How do I add a directory to the $PATH in Ubuntu and make the changes permanent?

  • 5
    help.ubuntu.com/community/EnvironmentVariables There is all you need to know. I found out that a lot of the input here was incorrect or at least the method was not suggested. This is a great piece of information that will let you figure out where to modify your environment variable based on the reason you are doing it and exactly how to do it without screwing everything up (like I did following some of the aforementioned bad advice). So long, and thanks for all the fish!
    – Bus42
    Commented Jun 12, 2016 at 20:30

17 Answers 17


Using ~/.profile to set $PATH

A path set in .bash_profile will only be set in a bash login shell (bash -l). If you put your path in .profile it will be available to your complete desktop session. That means even metacity will use it.

For example ~/.profile:

if [ -d "$HOME/bin" ] ; then

Btw, you can check the PATH variable of a process by looking at its environment in /proc/[pid]/environ (replace [pid] with the number from ps axf). E.g. use grep -z "^PATH" /proc/[pid]/environ


bash as a login shell doesn't parse .profile if either .bash_profile or .bash_login exists. From man bash :

it looks for ~/.bash_profile, ~/.bash_login, and ~/.profile, in that order, and reads and executes commands from the first one that exists and is readable.

See the answers below for information about .pam_environment, or .bashrc for interactive non-login shells, or set the value globally for all users by putting a script into /etc/profile.d/ or use /etc/X11/Xsession.d/ to affect the display managers session.

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    Cool, that worked. I saw where it will auto add the bin dir if I make it so I just used that instead of scripts. TY.
    – 0xnuminous
    Commented Jul 22, 2009 at 22:13
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    On Xbunutu .profile isn't be executed so I put it in .bashrc and it works.
    – tekumara
    Commented Aug 25, 2012 at 22:21
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    This piece of documentation is very well done: Official documentation about environment variable. Consider reading it (not to say that is updated to the last version of the rules to add values to environment variable).
    – Michele
    Commented May 23, 2013 at 13:38
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    I've still got no idea where to add my extra path part to. I need to add the android SDK to my path... PATH="$HOME/bin:$PATH" So I add it to it? Commented Apr 25, 2016 at 14:37
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    Keep in mind .profile is used on login and thus you have to logout-login again for it to be used (closing and reopening the terminal is not enough). @JamieHutber the path is $WHERE_YOU_INSTALLED_THE_SDK/platform-tools and $WHERE_YOU_INSTALLED_THE_SDK/tools Commented Sep 1, 2016 at 8:36

Edit .bashrc in your home directory and add the following line:

export PATH="/path/to/dir:$PATH"

You will need to source your .bashrc or logout/login (or restart the terminal) for the changes to take effect. To source your .bashrc, simply type

$ source ~/.bashrc
  • 4
    How do you "source your .bashrc"? How do you "restart the terminal"? Commented Sep 10, 2011 at 1:16
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    In bash it is simply '. .bashrc'
    – Ophidian
    Commented Sep 12, 2011 at 2:54
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    I was making the assumption that you were in your home directory. since that's where the .bashrc you want to edit is.
    – Ophidian
    Commented Feb 16, 2012 at 14:23
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    .bashrc is not the right place for setting environment variables. They should go in .profile or .pam_environment. See mywiki.wooledge.org/DotFiles
    – geirha
    Commented Mar 2, 2012 at 12:21
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    @LaoTzu . .bashrc not .bashrc :) or source .bashrc for that matter Commented Aug 21, 2012 at 8:26

The recommended place to define permanent, system-wide environment variables applying to all users is in:


(which is where the default PATH is defined)

This will work in desktop or console, gnome-terminal or TTY, rain or shine ;)

  • To edit, open the terminal and type:

    sudoedit /etc/environment

    (or open the file using sudo in your favorite text editor)

To make it work without rebooting, run . /etc/environment or source /etc/environment. Since this file is just a simple script it will run and assign the new path to the PATH environment variable. To check run env and see the PATH value in the listing.


  • 12
    and then you need to reboot for changes to take effect...
    – Lee
    Commented Nov 17, 2013 at 9:27
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    This is exactly what I needed. Provisioning a throw-away vm image via vagrant and needed to add node and npm to the path. Commented Jun 30, 2014 at 3:07
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    To take changes in effect run . /etc/environement (yes, dot, a space and /etc/environment). Since this file is just a simple script it will run and assign the new path to the PATH environment variable. To check run env and see the PATH value in the listing.
    – WindRider
    Commented May 20, 2015 at 13:27
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    I needed to run source /etc/environment to reload the changes
    – JohnnyAW
    Commented May 16, 2018 at 8:54
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    @JohnnyAW: source is equivalent to the initial dot, see for example en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Source_(command). Commented Jan 11, 2019 at 15:13

