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how to log out another user without logging in – updated

Screen Shot 2016-04-30 at 20.35.31

Posted: 10th May, 2013

If you have multiple accounts on your mac, you may sometimes wish to log out one or more of those accounts without actually having to sign in to them first via the fast user switching menu. There’s a couple of ways to do this. First, if the issue is just that you want to shutdown the computer, you can log out all users by entering an Admin user name and password when this dialogue automatically appears after hitting ‘Shutdown’ (it won’t appear if no other users are logged on):

log out window

However, there are times when you may just want a quick way to log out users without shutting down and without wasting time logging in to their accounts first. Be aware that in killing a user’s process without logging in to the account first, any data in that user’s account that is not already saved (or autosaved) will be lost. If you’re sure that’s not a problem, then follow this short procedure manually or use the AppleScript version that follows:

1. Open up Activity Monitor (/Applications/Utilities/Activity

2. Use the drop down menu in the Task bar to change the menu to ‘Other User Processes’  (note: you can use ‘All Processes’ in the menu if you wish, but that is less safe as it makes it possible to accidentally click on your own user process in step 4 below!).

3. In the filter bar, type loginwindow.

activity monitor

4. From the list of users that show up, for each one that you wish to log out:

  • click on its row in the Activity Monitor pane to highlight the process
  • press the ‘Quit Process’ icon in the Task bar above
  • from the resulting dialogue window, click ‘Force Quit’
  • supply an Admin password if requested.

Repeat for any further accounts that you wish to quit. (Tip: If you want to kill the ‘Guest User Account’, you’ll need to switch back to ‘All Processes’ and kill the loginwindow assigned to the ‘root’ user).

And that’s it. Your unwanted users are now logged out! 🙂

Update 30th April, 2016: If you get tired of doing this manually, you can log out all other real users at once with this AppleScript:

set thisUser to do shell script "whoami"
set usrList to paragraphs of (do shell script "ps caux -o args | grep loginwindow")

repeat with i from 1 to number of items in usrList
set this_item to item i of usrList
set thatUser to word 1 of this_item
if thisUser is not equal to thatUser then
set theProcessNum to word 2 of this_item
do shell script "kill -9 " & theProcessNum with administrator privileges
end if
end repeat

‘delete’ doesn’t send files to Trash



If you find deleting a file deletes it immediately without sending it to the Trash first, you may need to fix permisssions on your Trash folder. 

Open Terminal (Applications > Utilities > and type

ls -alF

Scroll up if necessary to the beginning of the list and you should see a couple of folders whose names begin with a dot.


Ignore .Trashes, but look at the permissions on .Trash, they should read like this (also see the pic above):

drwx- – – – – – <your_username> staff (size) (date) .Trash/

Ignore the numbers, but if the permissions are different or the username is not your account username, then do the following:

At the Terminal command prompt, type the following, replacing ‘your_username’ with (yep, you guessed it…) your username.

sudo chown -R your_username .Trash

For example, if my user name is ‘SnowLpd’ I would type
sudo chown -R SnowLpd .Trash

Then press ‘Return’. You will need to enter your password, which will be invisible when you type it (so type carefully). Now go and test your ‘delete’ function to see if the problem is cured. 🙂 


Related Posts

why does Trash ask for a password? (Permissions Part 1)



learning the Terminal – Part One

This is the first in a series of planned tutorials for anyone who wants to find out what Terminal can do and how they can use it to increase the usability of their computer. Unlike other Terminal tutorials, I’m going to assume that you’re not interested in giving up the desktop for the command line to do things like move and copy files that you can do more easily in Finder. Rather, I’m only going to focus on those things that it’s generally more difficult (or impossible!) to do in the GUI than it is in Terminal.

Let’s get started. Open Spotlight (try the hotkey command + spacebar or click the spy glass in the top right corner) , then type term and press Return.

When Terminal opens, the first thing you may want to do is make the text a bit easier to see in the Terminal window.

Hold down command-shift-+ to increase the size. Try it a couple of times till the text is a comfortable size. If you overshoot, just use command- – (minus key) to reduce text size.

Now you’re sitting comfortably in your Terminal window, let’s learn our first spell. Actually, we’re not going to learn one so much as make our own!

