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HP-UX 11i Version 3: February 2007

Technical documentation

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chfn — change user information used by finger command


chfn [login-name]

chfn -r files [login-name]

chfn -r nis [login-name]

chfn -r dce [login-name]


The chfn command changes the user information that is stored in the repository for the current logged-in user or for the user specified by login-name (see passwd(1)).

The information is organized as four comma-separated subfields within the reserved (5th) field of the password file entry. It consists of the user's full name, location code, office phone number, and home phone number, in that order. This information is used by the finger command and other programs (see finger(1)).

chfn prompts you for each subfield. The prompt includes a default value, which is enclosed in brackets. Accept the default value by pressing the Return key. To enter a blank subfield, type the word none.

The DCE repository (-r dce) is only available if Integrated Login has been configured; see auth.adm(1M). If Integrated Login has been configured, other considerations apply. A user with appropriate DCE privileges is capable of modifying a user's finger (gecos) information; this is not dependent upon superuser privileges.

If the repository is not specified (as in chfn [login-name]), the finger information is changed in the /etc/passwd file only.

Run finger after running chfn to make sure the information was processed correctly.


The chfn command is a hard link to the passwd command. When chfn is executed, actually the passwd command gets executed with appropriate arguments to change the user gecos information in the repository specified in the command line. If no repository is specified, the gecos information is changed in the /etc/passwd file.



A login name of a user.


The following option is recognized:


Specify the repository to which the operation is to be applied. Supported repositories include files, nis, and dce.

Subfield Values


Up to 1022 printing characters.

The finger command and other utilities expand an & found anywhere in this subfield by substituting the login name for it and shifting the first letter of the login name to uppercase. (chfn does not alter the input &.)


Up to 1022 printing characters.

Office Phone

Up to 25 printing characters.

finger inserts appropriate hyphens if the value is all digits.

Home Phone

Up to 25 printing characters.

finger inserts appropriate hyphens if the value is all digits.

Security Restrictions

You must have appropriate privileges to use the optional login-name argument to change another user's information.


The following is a sample run. The user's input is shown in regular type.

Name [Tracy Simmons]: Location (Ex: 47U-P5) []: 42L-P1 Office Phone (Ex: 1632) [77777]: 71863 Home Phone (Ex: 9875432) [4085551546]: none


The encoding of office and extension information is installation-dependent.

For historical reasons, the user's name, etc., are stored in the /etc/passwd file. This is an inappropriate place to store the information.

Because two or more users may try to write the /etc/passwd file at the same time, a synchronization method was developed. chfn prints a message that the /etc/passwd file is busy. When this occurs, chfn sleeps for a short time, then tries to write to the /etc/passwd file again.


chfn was developed by the University of California, Berkeley.


/etc/passwd /etc/ptmp

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