Looks like I crashed my system after editing /etc/environment and .bashrc files.

My desktop doesn't start and I need to correct these files back. But since my system doesn't find any commands I need to use the whole path.

Where I can find the vim executable so I can run it with its full path?

  • @pa4080 none of those commands will work with a problematic PATH, except maybe the one answer about aliases, and that won't help here.
    – Olorin
    Dec 15, 2017 at 6:12
  • Hi, @Olorin, I'm agree and retracted my suggestion. Actually PATH= which vim produces: -bash: which: No such file or directory. I already saw your answer and I think it should be the accepted one.
    – pa4080
    Dec 15, 2017 at 6:27

3 Answers 3


It seems like your PATH environment variable was corrupted.

You can find vim in /usr/bin/vim

$ which vim

In /usr/bin you should find also vi and gedit

nano can be found in /bin

$ which nano

sudo can be found in /usr/bin

$ which sudo


As mentioned by @SorenA and @PatrickMevzek search for a location of a file can also be done using whereis

As mentioned by @Terrance - whereis vim finds all names with like vim in the name, Note that most of the results aren't the vim executable.

man which - locate a command - It does this by searching the PATH for executable files matching the names of the arguments.

man whereis - whereis then attempts to locate the desired program in the standard Linux places, and in the places speci‐fied by $PATH and $MANPATH.

  • or whereis that checks standard directories (which checks directories in user's $PATH so depending on how it is set up some locations may be missed) Dec 13, 2017 at 14:48
  • 1
    Don't update your answer. whereis finds all names with like vim in the name. I see one that says /etc/vim and if you try to run it it says that it is a directory. Whereis locates where which finds the executable that is in the path.
    – Terrance
    Dec 13, 2017 at 14:54
  • 1
    If which doesn't work, because PATH variable has been corrupted, whereis is a usefull alternative. Start looking in /bin and /usr/bin - you find most things there, if you still hasn't found your exec, use whereis.
    – Soren A
    Dec 13, 2017 at 15:09
  • found vim, but can't find sudo , since I need permitions. Where is sudo?
    – vico
    Dec 13, 2017 at 15:14
  • 1
    Neither whereis nor which would be runnable without knowing their path. Both are in /usr/bin, where vim resides, so if vim can't be found, then these can't be either.
    – Olorin
    Dec 15, 2017 at 4:40

Since your PATH is corrupted the useful executables are in the /usr/bin and /bin folders. From a terminal type in

export PATH=/usr/bin:/bin

then you should be able to run sudo vim without the need to type in the paths in front of the names.

The following commands will restore the /etc/environment file and the ~/.bashrc file.

This command will put the path statement back in /etc/environment:

sudo bash -c 'echo "PATH=\"/usr/local/sbin:/usr/local/bin:/usr/sbin:/usr/bin:/sbin:/bin:/usr/games:/usr/local/games\"" > /etc/environment'

Then you can source the file so the PATH statement sets:

. /etc/environment

Then get a default .bashrc file and put it back in your home folder:

sudo cp /etc/skel/.bashrc /home/$USER/.bashrc
sudo chown $USER:$USER /home/$USER/.bashrc

Hope this helps!

  • This is the best possible solution - reset to a sane default PATH for your current shell.
    – Olorin
    Dec 15, 2017 at 4:41

Using pure bash, you could run a search for things named vim:

$ shopt -s globstar  
$ time echo /**/vim
/etc/alternatives/vim /etc/vim /usr/bin/vim /usr/bin/X11/vim /usr/share/cmake-3.5/editors/vim /usr/share/vim /var/lib/dpkg/alternatives/vim /var/lib/vim

real    0m4.145s
user    0m0.740s

You could then loop over the results to see which are executable:

$ time for v in /**/vim; do [[ -x $v && -f $v ]] && echo "$v"; done


With various breakages in Ubuntu, there's a single command that can help with a lot of things: /bin/busybox. Remembering just this one gets you access to a lot more:

$ /bin/busybox 
BusyBox v1.22.1 (Ubuntu 1:1.22.0-15ubuntu1) multi-call binary.
BusyBox is copyrighted by many authors between 1998-2012.
Licensed under GPLv2. See source distribution for detailed
copyright notices.

Usage: busybox [function [arguments]...]
   or: busybox --list[-full]
   or: busybox --install [-s] [DIR]
   or: function [arguments]...

    BusyBox is a multi-call binary that combines many common Unix
    utilities into a single executable.  Most people will create a
    link to busybox for each function they wish to use and BusyBox
    will act like whatever it was invoked as.

Currently defined functions:
    [, [[, acpid, adjtimex, ar, arp, arping, ash, awk, basename, blockdev,
    brctl, bunzip2, bzcat, bzip2, cal, cat, chgrp, chmod, chown, chpasswd,
    chroot, chvt, clear, cmp, cp, cpio, crond, crontab, cttyhack, cut,
    date, dc, dd, deallocvt, depmod, devmem, df, diff, dirname, dmesg,
    dnsdomainname, dos2unix, dpkg, dpkg-deb, du, dumpkmap, dumpleases,
    echo, ed, egrep, env, expand, expr, false, fdisk, fgrep, find, fold,
    free, freeramdisk, fstrim, ftpget, ftpput, getopt, getty, grep, groups,
    gunzip, gzip, halt, head, hexdump, hostid, hostname, httpd, hwclock,
    id, ifconfig, ifdown, ifup, init, insmod, ionice, ip, ipcalc, kill,
    killall, klogd, last, less, ln, loadfont, loadkmap, logger, login,
    logname, logread, losetup, ls, lsmod, lzcat, lzma, lzop, lzopcat,
    md5sum, mdev, microcom, mkdir, mkfifo, mknod, mkswap, mktemp, modinfo,
    modprobe, more, mount, mt, mv, nameif, nc, netstat, nslookup, od,
    openvt, passwd, patch, pidof, ping, ping6, pivot_root, poweroff,
    printf, ps, pwd, rdate, readlink, realpath, reboot, renice, reset, rev,
    rm, rmdir, rmmod, route, rpm, rpm2cpio, run-parts, sed, seq,
    setkeycodes, setsid, sh, sha1sum, sha256sum, sha512sum, sleep, sort,
    start-stop-daemon, stat, static-sh, strings, stty, su, sulogin,
    swapoff, swapon, switch_root, sync, sysctl, syslogd, tac, tail, tar,
    taskset, tee, telnet, telnetd, test, tftp, time, timeout, top, touch,
    tr, traceroute, traceroute6, true, tty, tunctl, udhcpc, udhcpd, umount,
    uname, uncompress, unexpand, uniq, unix2dos, unlzma, unlzop, unxz,
    unzip, uptime, usleep, uudecode, uuencode, vconfig, vi, watch,
    watchdog, wc, wget, which, who, whoami, xargs, xz, xzcat, yes, zcat

Yep, that includes vi.


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