login shell path.

You can also get the same output by querying the passwd database using the getent command. Meanwhile, run awk -F or cut -d if you want to print only the names without additional user details.

Moreover, pipe the output into another command to print custom data. For example, add the grep command to filter specific entries or find to search file owners. You can also install a control panel like Webmin to easily manage users with GUI.

At Hostinger, you can install it easily using a control panel template via hPanel. We also offer a VPS AI assistant that helps generate bash scripts to automate repetitive user administration tasks.

Linux List Users FAQ

To help you understand better, this section will answer several questions about listing users in Linux.

How Do I List Users in Linux?

You can list user accounts on Linux using the commands cat /etc/passwd or getent passwd. To see just the usernames, use awk -F: ‘{ print $1 }’ /etc/passwd or cut -d: -f1 /etc/passwd. To find currently logged-in users, use the users command.

Can I View All Users and Their Details With One Command?

Yes, you can display all system and regular users by running cat /etc/passwd. Alternatively, use the getent command to retrieve the information directly from the passwd database. The output will be identical with both commands.

Which Option Shows Only the Username When Listing Users?

The options differ depending on the command. Use -F with awk to print only the username. It separates each line in /etc/passwd into multiple fields and prints the first column. You can do the same using -d with the cut utility.

Is There a Way to Sort the User List Alphabetically?

Yes, you can sort the user list alphabetically by piping output from awk, cut, getent, or cat commands into the sort utility. It will use descending order by default, but you can reverse it using the -r option.

The author

Aris Sentika

Aris is a Content Writer specializing in Linux and WordPress development. He has a passion for networking, front-end web development, and server administration. By combining his IT and writing experience, Aris creates content that helps people easily understand complex technical topics to start their online journey. Follow him on LinkedIn.