Root Password Recovery on a Sparc LDOM

If the root password for a Unix system is lost or forgotten, it can be very difficult to regain root access and perform further administration work. Often it will be impossible. You could be lucky – there might be a user account with sudo access, or even a root shell still open on the system somewhere, for example on the system console. If the system is x86, you might be able to boot it from a live CD and restore root access by doctoring the root disk. Otherwise, with most systems (physical and virtual), it will often be a case of rebuilding the system from scratch.

Solaris is a bit different. It has long been possible with Solaris to regain root access by booting the physical system from a Solaris installation CD, mounting the original root disk and removing the root password string from the relevant file, usually /etc/shadow. The same technique works, surprisingly, with SPARC virtual systems, aka LDOMs. Proceed as follows.

1. Copy a Sun installation CD iso to the parent system and export it to the LDOM of interest. The parent system will usually be a SPARC blade or similar. Here, the name of the LDOM is ldom1:

# ldm add-vdsdev /LDOM/ldom1/sol-10-u8-ga-sparc-dvd.iso ldom1-cdrom@primary-vds0
# ldm add-vdisk ldom1-cdrom ldom1-cdrom@primary-vds0 ldom1

2. Stop the LDOM.

# ldm stop ldom1

3. Ensure that the LDOM is not set to auto boot.

# ldm list-variable auto-boot? ldom1

Set the above variable to “False” if it was set to “True”.

4. Start the LDOM

# ldm start ldom1

5. Telnet to the LDOM console from the parent. At the “ok” prompt, look for the cdrom device:

{0} ok show-disks
a) /virtual-devices@100/channel-devices@200/disk@2
b) /virtual-devices@100/channel-devices@200/disk@1
c) /virtual-devices@100/channel-devices@200/disk@0

The cdrom will be the last disk added, ie the one with the highest index number, (a) above.

6. Boot into single-user more mode from the cdrom:

{0} ok boot -s /virtual-devices@100/channel-devices@200/disk@2

7. When the LDOM comes up, it will be already logged in as root. On the LDOM, mount the root disk as /mnt

ldom1# mount /dev/dsk/c0t0d0 /mnt

8. Edit the shadow file and delete the password entry for root

ldom1# vi /mnt/etc/shadow

9. Save the edits and reboot the ldom

ldom1# reboot

10. When he LDOM comes up full-user, login as root (no password will be asked) and set the root password to something appropriate:

ldom1# passwd root

That’s it.

16 thoughts on “Root Password Recovery on a Sparc LDOM

  1. Hi,

    Thanks for such a great article and its of so much use. However I need help, and its related to rebooting the LDOM in Single user mode through ISO file.

    Whenever I try to do is, its throwing an error,
    Giving an error krtld:Unused kernel arguments: ‘/virtual-devices@100/channel-devices@200/disk@2’, and after that booting the system in Single user maintenance mode.

    Can you please help, how we can resolve it

    Thanks in advance, Dinesh Manral

    • Dinesh,

      The system seems to have a problem with the boot command that was used. Please post the exact boot command you used, and the output of show-disks (from the ok prompt) on your system.


    • Hi Dinesh,

      try the following boot command
      {0} ok boot /virtual-devices@100/channel-devices@200/disk@2 -s

      It’s also a good idea to check your aliases:
      {0} ok devalias
      That can make the boot command a little more convenient – for example, if the alias for
      /virtual-devices@100/channel-devices@200/disk@2 is ‘cdrom’, you can boot from cdrom into single user mode with the following command:

      {0} ok boot cdrom -s


  2. Hi,

    I am stuck at 7. When the LDOM comes up, it will be already logged in as root. On the LDOM, mount the root disk as /mnt. A prompt comes up to enter username for system maintenance (control-d to bypass). The root usernamd and pw do not work (working in Solaris11), neither does control-d, control-c, or simply hitting enter to bypass. I do not know any of the other usernames. Can you please help? Thanks

  3. Sorry guys, I don’t know why your Sparc systems came up asking for login. It worked fine when I tested it, before writing the article. I hope you manage to get a solution.

  4. For Sparc Systems , how to find the root file system , is it always /dev/dsk/c0t3d0s0 or we need to figure it out first; what are the commands to identify the root file system.
    Any help will be greatly appreciated… Thanks!

    • Hi Mohib, I don’t fully understand your question. But the root file system on Solaris (or any unix) can be identified with the shell command

      df -k /

      Hope that is of help.

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