Sudo vs. root

Florian Diesch diesch at
Fri Apr 16 22:24:21 UTC 2010

Dotan Cohen <dotancohen at> writes:

> I have a neighbor who runs some Java server on his Ubuntu machine. He
> actually logs into the GUI as root and then runs the server from the
> terminal. He is no computer guru, this is how he was taught to do it.
> He insists that he has tried to start the server with sudo from a
> regular user account, but that it "doesn't work": it starts but does
> not serve. I will go over there on Sunday to take a look at the
> machine, but before I go I'd like to know if there is any real
> difference between running an application as root vs. running with
> sudo.

sudo runs the application as root, just like if you run it from any
other program running as root. But as sudo doesn't execute a shell but
runs the program directly the environment is most likely different from
the one in a root shell.

 sudo -i command
 sudo bash -c command
 sudo bash   #and start the program at the prompt

The first one starts root's shell as login shell (unlike the GUI), the
second as non-interactive shell (unlike the terminal). Both influences
what config files are read by the shell - see the man page.

The last one should be the same as using a root terminal.


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