On Ubuntu 14.04, I am getting the error "The value for the SHELL variable was not found the /etc/shells file" when running pkexec to run a script.

Most likely this error started after I removed the fish shell, that was set as my default shell.

The content of /etc/shells is:

# /etc/shells: valid login shells

How may I fix this?

1 Answer 1


The problem is this one: pkexec is accessing $SHELL to determine which shell to use to evaluate the remainder of the command; since you uninstalled fish but didn't do anything else, $SHELL still contains /usr/bin/fish, but pkexec doesn't deem /usr/bin/fish as a valid shell, since /usr/bin/fish has been removed from /etc/shells.

You need to do these two things:

  1. Set a new shell for your user, so that the next time the environment is load $SHELL will contain a path to a valid shell. E.g. to set Bash as the new shell for your user (replace user with your user's username):

    sudo chsh -s /bin/bash user
  2. Log out / log in to reload the environment so that $SHELL contains the path to the new shell for your user.

  • This didn't work for me. Without sudo, I received: "You may not change the shell for 'name'." With sudo no error but after loging back in, same pkexec error.
    – J. Doe
    Jan 5, 2016 at 20:28
  • @J.Doe Right. sudo chsh -s /bin/bash changes the shell for root. Do sudo chsh -s /bin/bash user, where user is your username instead.
    – kos
    Jan 5, 2016 at 20:34

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.