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users Cookbook

Build Status Cookbook Version

Creates users from a databag search.



  • Debian / Ubuntu and derivatives
  • RHEL and derivatives
  • Fedora
  • Arch
  • Gentoo
  • Slackware
  • FreeBSD / OpenBSD
  • Mac OS X


  • Chef 11+


  • none

A data bag populated with user objects must exist. The default data bag in this recipe is users. See USAGE.


To include just the LWRPs in your cookbook, use:

include_recipe "users"

Otherwise, this cookbook is specific for setting up sysadmin group and users with the sysadmins recipe for now.

include_recipe "users::sysadmins"

Use knife to create a data bag for users.

$ knife data bag create users

Create a user in the data_bag/users/ directory.

When using an Omnibus ruby, one can specify an optional password hash. This will be used as the user's password.

The hash can be generated with the following command.

$ openssl passwd -1 "plaintextpassword"

Note: The ssh_keys attribute below can be either a String or an Array. However, we are recommending the use of an Array.

  "id": "bofh",
  "ssh_keys": "ssh-rsa AAAAB3Nz...yhCw== bofh"
  "id": "bofh",
  "password": "$1$d...HgH0",
  "ssh_keys": [
    "ssh-rsa foo",
    "ssh-rsa AAA456...uvw== bar"
  "groups": [ "sysadmin", "dba", "devops" ],
  "uid": 2001,
  "shell": "\/bin\/bash",
  "comment": "BOFH",
  "nagios": {
    "pager": "",
    "email": ""
  "openid": ""

You can pass any action listed in the user resource for Chef via the "action" option. For Example:

Lock a user, johndoe1.

$ knife data bag edit users johndoe1

And then change the action to "lock":

  "id": "johndoe1",
  "groups": ["sysadmin", "dba", "devops"],
  "uid": 2002,
  "action": "lock", // <--
  "comment": "User violated access policy"

Remove a user, johndoe1.

$ knife data bag edit users johndoe1

And then change the action to "remove":

  "id": "johndoe1",
  "groups": [ "sysadmin", "dba", "devops" ],
  "uid": 2002,
  "action": "remove", // <--
  "comment": "User quit, retired, or fired."
  • Note only user bags with the "action : remove" and a search-able "group" attribute will be purged by the :remove action.

The sysadmins recipe makes use of the users_manage Lightweight Resource Provider (LWRP), and looks like this:

users_manage "sysadmin" do
  group_id 2300
  action [ :remove, :create ]

Note this LWRP searches the users data bag for the sysadmin group attribute, and adds those users to a Unix security group sysadmin. The only required attribute is group_id, which represents the numeric Unix gid and must be unique. The default action for the LWRP is :create only.

If you have different requirements, for example:

  • You want to search a different data bag specific to a role such as mail. You may change the data_bag searched.
    • data_bag mail
  • You want to search for a different group attribute named postmaster. You may change the search_group attribute. This attribute defaults to the LWRP resource name.
    • search_group postmaster
  • You want to add the users to a security group other than the lightweight resource name. You may change the group_name attribute. This attribute also defaults to the LWRP resource name.
    • group_name wheel

Putting these requirements together our recipe might look like this:

users_manage "postmaster" do
  data_bag "mail"
  group_name "wheel"
  group_id 10

The latest version of knife supports reading data bags from a file and automatically looks in a directory called +data_bags+ in the current directory. The "bag" should be a directory with JSON files of each item. For the above:

$ mkdir data_bags/users
$EDITOR data_bags/users/bofh.json

Paste the user's public SSH key into the ssh_keys value. Also make sure the uid is unique, and if you're not using bash, that the shell is installed. The default search, and Unix group is sysadmin.

The recipe, by default, will also create the sysadmin group. If you're using the chef sudo cookbook, they'll have sudo access in the default site-cookbooks template. They won't have passwords though, so the sudo cookbook's template needs to be adjusted so the sysadmin group has NOPASSWD.

The sysadmin group will be created with GID 2300. This may become an attribute at a later date.

The Apache cookbook can set up authentication using OpenIDs, which is set up using the openid key here. See the Chef Software 'apache2' cookbook for more information about this.

Chef Solo

As of version 1.4.0, this cookbook might work with Chef Solo when using chef-solo-search by edelight. That cookbook is not a dependency of this one as Chef solo doesn't support dependency resolution using cookbook metadata - all cookbooks must be provided to the node manually when using Chef Solo.

License & Authors

Author: Cookbook Engineering Team (

Copyright: 2009-2015, Chef Software, Inc.

Licensed under the Apache License, Version 2.0 (the "License");
you may not use this file except in compliance with the License.
You may obtain a copy of the License at

Unless required by applicable law or agreed to in writing, software
distributed under the License is distributed on an "AS IS" BASIS,
See the License for the specific language governing permissions and
limitations under the License.
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