I think the canonical way in Ubuntu is:

  • create a new file under /etc/profile.d/

     sudo vi /etc/profile.d/SCRIPT_NAME.sh
  • add there:

  • and give it execute permission

     sudo chmod a+x /etc/profile.d/SCRIPT_NAME.sh
  • 31
    It is usually safer to add your custom path to the end of PATH instead of the beginning. This avoids accidentally replacing system commands with your programs (or someone else's malicious programs). This also avoids a lot of confusion when someone else works on your system (or gives you advice) and they get unexpected results from commands you have "replaced".
    – Joe
    Commented Feb 7, 2013 at 16:37
  • It works in my case! I pip install cmake but I get "WARNING: The scripts cmake, cpack and ctest are installed in '/home/q/.local/bin' which is not on PATH." So I do your script with export PATH="$PATH:/home/q/.local/bin" After reboot it works ok. Commented Dec 1, 2023 at 2:44

For complete newbies (like I am) who are more comfortable with GUI:

  1. Open your $HOME folder.
  2. Go to ViewShow Hidden Files or press Ctrl + H.
  3. Right click on .profile and click on Open With Text Editor.
  4. Scroll to the bottom and add PATH="$PATH:/my/path/foo".
  5. Save.
  6. Log out and log back in to apply changes (let Ubuntu actually load .profile).
  • 5
    Editing the .profile file is not recommended anymore.You can still use this method to edit the file .pam_environment see: help.ubuntu.com/community/EnvironmentVariables
    – PulsarBlow
    Commented May 19, 2013 at 4:20
  • Thank @PulsarBlow! I'm not really sure what's exactly the difference and the benefit though... This is the direct URL to the relevant section: help.ubuntu.com/community/…
    – dain
    Commented May 20, 2013 at 12:22
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    This answer caused my system to stop logging in due to all paths being overridden. Using Ubuntu 16.04. Commented Mar 2, 2017 at 11:27
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    @Frisbetarian you have to make sure to add the $PATH: bit which includes the existing PATH definition
    – dain
    Commented Mar 10, 2017 at 5:07
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    home folder means not the one named home, but the one you go into when you type "cd ~" in terminal
    – Aseem
    Commented Mar 26, 2019 at 7:13

For persistent environment variables available to particular users only. I highly recommend Ubuntu official documentation.


Referring to documentation above, I have setup my Android SDK path-tools by:

  1. creating ~/.pam_environment file in home directory.
  2. the content of which is PATH DEFAULT=${PATH}:~/android-sdk-linux/tools.
  3. additional custom user path can be added by separating paths with colon (:).
  4. this requires re-login, which means you need to log-out and log-in back to desktop environment.

Put that line in your ~/.bashrc file.

It gets sourced whenever you open a terminal

EDIT: Based on the comments below, for a more general setting that will apply to all shells (including when you hit Alt-F2 in Unity), add the line to your ~/.profile file. Probably shouldn't do both however, as the path will be added twice to your PATH environment if you open a terminal.

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    Actually, I thought you set the path in either $HOME/.profile for personal settings, or /etc/profile for all users. But if it's only needed for bash, I suppose either will work. Commented Jul 31, 2012 at 1:37
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    If you set it in ~/.bashrc, it'll only be available in the terminals you open. E.g. if you hit Alt+F2 and try to run a command from that dir, it won't find it. If you set it in ~/.profile or ~/.pam_environment, the gnome session (or whichever DE you use) will inherit it. Appending PATH in ~/.bashrc also has the drawback that if you open/exec bash interactively from another interactive bash shell, it'll be appended multiple times.
    – geirha
    Commented Jul 31, 2012 at 4:58
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    I haven't really looked into this for a while, so I did a search, and it seems that there are at least 95 different ways to set the path, most of which are discussed here. I never figured out which one is best. I think ~/.profile is correct for personal paths, though; that's where Ubuntu adds the ~/bin directory. And I confess that I exaggerated a slight bit on the number of ways - just a little. Commented Jul 31, 2012 at 5:02
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    @MartyFried, yes, to quote the bot in #bash on freenode: «The overwhelming majority of bash scripts, code, tutorials, and guides on the Internet are crap. Sturgeon was an optimist.» Using google for bash problem, you'll often find a lot of half-working solutions before you find a good one. Oh and I'd go with ~/.profile in this case too.
    – geirha
    Commented Jul 31, 2012 at 5:14
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    @geirha - I agree that most guides on the internet in general are probably crap, especially anything linux since different distros, or even different versions of the same one, do things differently. It usually boils down to what works, but most people don't realize that what works is simply what works, not necessarily what's right or even what will always work. I try to figure out which of the many ways is actually correct, because I hate doing things more than once - but it's not always easy. :) Commented Jul 31, 2012 at 18:50

Adding it to .bashrc will work but I think the more traditional way of setting up your path variables is in .bash_profile by adding the following lines.

export PATH

According to this thread it appears as though Ubuntu's behavior is slightly different than RedHat and clones.

