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Mac administrators may find themselves in a situation where they need to display a list of all user accounts on a particular Mac from the command line. We will look at some methods for advanced users to list all accounts, both user and system, on any Mac with any version of Mac OS X system software.
A few basic preliminary approaches to this are accessing the login screen or displaying the contents of the / Users directory, but if a user account is hidden it will not show up on the login screen and it is just as easy to hide a user from the / Users folder. In addition, the existence of a name in the / Users / directory is not foolproof as you can delete a user account but keep those users home directory. As a result, while these approaches may be suitable for the regular Mac user looking to show what users have them on a computer, none of these methods are particularly sufficient for most administrative needs. But by going to the command line, you can reveal all user accounts on a Mac, be it general user accounts of active users, administrator accounts, or any system account.
How to List all user accounts on a Mac from the command line
If you haven’t already done so, open the Terminal, either on the local computer for which you want to view user accounts, or by connecting to a remote Mac where you want to view the user accounts. We then use the ‘dscl’ command, which works in all versions of Mac OS X system software.
View all users and accounts on a Mac
dscl. list / users
The benefit (or problem) of this approach is that it lists not only all user accounts on a Mac, but all daemon and server process accounts as well. This includes usernames such as Paul, Bob, Jill, as well as daemons, system accounts and process users such as networkd, windowserver, daemon, nobody, root, _spotlight, _ard, _appserver, _iconservices and many more.
Thus, if the full list of users is unwanted, you can simply exclude all _underscore daemon and process accounts by running the output via grep, as we’ll show next.
Only display user accounts
dscl. list / users | grep -v ‘_’
This command filters out all daemon users from the _ underscore, which are not actually user accounts. As a result, you will get a much shorter list of usernames, but you will still find three usernames that are not typical user accounts, but are normally found in Mac OS X installations; daemon, nobody and root.
Show all user accounts, user lists and user GECOS information on a Mac
Another approach would be to show and display a detailed account list of user accounts, the associated user account directory and the user account GECOS info (usually a description of the account or a full username). If you find yourself wondering what the heck are some of the system accounts and process user ID accounts in the aforementioned lists, this approach provides more detail, including the kos description for each account (for example, the _qtss user is the QuickTime Streaming Server daemon)
dscacheutil -q user
The output of that command will be quite elaborate, so you may want to loop through the result more or less, or redirect it to a text file for easier parse.
There are probably other ways to list all user accounts on a Mac regardless of the system version. If you know of an effective or informative method that isn’t covered here, share it in the comments.
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