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How to keep X11 display after su or sudo

How to keep X11 display after su or sudo

Posted on by MobaXterm dev team
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Hi everyone!


We receive a lot of emails asking how to keep X11-forwarding working after changing user to root inside a SSH session in MobaXterm. This is by default not allowed on Unix/Linux systems, because the X11 display connection belongs to the user you used to log with when connecting to your remote SSH server. X11-forwarding mechanism does not allow anyone to use the open display.

However, in some cases you may need to start a graphical application like nedit or firefox in a sudo or su context. In order to achieve this, you could manually retrieve X credentials in the su/sudo context by looking up the “xauth list” for the original username and then adding them using “xauth add” to the current context.


You can also use a single (magic) command in order to achieve this!


For instance, here is a simple scenario:

  • I start a SSH session to remote server “Server1” with user “john”
  • In this session, I perform a “su -” command in order to become “root”
  • If I run “xclock”, the following error occurs:

MobaXterm X11 proxy: Authorisation not recognised
Error: Can’t open display: localhost:10.0

I just have to execute the following command in order to retrieve my display and make “xclock” work:
xauth add $(xauth -f ~john/.Xauthority list|tail -1)


We hope this will help you if you need to have a working X11 display through SSH after becoming root.