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See also: Operating System | UNIX | Admin

The original or source of a thing. Used in "get to the root of the problem" or "I want to find my ancestral roots."

In computers, often refers to the UNIX user that has full system control. It is named for the base of the UNIX "plant" if users and different systems are the trunk and branches. "Gaining root" or "rooting a box" is usually a goal for hackers because it allows full control of a system. Root is good for system administrators because there are no barriers to fixing problems on their systems - what you tell your computer to do, it does. It is dangerous, however, in that accidentally telling the system to do something destructive will be executed fully, even erasing critical system files.

Note: there is no root in Microsoft - its equivalent is "Administrator."

Advice for running as root:

* Generally, good systems administrators run only a few programs as root to prevent a full system compromise. User-level programs that are compromised for destructive purposes can be shut down or simply denied access to system resources.
* Apple's OS X customers, if they explore its UNIX underpinnings, will notice that the root user is disabled by default and, it is advised, should remain disabled unless you have a specific reason to enable it.
* When running a UNIX system, it is encouraged not to log in as root but to create a sub-user, log in as that sub-user and then "su" into root. This is a good practice for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is accidentally leaving your terminal alone for some stooge to happen upon it.

Illustrating the hacker mystique: Got root? bumper sticker.