I can't seem to determine where the bash PATH environment variable is getting setup on my fresh Ubuntu 16.10 install.

I have tried placing echo $PATH statements at the top of ~/.bashrc and even /etc/bash.bashrc. Both echo statements get executed, so these files are loading properly, But, in both cases the PATH already contains the following:


The first entries (/home/carl/bin:/home/carl/.local/bin) are what I'm trying to track down. I'm not really sure where any of the values are set since changing /etc/environment seems to have no effect.

The PATH is also setup when /etc/profile executes when using a login shell and is also unaffected by changes to /etc/environment.

  • 3
    Try ~/.profile Oct 23, 2016 at 22:19
  • It's not ~/.profile. That isn't executed at all in an interactive non-login shell. Oct 23, 2016 at 22:35
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    @CarlZulauf: In a desktop session it's sourced by the display manager (lightdm). So it's most certainly the file in question. Oct 23, 2016 at 22:40
  • @GunnarHjalmarsson you are correct. I didn't realize the desktop session itself loads ~/.profile (which explains why gnome-terminal defaults to non-login shells) and requires logging out to take effect. Sorry @steeldriver for not understanding why you were correct. Oct 23, 2016 at 22:50

2 Answers 2


Turns out the PATH was being persisted by the display manager loading ~/.profile, (and /etc/profile and /etc/environment) when creating a desktop session. This means changes to those files aren't going to reflect in new bash sessions and require logging out to take effect.

  • 1
    To be more precise: /etc/environment is read by PAM and not sourced by anything. /etc/profile and ~/.profile are sourced by lightdm, but the former is not involved in setting environment variables by default. Oct 23, 2016 at 22:56
  • 1
    Congrats on answering your own question. Don't forget to accept it as the solution in two days so others know it's the accepted answer. Oct 23, 2016 at 22:59

you can find this out by run bash in in debug and login modes , its quite enlightening

/bin/bash -xl

There is quite lot of output but you should be able to see the whole chain of loading files and modifying $PATH.

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