Bash Users' Startup Files: Quick Start Guide

While the startup behavior of the bash shell can seem to require a Ph.D in Shellology, here we try to simplify the discussion to the minimum required to get you started. In general, every time you interactively access a TACC resource, Bash will source either your "~/.profile" or "~/.bashrc" file. Which one is sourced is complicated and not really important; see the troubleshooting notes below for some additional fine print. In either case, to get the same behavior in all of the interactive shells, you'll need to have your "~/.profile" source the "~/.bashrc" and put all the important statements in your "~/.bashrc".

# ~/.profile

if [ -f ~/.bashrc ]; then
    source ~/.bashrc

One important idea is that every interactive sub-shell will source your ~/.bashrc. This means that if you wish to add personal directories to your $PATH, you'll only want do it once. An environment variable (called "MYPATH" in the example) can be used to enforce this behavior:

# ~/.bashrc            

if [ -z "$MYPATH" ]; then
    export MYPATH=1
    export PATH=$HOME/bin:$PATH

A TACC user may wish to have many things defined every time on login such as:

  • Certain modules loaded
  • Define useful aliases and shell functions
  • Add personal directories to PATH.
  • Set environment variables

Rather than describe all these steps here we have sample startup scripts that you can copy and modify to suit. They can be found, on Maverick, here:


Your account may already have these files, but if not run the following script (on Maverick):

$ /usr/local/startup_scripts/install_default_scripts

These scripts will be installed on Stampede shortly.

Then edit your new ~/.bashrc to suit.

To test always have one terminal to edit and another terminal to test with.


  • Your "~/.profile" is not read during a login shell.

    Check to see if your home directory contains "~/.bash_profile" or "~/.bash_login". For a login shell bash will search first for "~/.bash_profile", if doesn't exist, then it searches for "~/.bash_login". Finally it searches for a "~/.profile". Please pick one of the three and stick with that.

  • For every sub-shell your path gets longer and longer.

    Check to see if you are changing the PATH outside of a guarded if-block similar to the one above.


This quickstart guide covers the basics. For more information please look at the web. Here are two resources:

Last update: July 31, 2014