I've installed a version of Java. How can we set the $JAVA_HOME environment variable correctly?

4 Answers 4


You can set your JAVA_HOME in /etc/profile as Petronilla Escarabajo suggests. But the preferred location for JAVA_HOME or any system variable is /etc/environment.

Open /etc/environment in any text editor like nano or gedit and add the following line:


(java path could be different)

Use source to load the variables, by running this command:

source /etc/environment

Then check the variable, by running this command:



Usually most linux systems source /etc/environment by default. If your system doesn't do that add the following line to ~/.bashrc (Thanks @pje)

source /etc/environment
  • 2
    When i tried to run Android Studio (that has IntelliJ IDEA as a base), i had an error message very similar to @advocate's: "'tools.jar' seems to be not in Android Studio classpath." After fiddling a lot with JAVA_HOME without success, i decided to take a look at studio.sh, the shellscript that starts Android Studio. As a wild guess, i set JDK_HOME to the same value expected for JAVA_HOME, and voila! It installed without great problems. Commented Mar 7, 2015 at 23:20
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    For those doing software development, don't put your JAVA_HOME in /etc/environment unless you want to reboot everytime you switch JDK versions.
    – Dave
    Commented Sep 20, 2016 at 19:03
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    This is a temporary solution, as others pointed out. No one would want to run source every time they restart their bash.
    – yuranos
    Commented Feb 19, 2017 at 21:49
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    As others have pointed out, this doesn't stick between terminal sessions. What I did to address this is just added the line source /etc/environment to the top of my bash config file ~/.bashrc so that it loads all my environment settings on startup. Working for me so far.
    – pje
    Commented Mar 11, 2017 at 22:31
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    @sedulam I updated the answer Commented Apr 20, 2017 at 6:20

To set JAVA_HOME environment variable, do the following:

  1. Launch Terminal by pressing Ctrl+Alt+T on your keyboard.
  2. Enter the following command:
    $ gksudo gedit /etc/environment
  3. Depending on where you installed your Java, you will need to provide the full path. For this example, I installed Oracle JDK 7 in the /usr/lib/jvm/java-7-oracle directory.
    Scroll to the end of the file and enter the following:
    export JAVA_HOME
  4. Save your file and exit gedit.
  5. Lastly, reload the system PATH with the following command:
    $ . /etc/environment

The above method will save you the hassle in having to run the commands every time you log in to your computer.

  • 7
    How does . /etc/environment work? Commented Sep 13, 2016 at 13:36
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    Is the addition of the export command necessary in the /etc/environment ?
    – pkaramol
    Commented Nov 23, 2016 at 10:01
  • @pkaramol I've had to add export JAVA_HOME on 16.04LTS to make it load at startup.
    – adeen-s
    Commented Jan 20, 2017 at 6:20
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    @adeen-s You added export to a line in /etc/environment and it helped? That file contains variable definitions parsed as =-delimited name-value pairs; its contents are not executed as commands. (See man pam_env.) So unless you're separately treating the file as though it were a script (such as by passing /etc/environment to bash's ./source builtin), I wouldn't expect that to work. Commented Aug 17, 2017 at 16:02
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    > How does . /etc/environment work? -- . (dot) loads commands from a file askubuntu.com/a/232938/189965 Commented Sep 22, 2018 at 7:32

If you do not know the path and you only have openJDK installed, you can type update-alternatives --config java and you should find the path. To set the variable you can write JAVA_HOME=<PATH> followed by export JAVA_HOME. Notice there's no space when declaring the variable. To check if the variable is stored you simply type echo $JAVA_HOME to verify.

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    This seems like it would be static. If I remove openjdk-7 and install openjdk-9, won't the JAVA_HOME then point to the wrong place? How can it be made dynamic?
    – DavidJ
    Commented Jul 20, 2016 at 18:49
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    By you manually changing it. Once again, YOU are the way it becomes dynamic....
    – Dave
    Commented Sep 20, 2016 at 19:04
  • What @HDave means is that In certain cases, you may want JAVA_HOME to point to a specific java version, so making the update of JAVA_HOME dynamic may not be what you want.
    – Maciej
    Commented Oct 9, 2016 at 15:31
  • i like this answer. I tested with echo and see my path. However, I am confused why I am still getting JAVA_HOME environment variable is not set when I run mvn -version
    – Winnemucca
    Commented Apr 11, 2017 at 22:19
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    I wrote this answer back when I was more ignorant. Setting the variable as described will only affect your current terminal session, and will not be persisted. The correct way is to run update-alternatives --install <link> <name> <target> <priority> for example: update-alternatives --install /usr/bin/java java /usr/lib/jvm/default-runtime/bin/java 1
    – Erro
    Commented May 14, 2017 at 12:26

This is the best option if you always want to use the latest one installed.
Nowadays (Ubuntu 23.10) you should probably have it installed through apt like:

sudo apt install default-jdk # or default-jre

In this case, you should find it at /usr/lib/jvm/default-java.
It's a symlink that points to whichever the current JVM is on the same folder.
So, just run this to add the environment as a separate file:

sudo nano /etc/environment.d/90java.conf

Add this line and save:


Then reboot or login again, or source /etc/environment.d/90java.conf to load it on the current shell.

  • Wasn't there for me. If you use zulu it's under /usr/lib/jvm/zulu17
    – Alkanshel
    Commented Jun 12 at 1:29

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