On removing users with %postun in RPM SPEC files

Mattias Geniar, Friday, February 24, 2012

The moment you start to write your own SPEC files for creating RPM images, you may be tempted to do the following in the %postun section of the file:

userdel --force daemonuser 2> /dev/null; true

It seems only logical: in the uninstall section of the RPM package, delete the user that was once used for that package. After all, why would the user be left behind when you uninstall or remove a package?

My advice would be: don't do this. While the logic makes sense, it poses a few problems.

It breaks upgrades

If you install a new version of your RPM package via yum or manually via "rpm -Uvh", the %postun is triggered. Why? Because when upgrading what actually happens is your package manager will install the new RPM package and then remove the previous version, thus triggering the %postun. Since the delete of the previous version happens last, with the configuration above the user running your application is removed from the system.

It poses a security threat

Assuming you've added users in your SPEC file to manage your application, it could pose a security leak when removing that user in the %postun section. After all, if afterwards a new user is created and it is given the UID of that deleted user, it has full access to the configuration or log files that may be left behind and are only readable by that user.

Granted, chances are slim, but your user can add sensitive configuration files that your RPM file knows nothing about.

Still need it? Check the $1 variable

If you still want to delete a user upon uninstall of your RPM but not when upgrading, you can evaluate the $1 variable in %postun. If that first argument is 1, the action is an upgrade. If it's 0, it's a removal of your package. Hence, the code snippet from above should be changed to the following.

if [ "$1" = "1" ]; then
   userdel --force daemonuser 2> /dev/null; true

If you have any other comments on %postun and users I'd love to hear them.

Hi! My name is Mattias Geniar. I'm a Support Manager at Nucleus Hosting in Belgium, a general web geek, public speaker and podcaster. Currently working on DNS Spy. Follow me on Twitter as @mattiasgeniar.

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Asif Sunday, July 22, 2012 at 21:46

shouldn’t it be $1 == 0 as you are confining it to a rpm erase not update?


Oleg Wednesday, September 12, 2012 at 15:30

Yes thats right, it should be:

if [ "$1" == 0 ]; then
   userdel --force daemonuser 2> /dev/null; true

because you want to delete an User only if you uninstall the package and do not update it.

Hence the Code from Matthias does exactly the thing he wanted to avoid :)


Momin Saturday, November 15, 2014 at 14:55

I am uninstalling rpm while i want to remove it dependencies rpm also which i also install through rpm.

Requires: lftp, squid, php-gd, php-IDNA_Convert

  if [ "$1" = "1" ]; then # package is being erased, not upgraded
      /usr/bin/yum remove lftp squid php-gd php-IDNA_Convert

Now when i am remove main rpm, its only remove the one rpm not deleting dependent rpm, how i can achieve that?


    Mattias Geniar Monday, November 17, 2014 at 23:21

    For starters, it won’t show up in the dependency-tree when you “yum remove $package“.

    I’m sure this is terrible best practice, but you could try “yum -y remove $packagelist“, after all – yum by default requests confirmation.

    The RPM SPEC isn’t that clear to me, but if my memory serves me correctly, you can use the “Obsoletes: $packagelist for dependency removal. Same syntax as Requires:, just a different keyword.


menaka Tuesday, June 2, 2015 at 15:22

hi ,
i have a rpm installed with %postun script and it is affecting upgrade so is there any way to overcome this issue, without affecting old rpm.


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