Home » What is the difference between ~/.profile and ~/.bash_profile?

What is the difference between ~/.profile and ~/.bash_profile?


The .profile was the original profile configuration for the Bourne shell (a.k.a., sh). bash, being a Bourne compatible shell will read and use it. The .bash_profile on the other hand is only read by bash. It is intended for commands that are incompatible with the standard Bourne shell.

The original sh sourced .profile on startup.

bash will try to source .bash_profile first, but if that doesn’t exist, it will source .profile1.

Note that if bash is started as sh (e.g. /bin/sh is a link to /bin/bash) or is started with the --posix flag, it tries to emulate sh, and only reads .profile.


  1. Actually, the first one of .bash_profile, .bash_login, .profile

See also:

  • Bash Reference Manual – Startup Files
  • UNIX sh man page – Invocation

You know many shells exist in the UNIX world, but most of them are:

  • Bourne shell: /bin/sh (Inventor: Stephen Bourne)
  • BASH (Bourne Again Shell): /bin/bash (Inventor: Brian Fox, under GNU project) (powerful shell)
  • C shell: /bin/csh (Inventor: Bill Joy, Inventor of TCP/IP Stack)
  • Korn shell: /bin/ksh (Inventor: David Korn under Bell Labs)
  • Z shell: /bin/zsh (Powerful shell)
  • TENEX C shell: /bin/tcsh (derived from C Shell)
  • Debian Almquist shell: /bin/dash (Derived from Almquist shell (ash under NetBSD project)) (Dash born from lenny)

But your question is about ~/.bash_profile and ~/.profile:

When you you log in to a UNIX machine, it redirects to your home directory, according to the shell chosen by an administrator in the last field of /etc/passwd such as :

mohsen:x:1000:1000:Mohsen Pahlevanzadeh,,,:/home/mohsen:/bin/bash

Your shell runs, and by default each shell has a set file for login and logout. When you log in on bash, ~/.profile is run and when you logout, ~/.bash_logout is run.
~/.bash_history file keeps your input command.

Initialization file in each shell

TENEX C shell

  • ~/.login When you login
  • ~/.logout When you logout
  • ~/.tcshrc same as ~./bashrc in bash

You can set variable $histfile as name of history file and variable $history as number of commands to keeping.

Z shell

Indeed it’s powerful shell and if you get free time, be sure migrate to it.

Except of other shell, Z shell has many configuration file and initialization files, just i write:


Note: if $ZDOTDIR unset, home set.

C shell

Note: TENEX C shell was forked from C shell. C shell supports by BSD.
If you are familiar with C language programing, you should be comfortable since its syntax is similar.


Note: csh is old. Use tcsh instead.

Korn Shell

  • ~/.profile
  • rc file: user defined
  • logout file: N/A

Bourne Again SHell (BASH)

It’s very very powerful shell and born under GNU project and forked by Bourne Shell.


When you login, bash runs ~/.bash_profile and ~/.bash_profile runs ~/.bashrc. Indeed ~/.bashrc isn’t bash initialization file, because bash doesn’t run it.

Bourne shell

It dead. Even when you use man sh, you see manual of dash. [Editor’s note: the bit about dash only applies to Debian and Debian-based distros like Ubuntu.]

Your Answer

~/.bash_profile work under bash, but ~/.profile work under Bourne and Korn shell.

Related Solutions

Joining bash arguments into single string with spaces

[*] I believe that this does what you want. It will put all the arguments in one string, separated by spaces, with single quotes around all: str="'$*'" $* produces all the scripts arguments separated by the first character of $IFS which, by default, is a space....

AddTransient, AddScoped and AddSingleton Services Differences

TL;DR Transient objects are always different; a new instance is provided to every controller and every service. Scoped objects are the same within a request, but different across different requests. Singleton objects are the same for every object and every...

How to download package not install it with apt-get command?

Use --download-only: sudo apt-get install --download-only pppoe This will download pppoe and any dependencies you need, and place them in /var/cache/apt/archives. That way a subsequent apt-get install pppoe will be able to complete without any extra downloads....

What defines the maximum size for a command single argument?

Answers Definitely not a bug. The parameter which defines the maximum size for one argument is MAX_ARG_STRLEN. There is no documentation for this parameter other than the comments in binfmts.h: /* * These are the maximum length and maximum number of strings...

Bulk rename, change prefix

I'd say the simplest it to just use the rename command which is common on many Linux distributions. There are two common versions of this command so check its man page to find which one you have: ## rename from Perl (common in Debian systems -- Ubuntu, Mint,...

Output from ls has newlines but displays on a single line. Why?

When you pipe the output, ls acts differently. This fact is hidden away in the info documentation: If standard output is a terminal, the output is in columns (sorted vertically) and control characters are output as question marks; otherwise, the output is...

mv: Move file only if destination does not exist

mv -vn file1 file2. This command will do what you want. You can skip -v if you want. -v makes it verbose - mv will tell you that it moved file if it moves it(useful, since there is possibility that file will not be moved) -n moves only if file2 does not exist....

Is it possible to store and query JSON in SQLite?

SQLite 3.9 introduced a new extension (JSON1) that allows you to easily work with JSON data . Also, it introduced support for indexes on expressions, which (in my understanding) should allow you to define indexes on your JSON data as well. PostgreSQL has some...

Combining tail && journalctl

You could use: journalctl -u service-name -f -f, --follow Show only the most recent journal entries, and continuously print new entries as they are appended to the journal. Here I've added "service-name" to distinguish this answer from others; you substitute...

how can shellshock be exploited over SSH?

One example where this can be exploited is on servers with an authorized_keys forced command. When adding an entry to ~/.ssh/authorized_keys, you can prefix the line with command="foo" to force foo to be run any time that ssh public key is used. With this...

Why doesn’t the tilde (~) expand inside double quotes?

The reason, because inside double quotes, tilde ~ has no special meaning, it's treated as literal. POSIX defines Double-Quotes as: Enclosing characters in double-quotes ( "" ) shall preserve the literal value of all characters within the double-quotes, with the...

What is GNU Info for?

GNU Info was designed to offer documentation that was comprehensive, hyperlinked, and possible to output to multiple formats. Man pages were available, and they were great at providing printed output. However, they were designed such that each man page had a...

Set systemd service to execute after fstab mount

a CIFS network location is mounted via /etc/fstab to /mnt/ on boot-up. No, it is not. Get this right, and the rest falls into place naturally. The mount is handled by a (generated) systemd mount unit that will be named something like mnt-wibble.mount. You can...

Merge two video clips into one, placing them next to each other

To be honest, using the accepted answer resulted in a lot of dropped frames for me. However, using the hstack filter_complex produced perfectly fluid output: ffmpeg -i left.mp4 -i right.mp4 -filter_complex hstack output.mp4 ffmpeg -i input1.mp4 -i input2.mp4...

How portable are /dev/stdin, /dev/stdout and /dev/stderr?

It's been available on Linux back into its prehistory. It is not POSIX, although many actual shells (including AT&T ksh and bash) will simulate it if it's not present in the OS; note that this simulation only works at the shell level (i.e. redirection or...

How can I increase the number of inodes in an ext4 filesystem?

It seems that you have a lot more files than normal expectation. I don't know whether there is a solution to change the inode table size dynamically. I'm afraid that you need to back-up your data, and create new filesystem, and restore your data. To create new...

Why doesn’t cp have a progress bar like wget?

The tradition in unix tools is to display messages only if something goes wrong. I think this is both for design and practical reasons. The design is intended to make it obvious when something goes wrong: you get an error message, and it's not drowned in...