If I have two executable files with the same name on $PATH, how does Ubuntu decide which one to use when it is run in the terminal?

For example, my Ubuntu originally had python installed at /usr/bin/python. Recently, I installed Anaconda's distribution of python, which has its own binary installed at /home/karnivaurus/anaconda/bin/python. Then, in my .bashrc file, I entered:

export PATH="/home/karnivaurus/anaconda/bin:$PATH"

So both binaries are now on PATH. But if I run python in the terminal, it always uses the original installation, rather than Anaconda's version. Why is this?

  • Edit your question and add the output of command -v python and the output of ls -lab /home/karnivaurus/anaconda/bin
    – A.B.
    Oct 12, 2015 at 11:28

1 Answer 1


In order to optimise command lookup, bash keeps a cache, per bash process, of where it found files. So if you typed python and it found it in /usr/bin/, then changing the PATH to provide another python earlier in the PATH will have no effect. You need to also give the bash command:

hash -r

to forget the optimised cached. See help hash. (Of course, I assume you reread the .bashrc or set the PATH explicitly in your shell as well).

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