In Unix, what is my path, and how do I set or modify it?
Note: Only advanced users should attempt to edit their path. If you feel that you need to edit your path, but feel unsure of how to safely do it, consult your system administrator. If you are a student, faculty member, or staff member at Indiana University, you may also want to contact your class instructor or your department's computing support provider.
The PATH environment variable is a colon-delimited list of directories that your shell searches through when you enter a command.
Program files (executables) are kept in many different places on the Unix system. Your path tells the Unix shell where to look on the system when you request a particular program. Having more directories in your path will reduce the number of times you get "Command not found" errors, but might put you at greater risk of activating a Trojan horse.
To find out what your path is, at the Unix shell prompt, enter:echo $PATH
Your path will look something like the following./usr2/username/bin:/usr/local/bin:/usr/bin:.
You will see your username in place of
the above example path, if you enter the
ls command, your
shell will look for the appropriate executable file in the following
order: first, it would look through the directory
/usr/bin, and finally the local directory, indicated
. (a period).
To modify your path
If you are using
tcsh, at the shell
If you are using
bash, at the shell prompt, enter:
In all cases, replace
/dir/path with the directory you
want the shell to search.
Note: The earlier entries in the path take precedence
over the later ones. If you want the directories you add to your
path to take precedence, in the examples above, replace
To make these changes permanent, add the commands described above to
the end of your
.cshrc file (for
.profile file (for
.bash_profile file (for
At Indiana University, for personal or departmental Linux or Unix systems support, see At IU, how do I get support for Linux or Unix?
Last modified on February 19, 2013.