In order to do that, we want to open a hidden file and edit it. In Terminal, type

emacs .bash_profile

(There’s a space after ’emacs’, and, don’t forget that . dot right before the ‘b’)

What you see after this screen may vary depending on whether .bash_profile has any pre-existing content or not. If there is anything in the file already, ignore it and use the arrow key to move the cursor to a clean line at the bottom. If the file is empty, then just start typing. The first line we want to type is

function show

Now press Return and enter a single, left curly bracket


Press Return again and type (or copy and paste) this:

ls –alF

There’s a space between the ‘s’ and the dash, and all the letters are lowercase except the ‘F’, which must be uppercase.

Press Return and provide the closing curly bracket


It should look like the area inside the orange rectangle:

Now hold down the control key on your keyboard while you first press x and then c. Notice at the bottom of the screen you get a ‘save’ warning.

Press the y key on your keyboard, and you should find yourself returned back to the Terminal prompt.

Type exit at the prompt to logout of the Terminal, and then on the keyboard press Command-W to close the window, and Command-N to open a new Terminal session.

What did we just do?
We defined and saved a new Terminal command called show which we can now use whenever we enter Terminal to easily see all the files and folders – including all the hidden ones – in any given directory. To see what we just did, type show at the command line. You should get an output that is formatted something like this:

As you can see I’ve annotated the screenshot to show some of the features that the show command gives us. First of all, notice the file and folder names that begin with a . dot. These are your hidden files and folders (Remember: they are usually hidden for a reason, so don’t go messing with them unless you know what you’re doing!). The show command also helps us distinguish between files and folders by appending a / slash to the end of folder names. Although not shown here, you may also see some names with an * at the end. That means it’s an executable file — in other words, its purpose is to run some programme or command.

The show command is very useful for seeing exactly what is in a folder, but of course we need to know how to move between folders in order to see anything other than our own home directory.

Suppose I want to have a look in that folder called ‘Shared’. Then what I do is I type

cd Sh

then press the tab key on the keyboard. The rest of the name is filled in for me by Terminal:

cd Shared/

The tab key is a very useful trick for moving around in Terminal when you are faced with long names. Generally, you only have to type in enough to make the file or folder name unique and hitting tab will complete the rest of the name for you. However, if I only type

cd S

and then press tab, nothing happens. Terminal can’t complete the name because there’s more than one choice. However, if I press tab again, Terminal will give me a list of the all names that begin with S:

cd S

pressing tab twice gives:

cd S
Shared/ SnowLpd/

Now I can see all the options, and how much I have to type to make a unique choice. In this case, I only have to type either ‘cd Sh’ or ‘cd Sn’ to allow Terminal to know which one I want when I press the tab key. Pressing Return after the tab completion will take me to the folder.

Try it with a folder from your own list.

After changing to a new folder, perhaps your screen is getting a bit messy. Let’s clean it up before doing show again. On the keyboard, press control-L to get a clear screen (notice that all your previous commands and outputs are still available if you scroll up!).

Now type show again to see your files and folders, pick a folder (if there is one), and type cd plus the first few letters of the name. Fill it out with the tab key and then press Return.

Again, type show to find out what’s inside. You can keep going deeper into the directory tree by using cd and show on any folders you find.

The last thing we need to know for today is how to go back up the tree, or to move back to the parent folder. Again we’re going to use the ‘cd’ command, but this time you don’t need to type any names. Just a space and then two dots

cd ..

(don’t forget there’s a space between the ‘d’ and the two dots). This will always take you to the parent folder of the folder you’re currently in, all the way up to your hard disk’s parent directory. If you want, you can make a new up command (just like we made show) as a shortcut for ‘cd ..’. Have a look at the smallest of the screenshots above and see if you can do it. 🙂

So now you know how to move around and see all the hidden and un-hidden contents of your drive, go and explore and get yourself used to these first basic commands.

When you’ve finished with your Terminal session, type exit and press Return. You can then close the window and go back to GUI land!

. at the beginning of a name means ‘hidden’
/ at the end of a name means ‘Folder’
* at the end of a name means ‘executable file’

cd – move in to that folder
cd .. – move back to the parent folder
emacs – opens the Terminal textfile editor
show – shows a complete list of a directory, including hidden files

control-L – clears the Terminal screen
tab – will try to complete file or folder names
tab (twice) – will offer choices

Related Posts:
learning the Terminal – Part Two
learning the Terminal – Part Three

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