Simple stuff to set PATH in linux.

Stan Lee. May 28, 2016 Comments

The simple stuff


depending on whether you want to add ~/opt/bin at the end (to be searched after all other directories, in case there is a program by the same name in multiple directories) or at the beginning (to be searched before all other directories).

You can add multiple entries at the same time.


or variations on the ordering work just fine.

You don't need export if the variable is already in the environment: any change of the value of the variable is reflected in the environment.¹ PATH is pretty much always in the environment; all unix systems set it very early on (usually in the very first process, in fact).

If your PATH gets built in a by many different components, you might end up with duplicate entries. See How to add home directory path to be discovered by Unix which command? and Remove duplicate $PATH entries with awk command to avoid adding duplicates or remove them.

Where to put it

Note that ~/.bash_rc is not read by any program, and ~/.bashrc is the configuration file of interactive instances of bash. You should not define environment variables in ~/.bashrc. The right place to define environment variables such as PATH is ~/.profile (or ~/.bash_profile if you don't care about shells other than bash). See What's the difference between them and which one should I use?

Notes on shells other than bash

In bash, ksh and zsh, export is special syntax, and both PATH=~/opt/bin:$PATH and export PATH=~/opt/bin:$PATH do the right thing even. In other Bourne/POSIX-style shells such as dash (which is /bin/sh on many systems), export is parsed as an ordinary command, which implies two differences:

  • ~ is only parsed at the beginning of a word, except in assignments (see How to add home directory path to be discovered by Unix which command? for details);
  • $PATH outside double quotes breaks if PATH contains whitespace or \[*?.

So in shells like dash, export PATH=~/opt/bin:$PATH sets PATH to the literal string ~/opt/bin/: followed by the value of PATH up to the first space. PATH=~/opt/bin:$PATH (a bare assignment) doesn't require quotes and does the right thing. If you want to use export in a portable script, you need to write export PATH="$HOME/opt/bin:$PATH".


To set custom path for all sessions permanently.

Put the below code in the last of below mentioned files as per the user required.

if [ -d "/home/$USER/bin" ]; then
  export PATH="$PATH:/home/$USER/bin"
#For individual user

#For root user

#For all


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