getutent - Linux


getutent retrieves a line from the database files /etc/utmp, /var/log/wtmp, /var/log/btmp, and /var/run/utmp. It allows users to read system-related information, such as who is currently logged on and when they logged in, from these files.


getutent [option] [file]


| Option | Description | Default |
| -a | Display the entire entry, including the terminal name. | False |
| -c | Display the comment field, if present. | False |
| -d | Display the ending time, if present. | False |
| -f | Read from the specified file instead of the default files. | /etc/utmp |
| -h | Display this help message. | – |
| -l | Display the IP address of the user, if available. | False |
| -p | Display the process ID of the user, if available. | False |
| -r | Read in reverse order. | False |
| -t | Display only the time field. | False |
| -u | Display the username field. | False |


Get the current user’s information:


Display the entire entry for the first user in the file:

getutent -a

Display the IP address of the last user who logged in:

getutent -l -r

Read from a specific file:

getutent -f /var/run/utmp

Common Issues

  • No output: Ensure that the specified file exists and has appropriate permissions.
  • Incorrect timestamps: Timezones can affect timestamp interpretation. Use TZ environment variable to specify the correct timezone.
  • Incomplete entries: Not all fields are always present in the file. Use appropriate options to display the available fields.


  • Combine with awk to filter specific fields or perform calculations.
  • Use with grep to search for specific entries or patterns.
  • Integrate with scripts to monitor user activity and generate reports.

Related Commands

  • who – Displays information about currently logged-in users.
  • last – Shows a history of logins.
  • wtmp – Writes login records to a file.