I forgot the password to my Pi, but don't have access to a compatible monitor/keyboard. I've seen methods like these but they all involve editing cmdline.txt and then booting with a monitor and keyboard attached to run passwd pi from the main console. Is there a way I could do a similar thing (or something completely different to the same effect) but where I can interact via SSH/console cable?

4 Answers 4


The password isn't actually stored anywhere on the system, a one way hash of it is. This means even if you have the hash, you won't be able to deduce the password.

The hash itself is stored in /etc/shadow. Take the SD card out and stick it in another linux system; any common distro (ubuntu, fedora, arch, etc.) should do. On that system, create a new temporary user -- do all this via sudo or as root:

> useradd tmpuser
> grep tmpuser /etc/shadow

The last line of output is just an example but that's more or less what you should see. There might be two exclamation marks. Now open /etc/shadow, find that line (the one starting with tmpuser, or whatever name you used) and remove the ! (or two) from between the first two colons, so it is tmuser::16406.... This makes this a passwordless account. Now:

> su tmpuser
> passwd
Enter new UNIX password:

Go ahead and enter a password. This creates a hash in /etc/shadow; if you run grep tmpuser /etc/shadow you'll now see a long string between the first two colons; it probably begins with $6$,, eg.


If that's not there try sudo pwconv and check again (man pwconv explains this).

Now open the /etc/shadow file on the second partition of the SD card, i.e., the one used on the pi. In there you'll find a line beginning with pi or whatever user it is you are interested in. It will have a long string between the first two colons as above. Erase that (only the stuff between the first two colons!) and replace it with the string from tmpuser on the current system.

You could just remove it and leave the account passwordless, but I think you may then have problems with ssh. Whereas this method is pretty foolproof.

Unmount the partition, take the card out, boot it in the pi, and the password will be whatever you created above. You can then change that with passwd if you want.

To remove the temporary user you created for this purpose on the other system (n.b., you could always skip that and just use the hash from an account you know the password for):

> userdel tmpuser
  • 2
    You sir are awesome. Thats a neat hack :) Commented Dec 13, 2016 at 11:54
  • Upvote - great instructional answer.
    – SDsolar
    Commented Mar 28, 2017 at 21:39
  • i had tried days with everything else since i dint have a display for my pi! This is a perfect hack for those who dont have a display! @goldilocks is the best Commented Oct 20, 2017 at 19:10
  • if there are any permission issues to etc/shadow, in console change permissions to the file by executing this line sudo chmod 777 /etc/shadow in the terminal. Also dont forget to revert the permissions by executing sudo chmod 755 /etc/shadow Commented Oct 20, 2017 at 19:13
  • 3
    @PrashanthBenny the default flags for /etc/shadow seems to be 640, i.e. readable by root group and not visible by others.
    – Joël
    Commented Mar 24, 2019 at 15:04

You don't have to create a temporary user on a different system to generate a password hash. You can do it without root access by running:

openssl passwd -salt "salt" "password"

That gives you the hash string (using CRYPT) which you'll need to somehow put in /etc/shadow file on the SD card. If you want to use a different hash function (CRYPT is very old and insecure by now), passing -1 as an extra argument will generate an MD5 password (also insecure), -5 a SHA256 and -6 SHA512.

Another solution is to simply take the complete /etc/shadow from a working Raspbian image. This is only viable if you didn't create new users though.


A "similar thing" that comes to my mind:

  1. Unplug SD card (data loss may occur...)
  2. Put SD card into another machine running Linux
  3. Access the SD card and open /etc/shadow
  4. Replace the password hash for root
  5. ???
  6. profit

Another easy thing you can do is leave the password empty on /etc/passwd mounted on your laptop e.g. by modifying a pre-existing pi user line to be:


This then allows you to login without a password, it just logs in automatically after typing the username pi. You can then add a password if you want after logging into the pi with passwd.

Tested on Raspberry Pi 3, Raspbian 9.4.

  • Note that this will write the new password to /etc/passwd (to where the x was before) instead of /etc/shadow. Solution: Before setting the password switch to root sudo su add back the "x" to /etc/passwd and then do a passwd pi from the root shell.
    – das Keks
    Commented Apr 9, 2023 at 21:14

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