Add a Directory to the PATH on Linux
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Have you ever wondered how certain executables on Linux can be accessed as simple commands from the command line? Have you wanted to be able to run a program on Linux without having to provide the entire path?
These are the problems the
PATH variable is designed to solve. In this tutorial, learn more about what the
PATH variable is and how it works. Then, see how you can add your own directories to the
PATH, allowing you to run programs as simple commands.
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Update your system.
On Debian and Ubuntu, use the following command:
sudo apt update && sudo apt upgrade
On AlmaLinux, CentOS (8 or later), or Fedora, use the following command:
sudo dnf upgrade
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sudo. If you’re not familiar with the
sudocommand, see the Linux Users and Groups guide.
$PATH environmental variable contains a colon-separated list of directories. These directories are where Linux looks for executables, allowing you to run these using only the executable names.
For instance, say you have an executable called
program-to-run in the
/usr/local/bin directory. Without that directory in your
PATH, you would have to run the executable with:
Or by changing into the directory first and then running the executable:
cd /usr/local/bin ./program-to-run
However, if you have the directory in your
PATH, you can run the executable by simply giving its name as a command:
PATH variable becomes especially useful when running specialized developer or system administrator tools as well as in-development applications. It allows you to run tools and applications efficiently while keeping them stored wherever best fits your needs.
It can be useful to know what directories are already assigned to the
PATH on your Linux system. You can do this easily with the
echo command, like this:
As you can see from the output above, Linux systems come by default with several convenient directories already on the
But sometimes these directories alone do not meet your needs. That is when you should look to customizing the
PATH variable’s contents.
Linux comes with several directories in the
PATH by default, like you can see in the output above. Typically, these are enough. Most programs you install on Linux put their executables in one of the default directories, making them easy to start using immediately.
But sometimes this is not the case. The
PATH variable does not cover executables that you download or create and store in non-default directories. But that kind of storage is often the case when using one-off programs, working with particular system administrator tools, or when developing executables.
In such cases and similar ones, you likely want the ability to add additional directories to the
PATH variable to make executables easier to work with.
Fortunately, you can do just that using the
export command. Here is an example, adding the
/etc/custom-directory directory to the
After the above command, you can run executables stored in the
custom-directory simply by providing the executables’ names as commands.
How exactly does the
export command achieve this? Follow along with this breakdown of the command to understand how each part works:
export PATH=starts to define the
$PATHensures that the new definition of
PATHbegins with all of the contents of the existing
PATH. In other words, including the
PATHvariable here is how you expand on the variable’s contents rather than overwrite them.
:/etc/custom-directoryadds the new directory. Notice the placement of the colon, which is necessary because the
PATHlist is colon-separated.
You can verify the updated contents of
PATH using the
echo command as shown above:
export command above only updates the
PATH variable for the current session. Logging out and logging back into your Linux system results in the
PATH being reset.
There are two methods available should you want to have your directory added to the
PATH in a more permanent way.
You can alter the
PATHvariable for a given user by adding the
exportcommand to that user’s shell configuration file. The location of the configuration file varies depending on the shell program. For Bash, the configuration file is typically
- File: ~/.bashrc
1 2 3 4
# [...] export PATH="$PATH:/etc/custom-directory"
You can alter the global
PATHvariable for your Linux system by adding the
exportcommand to your system’s configuration file. That file is typically
- File: /etc/profile
1 2 3 4
# [...] export PATH="$PATH:/etc/custom-directory"
Of the two options above, the option for modifying the
PATH for the current user is preferred most of the time. Typically, you should only modify the global
PATH when you have a directory with executables needed by most or every user on the system.
In either case, you can expect the same output as with the plain
export command above. They function just the same except these options make it so that the extended
PATH persists between sessions.
This tutorial has given you the tools to start using the
PATH variable effectively. Not only explaining what the
PATH variable is and what it does, but also showing you how to add more directories to it. The change can be simple, but adding directories to the
PATH can make life easier and your tasks go ahead more smoothly.
Have more questions or want some help getting started? Feel free to reach out to our Support team.
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