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Users, permissions, and roles

Last updated on
September 22, 2016 - 19:45

This documentation is incomplete. Add more information.

Every visitor to your site, whether they have an account and log in or visit the site anonymously, is considered a user to Drupal. Every user also has a numeric user ID special to the type of user.

Types of Users

Master Administrator

This user has the ID one (1). User of ID one (1) is the primary admin user account created during Drupal installation. This user is very special because it has permission to do absolutely everything on the site.

Logged In

These users are assigned a user ID when they register for the website. A user name and email address is associated with any user that isn't anonymous (therefore must be logged in).


Anonymous users who visit the website but do not login all share a user ID of zero (0).

Associating more information with Users

Other information can also be associated with users by modules; for instance, if you use the core Profile module, you can define user profile fields to be associated with each user.

  1. Computer User: The person installing Drupal must have access to the computer where the installation lives. If you are installing Drupal locally on your own computer, then the "computer user" is you. It is also important to note that you are most likely the "administrator" user role, too. If you are installing Drupal at a remote server such as a web hosting company, then the computer user account could be called one of the following (not a complete list):
    • Web hosting account login
    • FTP login
    • cPanel login
    • Secure shell (SSH) login

    Who are the people who are associated with the computer user? In some cases, like for your own computer or for some FTP logins, these "users" are individual people. In other cases, such as a web hosting account login or cPanel, one user (or "account") name/password is used to log in to control the account and may be shared by several people.

  2. Database User: A Drupal installation requires a database to run. (MySQL and PostgreSQL are the best supported database programs compatible with Drupal.) Databases typically have access control mechanisms and require "users" with the right permissions to change the database (add/edit/remove data, create tables, etc.). A Drupal installation needs to have full control over the database, so when you set up a new Drupal site, you (or your web hosting company) create a database user with full privileges and then give the user name and password to the Drupal installation so that Drupal will have full control over the database. The database user information is stored in the settings.php file, which is either in sites/default or a different subdirectory of sites in your Drupal installation.

    Who is the database user? The database "user" is not a person. It is an account created with the database software in order to give Drupal control of the database.

  3. User/1: "User/1", also known as the "maintenance account" or "super-user account" is the Drupal account you are prompted to create immediately after you have successfully installed a new Drupal site. This account is unique to your site (it doesn't have anything to do with Drupal.org or any other web site). This account is different from all other users in a Drupal installation because it has no permissions limitations ("permissions" were called "access control" in Drupal 5 and before). "User/1", in Drupal 6 and before, is also the only account that can launch the update.php script that you need to run after a software upgrade.

    Who is user/1? User/1 shouldn't be associated with an individual person, but rather with the person or persons who have the responsibility for keeping software up-to-date on your site.

    It is a best practice to avoid creating site content with user/1. That is so because it is awkward when responsibility for site maintenance done as User/1 needs to change to a new person if the original User/1 wrote content that still needs to be associated with him/her. The content written by the original author would have to then be assigned to a new user account. It's better to simply create that second account immediately after installing the site.

  4. User/2 and all other users: User/2 and all other registered users on your Drupal site should each be associated with an individual person. Registered users can be assigned to roles, which are given fine-grained permissions to allow different users different access to administer the site and add content.
  5. User/0 or Anonymous user: User/0 is reserved for the unregistered/anonymous user. In database 'users' table uid = 0 is assigned for anonymous users. Note: In Database's users table, uid = 0 row must exist or the site will have severe problems.


Other users on your site can be assigned permissions via roles. To do this, you first need to create a role by navigating to people --> permissions --> role. A common role is "Content editor" or "Member". Next, you will assign permissions to that role, to tell Drupal what that role can and can't do on the site. Finally, you will grant certain users on your site your new role, which will mean that when those users are logged in, Drupal will let them do the actions you gave that role permission to do.

You can also assign permissions for the special built-in roles of "anonymous user" (a user who is not logged in) and "authenticated user" (a user who is logged in, with no special role assignments). Drupal permissions are quite flexible—you are allowed to assign permission for any task to any role, depending on the needs of your site.

Read more about this topic in The Drupal Cookbook (for beginners).