GROUP(5) FreeBSD File Formats Manual GROUP(5)


groupformat of the group permissions file


The group file is the local source of group information. It can be used in conjunction with the Hesiod domain `group', and the NIS maps `group.byname' and `group.bygid', as controlled by nsswitch.conf(5).

The file group consists of newline separated ASCII records, one per group, containing four colon ‘ :’ separated fields. These fields are as follows:

Name of the group.
Group's encrypted password.
The group's decimal ID.
Group members.

Lines whose first non-whitespace character is a pound-sign (#) are comments, and are ignored. Blank lines that consist only of spaces, tabs or newlines are also ignored.

The group field is the group name used for granting file access to users who are members of the group. The gid field is the number associated with the group name. They should both be unique across the system (and often across a group of systems) since they control file access. The passwd field is an optional encrypted password. This field is rarely used and an asterisk is normally placed in it rather than leaving it blank. The member field contains the names of users granted the privileges of group. The member names are separated by commas without spaces or newlines. A user is automatically in a group if that group was specified in their /etc/passwd entry and does not need to be added to that group in the group file.


The passwd(1) command does not change the group passwords. The pw(8) utility's groupmod command should be used instead.


There are various limitations which are explained in the function where they occur; see section SEE ALSO.

In older implementations, a group cannot have more than 200 members. The maximum line length of /etc/group is 1024 characters. Longer lines will be skipped. This limitation disappeared in FreeBSD 3.0. Older binaries that are statically linked, depend on old shared libraries, or non- FreeBSD binaries in compatibility mode may still have this limit.




A group file format appeared in Version 6 AT&T UNIX. Support for comments first appeared in FreeBSD 3.0.
February 8, 2013 FreeBSD