Managing user accounts on your Amazon Linux instance - Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud

Managing user accounts on your Amazon Linux instance

Each Linux instance launches with a default Linux system user account. The default user name is determined by the AMI that was specified when you launched the instance.

  • For Amazon Linux 2 or the Amazon Linux AMI, the user name is ec2-user.

  • For a CentOS AMI, the user name is centos.

  • For a Debian AMI, the user name is admin.

  • For a Fedora AMI, the user name is ec2-user or fedora.

  • For a RHEL AMI, the user name is ec2-user or root.

  • For a SUSE AMI, the user name is ec2-user or root.

  • For an Ubuntu AMI, the user name is ubuntu.

  • Otherwise, if ec2-user and root don't work, check with the AMI provider.


Linux system users should not be confused with AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) users. For more information, see IAM Users and Groups in the IAM User Guide.


Using the default user account is adequate for many applications. However, you may choose to add user accounts so that individuals can have their own files and workspaces. Furthermore, creating user accounts for new users is much more secure than granting multiple (possibly inexperienced) users access to the default user account, because the default user account can cause a lot of damage to a system when used improperly. For more information, see Tips for Securing Your EC2 Instance.

To enable users SSH access to your EC2 instance using a Linux system user account, you must share the SSH key with the user. Alternatively, you can use EC2 Instance Connect to provide access to users without the need to share and manage SSH keys. For more information, see Connecting to your Linux instance using EC2 Instance Connect.

Creating a user account

First create the user account, and then add the SSH public key that allows the user to connect to and log into the instance.

To create a user account

  1. Create a new key pair. You must provide the .pem file to the user for whom you are creating the user account. They must use this file to connect to the instance.

  2. Retrieve the public key from the key pair that you created in the previous step.

    $ ssh-keygen -y -f /path_to_key_pair/key-pair-name.pem

    The command returns the public key, as shown in the following example.

    ssh-rsa AAAAB3NzaC1yc2EAAAADAQABAAABAQClKsfkNkuSevGj3eYhCe53pcjqP3maAhDFcvBS7O6Vhz2ItxCih+PnDSUaw+WNQn/mZphTk/a/gU8jEzoOWbkM4yxyb/wB96xbiFveSFJuOp/d6RJhJOI0iBXrlsLnBItntckiJ7FbtxJMXLvvwJryDUilBMTjYtwB+QhYXUMOzce5Pjz5/i8SeJtjnV3iAoG/cQk+0FzZqaeJAAHco+CY/5WrUBkrHmFJr6HcXkvJdWPkYQS3xqC0+FmUZofz221CBt5IMucxXPkX4rWi+z7wB3RbBQoQzd8v7yeb7OzlPnWOyN0qFU0XA246RA8QFYiCNYwI3f05p6KLxEXAMPLE
  3. Connect to the instance.

  4. Use the adduser command to create the user account and add it to the system (with an entry in the /etc/passwd file). The command also creates a group and a home directory for the account. In this example, the user account is named newuser.

    • Amazon Linux and Amazon Linux 2

      [ec2-user ~]$ sudo adduser newuser
    • Ubuntu

      Include the --disabled-password parameter to create the user account without a password.

      [ubuntu ~]$ sudo adduser newuser --disabled-password
  5. Switch to the new account so that the directory and file that you create will have the proper ownership.

    [ec2-user ~]$ sudo su - newuser

    The prompt changes from ec2-user to newuser to indicate that you have switched the shell session to the new account.

  6. Add the SSH public key to the user account. First create a directory in the user's home directory for the SSH key file, then create the key file, and finally paste the public key into the key file, as described in the following sub-steps.

    1. Create a .ssh directory in the newuser home directory and change its file permissions to 700 (only the owner can read, write, or open the directory).

      [newuser ~]$ mkdir .ssh
      [newuser ~]$ chmod 700 .ssh

      Without these exact file permissions, the user will not be able to log in.

    2. Create a file named authorized_keys in the .ssh directory and change its file permissions to 600 (only the owner can read or write to the file).

      [newuser ~]$ touch .ssh/authorized_keys
      [newuser ~]$ chmod 600 .ssh/authorized_keys

      Without these exact file permissions, the user will not be able to log in.

    3. Open the authorized_keys file using your favorite text editor (such as vim or nano).

      [newuser ~]$ nano .ssh/authorized_keys

      Paste the public key that you retrieved in Step 2 into the file and save the changes.


      Ensure that you paste the public key in one continuous line. The public key must not be split over multiple lines.

      The user should now be able to log into the newuser account on your instance, using the private key that corresponds to the public key that you added to the authorized_keys file. For more information about the different methods of connecting to a Linux instance, see Connect to your Linux instance.

Removing a user account

If a user account is no longer needed, you can remove that account so that it can no longer be used.

Use the userdel command to remove the user account from the system. When you specify the -r parameter, the user's home directory and mail spool are deleted. To keep the user's home directory and mail spool, omit the -r parameter.

[ec2-user ~]$ sudo userdel -r olduser