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I've been updating some of the default profile for bash, and saw from the tutorials I was following that I could reload the new profile with the new environment settings by using:

source /etc/bash.bashrc

The only thing is - the new environment variables were only available to my current user - and were ignored when I used sudo. They only became available to sudo when I closed my terminal session and rejoined.

When I try to use:

sudo source /etc/bash.bashrc

I get the error:

sudo: source: command not found

Is there a simple way to load in the new bash profile settings for sudo without having to close the terminal and restart?

-- Initially, I was using some installer scripts which referenced the variables. I found that while they could access the variables when I called the scripts directly (although, this would cause a later problem with creating directories as I needed to be root), calling the install scripts using sudo wouldn't.

I proved this by testing with these simple commands:

sudo echo $ENV_VARIABLE

The first would output the variable's value, but the second wouldn't output anything.

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How did you try to use the variables from sudo ? Please note that if you use "sudo command $variable" it will replace the variable from your shell, not from sudo's environment. – João Pinto Jan 10 '11 at 22:57
up vote 26 down vote accepted

The problem is that source is a bash build-in command (not a program - like ls or grep). I think one approach is to login as root and then execute the source command.

sudo -s
source /etc/bash.bashrc
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You're right that the problem is that source is a shell builtin. sudo su is a kind of weird way to say it -- better to just say sudo -s which is sudo's own way of saying "start a shell as this user." Your one-line version won't work because each of the commands in it is run by the main user's shell in a separate subprocess. – poolie Jan 10 '11 at 22:58
Right. Plus BASH reads /etc/bashrc at login time. So you may as well use 'su' with -, -l, or --login switch in order to get the environment of that user: 'sudo su -' to become root or 'su - $username' to become another user. – user8290 Jan 10 '11 at 23:21
The "one line" example won't work because su starts a new shell and "source" is run only after it terminates. The first example only works if the second line used inside the root shell. – loevborg Jan 11 '11 at 9:41
Thanks for the comments guys! – Marcos Roriz Junior Jan 11 '11 at 13:53
sudo -s has a similar effect of starting a shell, but to me it seems inelegant to stack two "become another user" commands when one would do. – poolie Jan 12 '11 at 2:18

The problem is not that source is a shell builtin command. The fact that it is is what's actually throwing you the command not found error, but it doesn't mean it would work if it were.

The actual problem is how environment variables work. And they work like this: every time a new process is started, if nothing happens, it inherits the environment of its parent. Due to this, using a subshell (e.g. typing bash inside a bash instance) and looking at the output of env should give similar results than its parent.

However, due to how sudo works (as stated in its manpage), sudo tries to strip the environment of the user and create a "default" environment for the supplanting user, so that the command run is run as if the user who invoked it had been the calling user (which is the expected behaviour), and thus running nautilus as sudo nautilus should open a folder at the /root folder, and not /home/yourusername.


Doing something like sudo source and then sudo command, even if it worked, it wouldn't be successful at setting any variable to the later sudo command.

In order to pass environment variables, you can either tell sudo to preserve the environment (via the -E switch; and having appropriate permissions in your sudoers file) and/or setting it for the command as sudo VAR1=VALUE1 VAR2=VALUE2 command.

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As Marcos says, your main problem here is that source is a shell builtin command that affects only the shell process in which it's run.

The easy solution is to just start a new shell as root, and bash will automatically read /etc/bash.bashrc when it starts. That's as simple as just saying

sudo bash
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Closing and reopening the terminal should not change things. By default, sudo strips the environment. To disable that, add -E to sudo.

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