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We just got our new server(s) up and we're running CentOS on them all. After successfully installing Ruby Enterprise Edition, I would now like to add the REE /bin (located at /usr/lib/ruby-enterprise/bin) directory to make it the default Ruby interpreter on the server.

I have tried the following, which only adds it to the current shell session:

export PATH=/usr/lib/ruby-enterprise/bin:$PATH

What would be the correct approach to permanently adding this directory to $PATH for all users. I am currently logged in as root.

Thanks in advance!

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up vote 79 down vote accepted

It's not a good idea to edit /etc/profile for things like this, because you'll lose all your changes whenever CentOS publishes an update for this file. This is exactly what /etc/profile.d is for:

# echo 'pathmunge /usr/lib/ruby-enterprise/bin' > /etc/profile.d/
# chmod +x /etc/profile.d/

Log back in and enjoy your (safely) updated PATH:

# echo $PATH
# which ruby

Instead of logging back in, you could reload the profile:

# . /etc/profile

This will update the $PATH variable.

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~/.profile is another valid option too – Zypher Aug 22 '11 at 16:34
Yes, for a single user. But the question was about altering PATH for all users. – Mike Conigliaro Aug 22 '11 at 17:46
whoops, missed that tiny little word ... please move along, nothing to see here – Zypher Aug 22 '11 at 17:50
I know this is kind of old, but I just wanted to comment on it and say thanks. Helped me out. :) +1 – Rob Feb 15 '12 at 5:22
@Mike What is this pathmunge command? – Nickolai Leschov Apr 3 '14 at 0:25

After following fmonk's advice I checked out /etc/bashrc, where I noticed it said that "Environment stuff goes in /etc/profile." I proceeded to look in /etc/profile, I saw this:

pathmunge () {
    if ! echo $PATH | /bin/egrep -q "(^|:)$1($|:)" ; then
       if [ "$2" = "after" ] ; then


# Path manipulation
if [ "$EUID" = "0" ]; then
    pathmunge /sbin
    pathmunge /usr/sbin
    pathmunge /usr/local/sbin

To solve my problem, I simply added pathmunge /usr/lib/ruby-enterprise/bin underneath the if statement. This solved my issue.

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Could someone explain what the "$EUID" = "0" means in this context? – Eli May 11 '11 at 14:41
EUID 0 means that user is root. – bbaja42 Jun 5 '11 at 18:55
You should have used /etc/profile.d. See my answer below. – Mike Conigliaro Aug 22 '11 at 16:30
Please consider accepting @MikeConigliaro answer as the correct. His way is the correct one. It's developed to work that way. Take a look at the files in /etc/profile.d/ folder and you'll notice it. Also, as he said, a system update could undo your solution. – Caio Cunha Oct 3 '12 at 13:02

"An interactive login shell is started after a successful login, using /bin/login, by reading the /etc/passwd file. This shell invocation normally reads /etc/profile and its private equivalent ~/.bash_profile upon startup.

An interactive non-login shell is normally started at the command-line using a shell program (e.g., [prompt]$/bin/bash) or by the /bin/su command. An interactive non-login shell is also started with a terminal program such as xterm or konsole from within a graphical environment. This type of shell invocation normally copies the parent environment and then reads the user's ~/.bashrc file for additional startup configuration instructions."

Therefore I would not put environment variables in bashrc, because it is not only against common convention, but you will also miss your bashrc varialbles when invoking a terminal from a graphical Desktop environment.

On Redhat in the /etc/profile I found this comment:

"System wide aliases and functions should go in /etc/bashrc. Personal environment variables and startup programs should go into ~/.bash_profile. Personal aliases and functions should go into ~/.bashrc."

So if you want to set environment variables on a user basis, do it in the user's .bash_profile file.

Heading over to the .bash_profile I read:

"Personal environment variables and startup programs.

Personal aliases and functions should go in ~/.bashrc. System wide environment variables and startup programs are in /etc/profile. System wide aliases and functions are in /etc/bashrc."

If you want only root to see programs residing, for instance in /sbin I would add that path to root's .bash_profile file. But if you want every user to see what root specific programs are installed on your box I would put /sbin into /etc/.profile. Now every user can use tab completion to look for root specific programs and elevate rights if necessary.

Special Case: SSH
When ssh is started with a commandline, an interactive login shell is started. But in this case /etc/profile is not read. When I defined environment variables in the .bash_profile file of each user it worked with ssh.

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You can set environment variables in a .rc file; for bash shells (I believe the most common, and default in CentOS) each user has a file called .bashrc in his home directory.

Add the command PATH=/usr/lib/ruby-enterprise/bin:$PATH to this file to set it for any one particular user.

To set it for all users (as you mention), change it in /etc/bashrc (the default .bashrc in each user's home directory should source this file, but you should doublecheck that).

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