getpwent, setpwent, endpwent — get password file entry


#include <sys/types.h>
#include <pwd.h>

struct passwd *getpwent(void);

void setpwent(void);

void endpwent(void);

Feature Test Macro Requirements for glibc (see feature_test_macros(7)):

getpwent(), setpwent(), endpwent():

   || /* Glibc since 2.19: */ _DEFAULT_SOURCE
   || /* Glibc versions <= 2.19: */ _BSD_SOURCE || _SVID_SOURCE


The getpwent() function returns a pointer to a structure containing the broken-out fields of a record from the password database (e.g., the local password file /etc/passwd, NIS, and LDAP). The first time getpwent() is called, it returns the first entry; thereafter, it returns successive entries.

The setpwent() function rewinds to the beginning of the password database.

The endpwent() function is used to close the password database after all processing has been performed.

The passwd structure is defined in <pwd.h> as follows:

struct passwd {
    char   *pw_name;       /* username */
    char   *pw_passwd;     /* user password */
    uid_t   pw_uid;        /* user ID */
    gid_t   pw_gid;        /* group ID */
    char   *pw_gecos;      /* user information */
    char   *pw_dir;        /* home directory */
    char   *pw_shell;      /* shell program */

For more information about the fields of this structure, see passwd(5).

Return Value

The getpwent() function returns a pointer to a passwd structure, or NULL if there are no more entries or an error occurred. If an error occurs, errno is set appropriately. If one wants to check errno after the call, it should be set to zero before the call.

The return value may point to a static area, and may be overwritten by subsequent calls to getpwent(), getpwnam(3), or getpwuid(3). (Do not pass the returned pointer to free(3).)



A signal was caught; see signal(7).


I/O error.


The per-process limit on the number of open file descriptors has been reached.


The system-wide limit on the total number of open files has been reached.


Insufficient memory to allocate passwd structure.


Insufficient buffer space supplied.



local password database file


For an explanation of the terms used in this section, see attributes(7).

Interface Attribute Value
getpwent() Thread safety MT-Unsafe race:pwent
race:pwentbuf locale
Thread safety MT-Unsafe race:pwent locale

In the above table, pwent in race:pwent signifies that if any of the functions setpwent(), getpwent(), or endpwent() are used in parallel in different threads of a program, then data races could occur.

Conforming to

POSIX.1-2001, POSIX.1-2008, SVr4, 4.3BSD. The pw_gecos field is not specified in POSIX, but is present on most implementations.

See Also

fgetpwent(3), getpw(3), getpwent_r(3), getpwnam(3), getpwuid(3), putpwent(3), passwd(5)


This page is part of release 5.04 of the Linux man-pages project. A description of the project, information about reporting bugs, and the latest version of this page, can be found at

Referenced By

crypt(3), crypt(5), crypt_gensalt(3), fgetpwent(3), genhomedircon(8), gentoo(1), getent(1), getpw(3), getpwent_r(3), getpwnam(3), getspnam(3), hlfsd(8), mh-alias(5), nss(5), nsswitch.conf(5), pam_mount.conf(5), passwd(5), pmcd(1), pmdapipe(1), putpwent(3), saslauthd(8), setaliasent(3), shadow(3), winbindd(8), xs(1), xscreensaver(1).

The man pages endpwent(3) and setpwent(3) are aliases of getpwent(3).

2017-09-15 GNU Linux Programmer's Manual