  • 1
    I don't have a .bash_profile, Should I create it?
    – 0xnuminous
    Commented Jul 22, 2009 at 21:39
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    If you have .bashrc, stick it in .bashrc instead. GUI terminals in Ubuntu are not login shells, so .bash_profile will not be run.
    – koenigdmj
    Commented Jul 22, 2009 at 21:58
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    I am not running a gui shell. But from the thread above it looks like the .bashrc will work just fine.
    – 0xnuminous
    Commented Jul 22, 2009 at 22:05
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    Both will work if your shell is a login shell. But I just tried the .bash_profile approach on one of my Ubuntu machines and even after restarting my gnome session it didn't source my .bash_profile. So I would say that putting this in .bashrc is probably the way to go with Ubuntu. Commented Jul 23, 2009 at 2:30
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    @justingrif No, you don't need .bash_profile. If bash doesn't find a .bash_profile (when you log in interactively), it will look for .profile and use that instead. By default, you'll have a .profile and .bashrc in Ubuntu. And .profile is the correct place to set environment variables if we disregard pam_env.
    – geirha
    Commented Mar 2, 2012 at 12:19

To set it system wide, append the line export PATH=/path/you're/adding:$PATH to the end of /etc/profile.

To add the directory for only the logged-in user, append the same line to ~/.bash_profile.


In terminal, cd to the_directory_you_want_to_add_in_the_path

echo "export PATH=$(pwd):\${PATH}" >> ~/.bashrc

This wasn't my idea. I found this way to export path at this blog here.

sudo vi /etc/profile.d/SCRIPT_NAME.sh

add there

  • 2
    sudo nano /etc/profile.d/SCRIPT_NAME.sh is easier for beginners. Commented Sep 10, 2011 at 1:22
  • 1
    For beginners, gksu gedit /etc/profile.d/SCRIPT_NAME.sh is even easier.
    – fouric
    Commented Mar 26, 2013 at 0:04

The recommended way to edit your PATH is from /etc/environment file

Example output of /etc/environment:


For example, to add the new path of /home/username/mydir


Then, reboot your PC.

System-wide environment variables

A suitable file for environment variable settings that affect the system as a whole (rather than just a particular user) is /etc/environment. An alternative is to create a file for the purpose in the /etc/profile.d directory.


This file is specifically meant for system-wide environment variable settings. It is not a script file, but rather consists of assignment expressions, one per line.

Note: Variable expansion does not work in /etc/environment.

More info can be found here: EnvironmentVariables

  • 3
    The lowest answer yet the most correct. This file is usually auto-populated bin Ubuntu with the path. Commented Oct 12, 2017 at 13:33
  • Indeed this is THE correct answer, not the others
    – Masacroso
    Commented Sep 11, 2021 at 0:51

Whenever I "install" my folder of BASH scripts, I follow the pattern of the test for a $HOME/bin folder that's in most .profile files in recent versions of Ubuntu. I set a test that looks like

if [ -d "/usr/scripts" ]; then

It works just about 100% of the time, and leaves me free to change it in a GUI text editor with a quick "Replace all" should I ever decide to move /scripts somewhere closer to my $HOME folder. I haven't done so in 6 Ubuntu installs, but there's "always tomorrow." S



Open your terminal, type gedit .profile and insert the following:

# set PATH so it includes user's private bin if it exists
if [ -d "$HOME/bin" ] ; then

 #the following line add Bin where you dont have a Bin folder on your $HOME

Close and open terminal, it should be working.


Even if system scripts do not use this, in any of the cases that one wants to add a path (e.g., $HOME/bin) to the PATH environment variable, one should use


for appending (instead of PATH="$PATH:$HOME/bin"), and


for prepending (instead of PATH="$HOME/bin:$PATH").

This avoids the spurious leading/trailing colon when $PATH is initially empty, which can have undesired effects.

See e.g. https://unix.stackexchange.com/questions/162891/append-to-path-like-variable-without-creating-leading-colon-if-unset


Put it to your ~/.bashrc or whatevershell you use rc (or to beforementioned ~/.profile) AND ~/.xsessionrc so it will also work in X (outside shell).


For Ubuntu edit the ~/.bashrc and add the following line.

. ~/.bash_profile

Then edit your .bash_profile as you need.....

  • 1
    Downvoted because you didn't explain how to "edit your .bash_profile as you need". What exactly do I need to do to the .bash_profile? Commented Sep 10, 2011 at 1:17
  • 4
    This is the wrong way. .profile or .bash_profile should source .bashrc. Not the other way around.
    – geirha
    Commented Mar 2, 2012 at 12:15

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