Linux Know-How provides a collection of introductory texts on often needed Linux skills.

Changing the PATH

Typically, you don't have to change your PATH, but it very useful to understand what PATH is.

The PATH is the list of directories which are searched when you request the execution of a program. You can check your PATH using this command:

echo $PATH

which, on my system , shows the PATH for the user "yogin" to be:


The ":" is a separator, therefore the above PATH represents a list of directories as follows:







Here is the output from the command "echo $PATH" run on my system on the account "root":


You can change the PATH for all users on the system by editing the file /etc/profile and adjusting (as root) the line starting with "PATH=". I do it using the pico editor (as root):

pico -w /etc/profile

(The option -w turns off the wrap of long lines.)

Re-login for the change to take effect. To set up the PATH for an individual user only, edit the file /home/user_login_name/.bash_profile (please note the dot in front of the filename--files starting with a dot are normally invisible, you have to use ls -a to see them).

If you really want to have the current directory on your PATH, add "." (dot) to your PATH. When used in the place when directory name is expected, a dot means "the current directory". The specification for the path in /etc/.bash_profile may then look like this:


export PATH

This command takes the contents of the environmental variable called PATH (as set for all users in /etc/profile), and appends to it the name of your home directory as set by the variable HOME with an attached "/bin" and then a dot. Finally, the command assigns the resulting string back to the variable called PATH. It is necessary to use the command "export" after modifying PATH or any other user-environment variable, so that the variable is visible outside of the script that sets it.

Last Update: 2010-12-16