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I made the mistake of changing of the pi user name string to something else (e.g. foo) in /etc/passwd. I did not change the home directory. Now when I try to log in via ssh to the new user, sshd immediately closes the connection (I have my ssh public key in /home/pi/.ssh/autorized_keys). If I try to log in as pi, it asks for a password, but then fails to authenticate.

I can easily modify the boot partition (it mounts on macOS). Is there any way to set things up so I can log in, perhaps via serial console, to fix /etc/passwd? Or is my only hope to mount the entire filesystem (e.g. on a Debian VM) and edit /etc/passwd?

Update

I was able to mount the boot drive on a Debian VM and edit /etc/passwd to restore the username to pi, but any attempt to connect ssh pi@<ip address> is immediately refused. And the device no longer seems to advertise its mDNS name. The Docker containers are running, though. I’m very confused.

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    Why would someone downvote this question? It's a perfectly valid question, even if it does describe a mistake. There was a time when unix would have perfectly accepted this change.
    – Rick
    Jan 9, 2022 at 6:39
  • probably because the question is not about Raspberry Pi, but about Linux ... it does not belong here
    – jsotola
    Jan 9, 2022 at 8:35
  • That seems like splitting hairs, but okay, I'll go elsewhere.
    – Rick
    Jan 9, 2022 at 9:28
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    @Rick sorry that you experience this. I can second, this stackexchange is very unfriendly with a lot of unwanted gate keeping, there are much more positive communities (e.g. tex.stackexchange is amazing). I recommend to use forums instead.
    – 0__
    Jan 9, 2022 at 22:35
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    @0__ Yeah, I’ve never experienced this on other SE sites, and as a professional software engineer, I use them frequently.
    – Rick
    Jan 9, 2022 at 23:07

2 Answers 2

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Instead of trying to SSH in remotely, could you try connecting a keyboard and monitor temporarily to the raspi and log in locally?

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  • No, not really, I don't have a monitor or keyboard handy, just a laptop and serial cable. That's why I'm looking for this solution.
    – Rick
    Jan 9, 2022 at 4:58
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It is difficult to see what you hoped to achieve by changing the pi user name string (this is a totally new way to screw up your OS).

You can remove the password by changing pi:x:1000:1000: to pi::1000:1000: This is simple with a monitor/keyboard.

Whether this will work over ssh is unknown.

Normally logging in as a root shell is the way to fix problems but this requires a monitor/keyboard as ssh root access is prohibited.

Frankly the best way is to restore from your backup.

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  • I had hoped to achieve changing the name of the user without first creating another user just to allow usermod to function. This was once a perfectly reasonable way to change a username.
    – Rick
    Jan 9, 2022 at 6:40

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