/etc/motd: Explanation & Insights

Introduction to /etc/motd

The name of the /etc/motd file name stands for "Message Of The Day", and it's used to store a short text message that's displayed to users after they log into a Linux server via the shell. This file is not an executable script, but a plain text file that you can view and edit with any text editor, like vi or nano.

Purpose of /etc/motd

The /etc/motd file serves the purpose of conveying important information to users logging into the system. This could be a welcome message, system information, usage terms, warnings or maintenance schedules. The flexibility it offers makes it a powerful tool for sysadmins to communicate with users directly, without needing to resort to emails or other means of communication.

Importance of /etc/motd

The importance of the /etc/motd file lies in its simplicity and directness. When a user logs into a server, this message is the first thing they see. This makes it an ideal place to put crucial information that users should be aware of. It's particularly useful in multi-user environments where important notifications need to be communicated quickly and effectively.

Typical Problems & Solutions with /etc/motd

While the /etc/motd file is straightforward, it's not without its potential issues. For example, a common problem is the message not displaying upon login. This could be due to incorrect permissions or ownership of the /etc/motd file. To resolve this, you can use ls -l /etc/motd to check the permissions and ownership. The file should be owned by root and have permissions of 644. If not, use the chown and chmod commands to correct them.

Another issue could be the message getting overwritten or not updating. This is usually due to the configuration of the pam_motd module. It's crucial to check the configuration files in /etc/pam.d/ to ensure they're correctly set up.

Examples of Using /etc/motd

Viewing the contents of /etc/motd is as simple as using the cat command, like so:

cat /etc/motd

Editing the file can be done with any text editor. Here's an example with nano:

sudo nano /etc/motd

You can then write your message and save the file.

Sample /etc/motd Content

The contents of /etc/motd are entirely up to the system administrator. Here is an example of what it might look like:

Welcome to our Linux server.
Remember: Unauthorized access is strictly prohibited.
Scheduled maintenance: Sunday 2am-4am.


Understanding the /etc/motd file and its uses is a small but important part of managing a Linux server. It's a simple tool, but it can drastically improve communication in a multi-user environment. Remember to check regularly for any issues, and use it effectively to ensure your users are up to date with important server information.

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